In an Op-Ed for al-Akhbar daily Mohamed Ali Jadein, a leading figure in the reformed Sudanese Ba’ath Party, provided his readers with anniversary remarks on the 23 April 1990 anti-NIF coup attempt, remembered these days for its coincidence with 28 Ramadan on the Moslem (lunar) calendar. The abortive coup is particularly remembered for the unforgiving violence that faced its organisers. The NIF regime summarily executed 28 army officers accused of involvement without hesitation, and followed-up with a mass purge in the officer corps.
Guarded by hindsight Jadein distinguished 28 Ramadan from previous military counter-coups as being devoid of the will to rule; apparently the officers had in mind to transfer power immediately to a civilian government without even an intermediary ‘revolutionary command council’. He went on to draw an unqualified parallel with the 1924 revolt spearheaded by the officer cadets against the British colonial administration. Jadein, in the political leadership of the Sudanese Ba’ath, neither confirmed nor denied the loud claim that the coup was Ba’athist in spirit and organisation. In lustre democratic jargon Jadein made the claim that the officers involved classified into an array of political affiliations, a point that supposedly supports the notion of a coup in line with popular democratic aspirations.
It must be said though that the promise of an immediate return to democracy is a classical argument of all putschists; the coup being a hygienic procedure, an enema if you like, to allow democracy a healthy re-start. Today where ‘democratic transformation’ seems to be the magic wand even a flinching questioning of the reality of parliamentary democracy in Sudan seems to be self-defeating if not outright political suicide. Amongst all political forces initially intent on doing away with Sudan’s ancien régime – Ansar & Khatmiyya ruling families and associated effendiya bureaucracy – only the NIF has pulled through to assume the political leadership of the Sudanese bourgeoisie, and refashion Sudan’s socio-economic landscape. The response of the Sudanese left has been a regress from its once staunch ‘transformative’ agenda, seeing its historical mission of a ‘national democratic revolution’ essentially directed against the ruling elite of sectarian ‘pseudo-feudalists’ and their allies, caricatured in the hands of an ‘Islamic’ vanguard. Even the promise of a ‘democratic’ resolution of the South Sudan question, namely via exercise of the right to self determination, dragged and dropped on the wrong side of Sudan’s political barricades. The recoil of the left led it ultimately to tandem with enemies of old under the banner of ‘democracy’, an act of political convenience par excellence, however with very little strategy to inform it.
On the anniversary of 28 Ramadan the question is not what type of coup was it, transitively democratic or transitively authoritarian, but what democracy, and for whom? To re-engage, the Sudanese left must re-discover radical politics beyond the screen saver ‘democratic transformation’.