What is the unseen hand behind the rise of radical Islamic movements from Northern Nigeria to the Central African Republic? It is the government of Sudan. That is the allegation of Yasir Arman, secretary general and spokeman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, North (SPLM North), which is fighting the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile.
Speaking in London, Mr Arman pointed to the African Islamic University in Khartoum as the key institution that has been training radical Islamists. “They have been radicalising people for years,” said Mr Arman. The University, established in 1977, was given University status by President Omar Al-Bashir in 1992. The word “Islamic” was dropped from its title, but not from its objectives. Mr Arman says that President Al-Bashir has used the University to mobilise students from across the continent.
Mr Arman suggest that Sudan’s aims are supported by a wider radical alliance, supported by Qataris, Yemenis and the Iranians. “The Egyptians, Saudis and the Emirates are very worried,” he says.
This circle of Islamists – says Mr Arman – links a wide range of rebels across central and northern Africa. These include Libyan rebels now attempting to seize control of the country and movements in the Central African Republic (CAR). He point to the role of Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia, the former Seleka rebel who seized power in the CAR. Djotodia, who was president of the CAR from 24 March 2013 – 10 January 2014, certainly has Sudanese links. He served as Consul in Nyala, in Darfur.
Mr Arman says that Boko Haram is part of this circle. He points to the large number of Nigerians – most of them Fulani – who live in Sudan. “There are as many millions of Nigerians in Sudan – mostly Fulani – who came on the way to the Haj,” says Mr Arman. He believes it is only a matter of time before Iranian weapons find their way into the hands of Boko Haram.