In an interview with the Qatari paper al-Sharq Saturday Hasan al-Turabi, the Popular Congress Party chief and deposed leader of the Sudanese Islamic Movement aired out an exemplary bout of Sudan pessimism quite unaccustomed from a politician ever full of ideas. He pointed out the inevitability of South Sudan’s secession and expressed his fear of a Somali scenario in the country. Turabi however gave his argument a radical historical twist, blasting the very idea of a Sudanese nation state. He invoked the colonial making of Sudan from a conglomeration of differing peoples with little to share between them.
The sheikh spoke to al-Sharq en-route to Paris for medical check-ups. His responses reflected a disillusion with the Sudanese polity blaming government after another. Even a coup according to Turabi would save little at this juncture, with the exception of a re-arrangement of centre-periphery relationships and a transition to public freedoms. When asked if he or his party had an initiative to offer Turabi responded with a long but sure no. In the current environment he claimed it is impossible to engage public opinion with any proposition.
It is a sign of the times that Turabi, an untiring political innovator, meekly submits to what he deems more or less fate. Aware I suppose of his own incapacity he resorts to historical inevitability to excuse the drought of ideas he currently finds himself in. The same Turabi who crafted the rise of the Islamic Movement to power in Sudan and subsequently lost its reins to no recovery shares today with fellow travellers of Sudan’s pre-NCP/SPLM political establishment the anguish and the confusion of confrontation with novel political grammar he cannot master.
Comparing recent statements of pre-Naivasha political figures the common tenet is repeated warnings of a doomsday scenario and a frustration with ‘politics’ as such. The Turabi camp in particular has all the bad reasons for frustration. Turabi is no stranger to the making of the history he now so deplores. Blame aside, the figures of the establishment carry the responsibility of at least explaining to the Sudanese and to themselves, I guess, the unravelling of the Sudan they inherited. Without prejudice to the structural causes Turabi now cites the petty feuds of Sudan’s post-colonial elite and their incapacity to imagine a polity beyond their incessant squabbles drowned all attempts at an alternative development.
If anything the referendum on the future of Southern Sudan, if saved from the political marketplace and the deterioration into an act of ‘you pretend to vote and we pretend to count’, offers the country an opportunity to re-carve itself and look ahead. Post-referendum the grammar of Sudanese politics will experience yet another revision. I am afraid for now neither the ruling parties nor the opposition have started to delearn and relearn.