INTERVIEW: Sudanese Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmad Harun
March 24, 2009 Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat
Interview by Khalid Muhammad
Sudanese Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmad Harun, accused by the ICC of committing war crimes in Darfur, charged humanitarian and relief agencies in Sudan with involvement in suspect espionage activities for a number of international and Western intelligence organs.
Harun said in a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat from Khartoum that these organizations engage in scant humanitarian work and much of what he described as intelligence activities that undermine Sudan's national security.
Harun said that the Sudanese regard him as a national hero, despite the attempts by ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo to prove that his hands are stained with the blood of the victims of Darfur.
He described himself as "a living martyr" in Sudan, pointing out that he had numerous past encounters with death that led to the development of familiarity between them.
Harun said that he was leading his life in a normal way, walking around in markets, and mixing with the ordinary Sudanese. He said there were no restrictions on his travels abroad.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you feel, being a man who fills the world with noise and life?
[Harun] We in Sudan have a saying that hard times soon go away. I believe that we shall transform this crisis, with our national will, into a super national event. We as leaders are now at the peak of mental glow and peace with ourselves. We are confident we shall cross the present crisis successfully, and with Allah's permission we shall emerge from it stronger than the world imagines.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why did you agree first to the entry of the international organizations and why did you deal with them? What are your observations about them?
[Harun] Of course they presented themselves to Sudanese authorities as humanitarian relief agencies. You must respond to those who advocate humanitarian slogans. But they demonstrated that they engaged in scant humanitarian relief and much intelligence activity that undermines Sudan's national security.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] On whose behalf do they spy?
[Harun] On behalf of their countries. Do not forget that they are American, British, and French organizations.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You want to say indirectly that the French, American, and British intelligences are involved in the activities of these organizations?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Forgive me, but I understood from Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa that President Al-Bashir informed him recently that you are not going to expel more of these agencies?
[Harun] I have no knowledge of what transpired between the President and Amr Musa. But what I know for sure is that the expulsion and deportation is not something arbitrary and that we resort to it due to specific reasons and under certain conditions. When such conditions and reasons exist, we shall do it. The principal guarantee for the continuation of the rest of the organizations in their work in Sudan is their commitment to their humanitarian mandate and that they refrain from involvement in activities that undermine Sudan's national security.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do they engage in their activities? What do they do specifically?
[Harun] An array of activities. I mention as examples that are by no means exhaustive the writing of fabricated reports about conditions in Sudan, creating evidence and data that are non-existent, and supplying them to the ICC, in addition to fracturing the social constituents of the Darfur society, and also military, information, and logistics supplies to the armed rebel movements in the province.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you feel pride or do you have personal fears because you are the only citizen in the world whose case prompted his head of state to swear publicly that he would not extradite him?
[Harun] Absolutely not. For us Sudanese in general, fear can find no way into our hearts. I personally always classify myself as a player in injury time, as they say in soccer.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you mean?
[Harun] I was involved in a plane accident in which I could have lost my life. So I have experiences with death. Familiarity develops between death and those who have experiences with death.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You are the living martyr then?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] This does not worry you at all?
[Harun] No, it does not worry me at all. This is why I always remember the Arab poem which says "I sleep soundly without a worry while 'Ocampo' remains sleepless and anxious".
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the entire regime is on the line, don't you think?
[Harun] It is not so. This is a frivolous issue and a frivolous scene on an absurd international theatre. Inevitably the audience will get bored and leave early before the show is over.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you feel assured that Al-Bashir will keep his word?
[Harun] I feel assured. Let me tell you something important. We agreed on an idea and a major intellectual blueprint before the State was established. This is why treachery and killing have no place in the glossary of our dealings.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do I understand from this that you are not afraid the regime will betray you or resort to liquidating you?
[Harun] No, this is not possible. It is not our thinking and it is not our conduct. It is not in the link that keeps us together.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What then is the solution for coming out of this crisis?
[Harun] The solution is for the international community to take its hand off Sudan and leave us Sudanese to our affairs. We shall negotiate and engage in dialogue, and inevitably we shall reach a solution to ensure the safety of our country and the aspirations of all the sons of our people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has the indictment and the controversy surrounding you affected you personally and socially?
[Harun] Yes, but in a positive manner.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How?
[Harun] Through expressions of solidarity, encouragement, and support. All this gives me an extra push to make me exert more effort to serve my people and my nation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has this led to increased security around you?
[Harun] Absolutely not. I proceed with my life normally.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your normal life?
[Harun] It follows the same program it has followed for years and it stays the same today.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You mean there is no increase in guards or additional security procedures?
[Harun] None at all.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you go to the markets and shop?
[Harun] Yes I go to the markets and I eat, and I share with the people both their festive and sad occasions. No change.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see yourself in the eyes of your people?
[Harun] They regard me as a national hero who embodies all the targeting of the new international order.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you actually feel that you are such a hero?
[Harun] Allah increases the stature of those who are modest.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Meaning?
[Harun] I leave this to the intelligence of the good reader.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you allowed to travel abroad?
[Harun] There are no restrictions on my traveling abroad and I have traveled many times, without there being any attempt to arrest me, contrary to what they claimed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you going to be among Sudan's delegation at the projected Arab summit in Doha?
[Harun] I have no knowledge. The official composition of the delegation that will travel with his Excellency the President has not been announced until now.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think the President himself will go?
[Harun] I see nothing to prevent him from doing so.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do your children at home tell you?
[Harun] This issue incidentally does not elicit the slightest attention, not from me personally or from my family, and not even in the country, not as much as the attention shown by some brothers outside the country. We remember it only when a journalist contacts us or when there is some related occasion.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have a message to address to the people?
[Harun] My generous brother, this is a very good question from you. Our battle now is the battle of all the Arabs, Africans, and the Third World countries. It is true that I realize that our Arab media is noted for professionalism, but we hope it will be an open-eyed professionalism that contributes to bolstering the pan-Arab position on the whole. I believe you are aware of this role and doing everything that is required in this direction.