Khartoum’s para-NCP press has lately found quite a hit in the person of Ikhlas Salah-Eldin Garang. The before largely unknown SPLM activist surfaced during a rally organised by the official women union to which a fellow Southern Sudanese, Sarah Elija, has been recently elected Secretary General. Last week Ms Garang’s emotional pro-unity speech gained prominence since it apparently itched NCP vice-chairman Nafie Ali Nafie’s already troubled heart forcing precious tears down his cheeks. The last to speak Nafie picked up on Ikhlas’s talk calling it a glimpse of hope. A day or so later another paper quoted Ikhlas saying that unity is a political decision that can be made within 6 hours, however this time she was described as a leading figure in the SPLM.
Nafie’s tears are not without precedent, a month or so ago Ibrahim Ghandoor, another NCP commissar of lesser relevance, shed unity tears before a rally of the workers union. I guess now we have good reasons to wait for Ali Osman Taha’s unity tears, and may be even Bashir’s. Press reports eloquently detailed the significance and truthfulness of tears as the ultimate evidence of commitment particularly coming from prominent men of power. Patching the reports together one could tap an emerging political economy of tears. If ruthless NCP strongmen like Nafie can be overcome by emotion for the sake of the nationalist cause so can the SPLM’s figureheads. Pagan Amum listening to the tune of South Sudan’s proposed national anthem was also reportedly overpowered by secession tears. Frankly though this tears economy is setting demanding standards. It would be really asking too much if the finance minister presenting the annual budget would have to break into tears to prove the case for a tax raise, or if the education minister would have to sob to the council of ministers when asking for badly needed funds. The opposition I suppose would have to organise mass demonstrations of crying citizens!
In her sobbing Nafie speech Ikhlas Garang made quite a valid point. She enquired about a ‘blood and kin’ commission in the calculated CPA referring to the inseparable North-South intermix. The same could be generally said about Sudanese-Ethiopian, Sudanese-Chadian, and Sudanese-Egyptian relationships. In all cases state borders slice through a rich and continuous history of population intermixture and exchange. The point though is the violence of state-making as such. To Messrs Nafie, Ghandour, and fellow sobbing gentlemen, what led to your failure in forging a unified country over the geography of the Sudan you inherited will likewise hamper your fantasy of a North Sudan, the flipside of a fantasy is a nightmare.