In his address to the nation on the occasion of Sudan 55th independence anniversary President Bashir chose the confrontation between al-Mek Nimr, the chief of the Ja’aliyien, and the invading Turkish-Egyptian forces led by Ismail Pasha in 1821 as the initiation moment of Sudanese nationhood, I suppose. He evoked the memory of the Sudanese Mahdi, Mohamed Ahmed, and his successor, the Khalifa Abdullahi, as well as Ali Abdul-Latif and the leaders of the Graduates’ Club on the road to independence in 1956. In all cases Bashir preferred to name figures rather than identify revolutions, movements, or instances of mass action. In a not particularly subtle attempt to present a cleansed history of organic unity Bashir censored the nationalisms of the Sudanese workers movement in North and South, the Sudanese women movement, as well as the anti-colonial resistance of the Nuba Mountains, the Nuer and the Dinka, and even the stubborn persistence of Ali Dinar’s state in Darfur well into British rule. He, consciously I presume, avoided any reference to Sudan’s post-colonial track record, apart from the singular mention of Ismail al-Azhari, the prime minister who presided over Sudan’s independence presented as a nationalist sovereign beyond party affiliation. In this tale Bashir speaks as the current re-incarnation of the nationalist patron above political squabbles.
From this platform Bashir addressed the three issues of the day, the impending partition of the South, the conflict in Darfur, and the opposition’s demand for a political re-configuration in Khartoum on secession of the South. Regarding the South Bashir presented the choice between peaceful secession and war-ridden unity as the brave and democratic remedy to the chronic fissure in the organic whole. Allowing the South to choose its own destiny in Bashir’s formulation constitutes “the last line in the nation’s book of healing”, since peace, the ultimate target of his rule, is surely the truest embodiment of the country’s independence. To Darfur Bashir offered the negotiated return to the ‘constitutional order’, whereby the government maintains the commitment to provide Darfurians the moral and material help necessary to build their own peace. With the cynicism of Bashir’s peace argument in mind it is justified to claim that the next phase of Darfur politicking is most probably one where the amoebic Darfuri factions, the Doha born Liberation and Justice Movement, the Justice and Equality Movement and its London christened allies, Abdel-Wahid al-Nur’s Paris-Nairobi group, and the Juba exiles including Minni Minawi, battle it out between themselves for Bashir’s countersignature rather than engage Darfur’s future. Turning to the opposition in Khartoum Bashir tabled the proposal of a broad-based government of his own design; that is, on the condition that he completes his term in office according to the letter of the constitution. Notably, Bashir made no mention of the ruling National Congress Party that he chairs. Bashir’s offer, ambiguous but enticing, is likely to stimulate a drool in the Khartoum club, while many in the NCP will surely fear for their positions. As long as he remains on top Bashir is ready to retail anything, sovereignty and the NCP cabal included. The speaker on Sudan’s independence anniversary was Bashir the ‘independent’.