Khartoum newspapers reported Wednesday that dentist, university professor, NCP figure, and serial paramount chief of the labour umbrella organisation Sudan Workers Federation of Trade Unions, Ibrahim Ghandour, broke into tears while addressing a meeting of the central committee of the General Education Workers Trade Union in Khartoum, apparently over the possible secession of Southern Sudan. Ghandour was quoted in the press as saying “history will not forgive us if the Sudan splits, and will not forgive the onlookers”. On a similarly emotional note Ghandour announced the initiation of yet another pro-unity campaign on the 5th August involving the launch of a Southern Sudan Workers Union.
The organisation Ghandour and his party have effectively disembowelled over the 21 years of NIF hegemony laid the improbable seeds of unified struggle across the North-South barrier in the 1940’s. At the time, and contrary to colonial effendia doctrine, one to which Ghandour is heir, the labour movement in Sudan struggled vehemently for the demand of ‘equal pay for equal work’ targeting the unification of workers’ wages in North and South as opposed to the British colonial practice of paying workers in the South less than their Southern counterparts. The labour movement campaigned with grassroots vigour, suspicious and foreign to Ghandour, against the dignia, a head tax imposed by the British administration on its Southern subjects. It is these instances of proletarian unity, today a vague historical ghost, which once constituted mass democratic attempts to provide the antidote against the de facto split in the Sudanese polity between North and South.
The organisation that Ghandour currently heads was established by labouring men and women in March 1949 under the aegis of the Sudanese Movement for National Liberation, later to become the Communist Party of Sudan. And it was Ghandour’s essential mission to make sure that it parts forever with its roots in labour struggles and its vision of an alternative nation-state. It is actually a mockery of Sudan’s post-colonial history that an organisation once a spearhead of liberation and progress led by the likes of Mohamed al-Sayed Salam and al-Shafie Ahmed al-Sheikh, railway artisans and home-grown figureheads of the Railway Workers Union, is emasculated to the bone and transformed into a department for state propaganda.
Regarding tears, Ghandour is advised to save his for personal calamities since they do not compare with the tears and blood of the uncountable many who have suffered and continue to suffer from the predatory state that he represents, however without being captured by the cameras of Khartoum’s press, and devoid of the neat handkerchief conspicuous on Ghandour’s photograph. Fancy these days the question of unity/secession is presented as an emotional dispute whereby lovers exchange artifacts of an imagined happy past. al-Sahafa newspaper, for instance, has made a habit of publishing a daily photograph to demonstrate North-South intimacy: a Northerner and a Southerner embracing and Southern women in Northern attire. Now, clear and simple, the North-South war was not about a deficit of tolerance! It’s political economy, stupid!