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
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
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
"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