SUDAN: Ruling party will keep security apparatus close

Monday, July 24 2006 An Oxford Analytica Profile SUBJECT: A profile of Sudan's

Security and Intelligence Apparatus.

SIGNIFICANCE: Since President Omar al-Bashir came to power in a coup in 1989, Sudan's security and intelligence apparatus has played an important role in keeping the ruling party in power. This remains the case, despite the formation in 2005 of a new power-sharing government.

ANALYSIS: As in many dictatorships and self-proclaimed revolutionary governments (as Sudan's was during the 1990s), the country's various security and intelligence arms have played an important, albeit opaque, role in domestic politics.


The security services have been instrumental in Sudan's civil wars since the 1980s, organising the activities of militias, such as the janjaweed in Darfur and the South Sudan Defence Forces in the south.

After President Omar al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup, they were instrumental in purges of the civil service and public sector, and in managing informer networks.

Since 1989, external and military intelligence have also been involved in attempts to destabilise Sudan's neighbours, typically by means of giving shelter and military or financial support to armed opposition groups such as the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army.

Under the 2005 CPA, the National Security Organisation has been renamed the National Security Service, although planned reforms are unlikely to be pursued actively by the NCP.

Salah Gosh (L) and Nafi Ali Nafi

Under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005, the control and staffing of the security and intelligence apparatus are meant to change to the benefit of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) (see SUDAN: Khartoum loses little in unity government – September 26, 2005). However, as with other key institutions -- notably the ministries of the Interior, Defence and Oil -- the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is reluctant to cede real control of security and intelligence.


Under the CPA, Sudan's National Security Organisation -- comprising the internal security and external intelligence services – has been renamed the National Security Service (NSS) and a new National Security Act is due to be prepared. However, vested interests weigh against a genuine transformation of the NSS, and as a result implementation of relevant CPA provisions is behind schedule. Notably, the National Security Commission which is meant to oversee the NSS has not yet been established:


So far some 50 non-NCP Southern Sudanese have joined the NSS, and one has been appointed deputy director general. Further batches of new staff are due to be trained and join -- in theory, 100 every six months. Even if this happens, the NCP will still aim to ensure that control of key positions and resources remains in its hands.


No reliable information is available about the total number of security and intelligence staff, but it is substantial. Security is organised at local and state levels as well as at the national level, and security officials are often present in small towns and villages. During the 1990s, informer networks were sufficiently extensive to ensure widespread fear to speak freely.


A number of organisations and businesses are associated with the security apparatus, notably companies in the huge GIAD group based in a large industrial complex outside of Khartoum. While these companies may technically be public-private joint ventures (the public part owned by the government), in practice they are valuable sources of money to people in the military, security and the NCP.


The security and intelligence apparatus is widely distrusted and disliked by ordinary Sudanese -- essentially because it is seen as ruthless, unaccountable and, over the years, to have been a tool of Bashir's government. It is usually referred to simply as 'al-amn' ('security'). In the 1990s, security officials were very visible and assertive, with plain-clothed security officers (usually armed) to be found in many public places. Now 'security' is less visible but it is still the object of considerable fear and resentment:


The security service is widely known to use intimidation, torture and arbitrary arrest or disappearance. In the early years after the 1989 coup, it became notorious for using secret detention centres known as ‘ghost houses' in Khartoum.


The key strengths of the security apparatus are in suppressing domestic opposition and manipulating militias. Because of past connections between the government and foreign radical groups (exemplified by Sudan's hosting of Osama bin Laden between 1991 and 1996), Washington and London consider the intelligence apparatus to be a useful ally in the 'war on terror'. However, bureaucratic weakness and a lack of need mean that the quality of surveillance of potential foreign militants in Sudan, or (by
external intelligence) of Sudanese abroad, is less than foreign intelligence agencies hope for.

Key figures

Lines of authority and control between Bashir, his close supporters, the NCP, the Islamist movement (the National Islamic Front -- NIF), and the security and intelligence apparatus have always been opaque. Various senior officials such as Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Hussein (who was previously minister of interior), and Oil Minister Awad Ahmed al-Jaz, have significant connections -- direct or indirect -- with the security service. Currently, two figures are of particular importance:

Nafi Ali Nafi

As the 'assistant to the president', Nafi Ali Nafi is, in effect, the fourth most senior person in government, after the president and the two vice-presidents. Nafi studied for a PhD in botanical science in California, before working as a lecturer at Khartoum University. He then rose through NIF security positions, becoming head of national security and then head of external intelligence. After the assassination attempt on the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sudan in 1995, Nafi was moved to other positions, becoming minister of agriculture and then minister for federal relations. He was a senior member of the government delegation at the peace talks with the SPLM in Kenya but kept a low profile. He maintains close links with security.

Salah Abdallah Gosh

From the Shaiqiyya tribe (like many other senior government figures) and holding the rank of army major general, Salah Abdallah Gosh is the current head of the NSS. Gosh began his career in security in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and rose to senior positions in the 1990s thanks to being a member of the NIF and a protege of Nafi. Several years ago he began to eclipse Nafi, but since the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched its Darfur investigation, he has closed ranks with his mentor. He has played a major role directing the actions of the military and the janjaweed in Darfur, but has a low profile at home. Abroad he has received some unwelcome attention because of visits to the United Kingdom in March and the United States in April 2005 for external intelligence cooperation.


Bashir and his close allies aim to keep as much control of the national security apparatus as possible, using it as a covert tool for protecting their power, wealth and immunity. At the same time they will comply with the CPA -- to the extent that the CPA itself provides a measure of security for them. This has two implications: Darfur. Given the role of the security and intelligence apparatus in the Darfur conflict, senior government officials will continue to oppose a UN mission for Darfur, in the belief that this will minimise the risks of being brought to trial by the ICC, and of losing power (see SUDAN: Poor prospects for Darfur peace process - April 28, 2006).


Senior government officials will continue to cooperate with the US Central Intelligence Agency and UK Secret Intelligence Service on counter-terrorism measures and intelligence. They will also continue cooperation with Egypt's security and intelligence agencies, as Egypt's good will is important to the survival of Bashir's government.


Bashir and his close allies will keep control of key elements of the national security and intelligence apparatus. Significant changes will occur to the operation of the security apparatus in the south – in line with Southern Sudan's autonomy – but changes at the national level will generally be superficial.

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