Sudanese Military Regime Faces Growing Opposition Government Has Failed to End War, Economic Slide, and Food Shortages

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THE young government security agent sat in the hotel lobby, trying not to be too obvious as he watched people come and go and eavesdropped on conversations. Such agents have been assigned to many hotels and other public places around this decaying capital city.

Nearly 16 months after a predawn coup in June l989, Sudan's military regime has seen initial public enthusiasm turn to disillusionment and opposition.

"People thought this regime would be much better" than the previous democratic government led by Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, says one Sudanese here. Many had grown disillusioned with Mr. Mahdi's failure to end the civil war in the south and to mend the deteriorating economy.

But critics of the regime say that peace seems more distant today and the economy has slipped even further. And many Sudanese are upset by the regime's use of torture and execution against suspected opponents.

"This is the worst government we've had," says another Sudanese, who also asked not to be named. A Western diplomat here says, "I don't think it (Sudan's military government) is stable."

In an effort to turn the tide in the civil war, the regime bombed rebel-held southern towns again in August and September. In the past, the government has denied bombing towns in the south. Asked if the government had carried out the bombings, Col. Mohammed el-Amain Khalifa, a member of the military junta, said "Yes; anyhow, we are asking for a cease-fire now."

Most analysts say the war is at a stalemate. Western and Middle Eastern diplomats and Sudanese sources say that Sudan's military regime faces increasing threats on a number of fronts.

Exiled leaders of political parties banned by the military, many formerly in the government, have met several times with the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and reaffirmed their commitment to ending the civil war. They have agreed on the need for a constitutional conference involving all segments of Sudanese society to set up a unified government.

Egypt, Sudan's powerful neighbor to the north, accuses the military of aiming missiles obtained from Iraq at Egypt's strategic Aswan Dam. Sudan strongly denies the allegation. Sudan and Egypt split over the Gulf crisis, with Egypt sending troops to Saudi Arabia and Sudan condemning the presence of outside troops.

There were unconfirmed reports that Egypt had been supporting a coup to overthrow former Prime Minister Mahdi. And Egypt has long been close to some of the factions that now oppose Sudan's military government. …