November 6, 2022 (KHARTOUM) – The Democratic Unionist Party is on the verge of splitting because of the rampant divergences between its two vice-presidents, Mohamed-Alhassan and Gaffar, on the way forward to restore the civilian-led transition in Sudan.
On November 3, 2022, Gaffar officially struck a deal with the armed groups supporting the coup of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) calling to maintain the civilian-military partnership under the 2019 constitutional declaration. While his brother Alhassan supports the draft transitional constitution forged by the Sudanese Bar Association and backed by the Forces for Freedom and Changes (FFC).
This development portends the most dangerous fissures that may not only affect the party, but the unity of the Khatmiyya religious sect, which is the electoral basis of the second-largest political force in Sudan.
12 years of disagreements
The differences between Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s two sons surfaced in 2010. At the time, Alhassan led a current within the party hostile to reconciliation with the regime of ousted President Omer al-Bashir. However, Jaafar had the blessing of his father and the support of the most important figures of the DUP. The move made him the most likely candidate to succeed his ailing father.
By 2015, under growing pressure, Alhassan reversed his position towards the Bashir regime and supported the party’s participation in the elections. As a result; the party won a number of constituencies, according to arrangements with the then-ruling National Congress Party.
Speaking on Blue Nile’s TV in a talk show aired last week, Adel Abdo a journalist close to the DUP circles, revealed that there is a serious conflict between Gaffar and Alhassan over the succession of the party’s leader Mohamed-Osman al-Mirghani.
One of the party’s historic leading members who requested anonymity told Sudan Tribune that it is obvious to everyone that there is a dispute over al-Mirghani’s succession and the party’s chairmanship.
“It can be said that the dispute is over who will succeed al-Mirghani, but its effect within the family itself is the crux of the matter. The two say that they are commissioned and deputy to their father.”
While Gaffar is supported by several figures in the party including Bukari al-Jaali, Hatim Elsir, and Babkir Abdel-Rahman, Alhassan is supported by the DUP youth who agree with the FFC’s position.
The youth support Alhassan’s return to his old anti-Islamist and anti-military position and support the draft transitional constitution of the Sudanese Bar Association Steering Committee.
Sources close to the DUP, Alhassan Al-Mirghani, who returned to Khartoum on October 31, had been approached by the United States and Saudi Arabia to back the ongoing process between the military and political forces of the FFC coalition.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, Alhassan met with U.S. Ambassador to Khartoum John Godfrey on November 4, 2022. During the meeting, he welcomed the efforts of the international community and the Trilateral Mechanism to support a negotiated settlement to end the political crisis in the country.
On November 1, he met with the Trilateral Mechanism where he expressed his support to the draft constitution of the Sudanese Bar Association as a basis to form a transitional government.
All these public statements indicate the wide gap in the positions of the two rivals towards the coup and ways to settle the political stalemate.
Osama Hassouna a leading figure in the DUP began his statements to Sudan Tribune by pointing to the huge crowds that gathered at the Khartoum airport to welcome Alhassan al-Mirghani upon his return to the country on October 31.
When asked about the DUP’s position towards the current political alliances, Hassouna asserted that his party is not part of the FFC Democratic Block coalition launched between Gaffar al-Mirghani, the NCF of Minni Minnawi and JEM Gibril Ibrahim on November 4.
He further added that the DUP leader Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani dissolved the party’s organs, formed a steering committee under his chairmanship and appointed Alhassan al-Mirghani as his deputy.
Attempts to control the party
On November 1, Hisham al-Zain DUP General Supervisor decided to suspend the activity of the Secretary of the Political Sector, Ibrahim al-Mirghani, due to his repeated violation of the party’s constitution, regulations and general line.
Ibrahim, the younger son of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani and allied to Alhassan, immediately issued a statement to deny his suspension, in another indication of the escalating dispute between the brothers over the party’s leadership.
Al-Zain who sides with Gaffar al-Mirghani told Sudan Tribune that the suspension was motivated by his participation in the meeting with the tripartite mechanism with Alhassan al-Mirghani to support a draft constitution that “the party rejects”, he stressed.
A DUP leading member close to Gaffer al-Mirghani disclosed to Sudan Tribune that the latter was under Egyptian pressure to support the military component and the new alliance with the pro-coup armed groups dubbed the FFC – Democratic Bloc.
The participation of the Egyptian Ambassador to Khartoum Hossam Issa in the signing ceremony of the new alliance was very remarkable, as he was the only Ambassador to attend the event.
The DUP official who declined to disclose his name further said that al-Burhan during his meeting with Mohamed Osman al-Mirgahni on March 31, 2022, requested the SUP support for the “October 25 measures”.
It is worth mentioning that Gaffar led a delegation that handed over a letter to al-Burhan on April 21, 2022. The official media, at the time, reported that the message dealt with the DUP’s position on how to end the political crisis.
According to the source, al-Burhan requested the Egyptian government to persuade Gaffar to support the October 25 coup and to join a future coalition involving armed groups and some parties backing him. In return, the head of the military component pledged to allocate several ministerial positions in the transitional government and to speed up elections, in line with the DUP political line.
Loss of an ally
By signing the FFC Democratic Bloc, Gaffer al-Mirghani lost one of his most important allies, DUP political secretary Ibrahim who called for a separate initiative to be led by his party instead of joining the armed groups allied with the coup leaders.
DUP sources pointed out that the party figure and former minister of Cabinet Affairs during the former regime Ahmed Saad Omer coordinated the new alliance with the armed groups, and asked Gaffer to silence the voices rejecting the coalition, before signing it.
However, despite the intensity of the dispute between al-Mirghani’s sons, some voices argue that the matter is nothing more than an “exchange of roles” to ensure a foothold for the party in the next phase of the political process.
The detractors add that this was the case during the era of the ousted al-Bashir, the DUP leaders were constantly divided into two camps.
Such a configuration guarantees the party’s representation in any future equation, they stressed.
Political analyst Mohamed Idris asserts that the two different positions of Alhassan and Gaffer may reduce the chances of long-awaited unity among the unionists.
Idris added that the differences made the party earlier lose cadres, who were working to build a solid party similar to the largest political parties in the region.
He underscored that the powers struggle has alienated youth cadres from the party such as Babikir Faisal, Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman, and Mohamed Nagy al-Asam among others who turned their back definitively to the party and formed the Unionist Alliance.