al-Tayeb Mustafa, the chief South Sudan secession propagandist from a Northern platform made on Wednesday a very telling suggestion regarding the Misseriya. The man, angered by Ex-Finance Minister Abdel Rahim Hamdi's cautioning remarks on the future of the borderline belt between North and South, expressed frustrated disdain at the ‘ Bedouin’ lifestyle of the Misseriya and Co. Good ‘Arabs’ as they may be the pastoralist populations straddling the North South ‘border’ irritate the race architecture of Mustafa’s New Sudan, and mix up his puritan calculus. Hamdi apparently lost the favour of Mustafa by apparently backtracking on his earlier proposition of a Sudanese socio-economic and cultural heartland, dubbed the 'Hamdi triangle'.
Proving after all the rhetoric to be a Gordonian effendi stuffed in a jellabiya Mustafa suggested the termination of the backward pastoral existence of the Misseriya and Co via their re-cycling in ranches along the model of ‘developed’ countries, or so he said. To Mustafa the pastoral state is a problem to be dealt with, since in his own words it “is opposed to civilisation, education, and development”. From a Misseriya point of view I wonder what would be better, joining a Southern Sudan where they may be politically excluded but allowed to continue their pastoral liberty, or cushioning up to a North that condemns their mode of livelihood but recognises their political voice.
Mustafa probably wrote his Wednesday column at haste, otherwise I am pretty sure a man of his ideological composition would be cautious enough not to target the very people he claims to espouse with the standard modernist prejudice against the perceived anarchy of pastoral life. To those who assume identity between Misseriya concerns and NCP designs Mustafa’s line of thinking might offer a corrective. The Misseriya’s basic plight is not survival in Dinka neighbourhood, or under an SPLM administration, but against the adversity of state intrusion and policy machinations, Southern and Northern.
Mustafa’s prejudice is not foreign to Sudan’s effendi elite. In the gaze of many Northern Sudanese advocates of a ‘democratic’ New Sudan the rural mass is more a problem to face than a constituency to engage. To al-Tayeb Mustafa, seeking an essential Arab-Moslem North Sudan opposed to and distinct from the treacherous Southern Sudanese African heathen Other, they now prove to be similarly problematic, in need of ‘transformation’ to satisfy the refined tastes of an urban albeit Islamist petty bourgeoisie.
Everybody’s thorn the occupants of Sudan’s pastoral belt are greatly challenged by the state drive to demarcate borders and establish new modes of control. In both really existing New Sudans they are to be policed, monitored, demarcated, gated, or otherwise overpowered. It is against their fate that the Sudans’ merit is to be measured.