Thursday, 10 March 2011

Naughty opposition

To no surprise the Khartoum police intervened with the accustomed vigour to suppress the two motions of the opposition today and yesterday. Both the 8 March women demonstration in Omdurman and today’s exercise in popular protest were dispersed in their first minutes. The police forces arrested literally all the participants, most however were released hours later on bail including the Communist Party chief, Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud. Select activists though were detained early this morning well before the foiled demonstration and will probably have to withstand the hospitality of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) longer than their compatriots in police custody.   
Expressing the guarded arrogance of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Qutbi al-Mahdi stated yesterday “The opposition has been cursing the government for the past 20 years, and that is its limit. It is not capable of more”. He added “The country is free. Anybody can go out and curse the government at will, and then return home”. The NCP’s self-assurance aside Qutbi correctly delineated the coordinates of the political game in Khartoum. In a sense, the government pretends to uphold public freedoms while the established opposition parties pretend to campaign against the regime. The no trespassing rule implied is that the government continues to tolerate the bickering of Khartoum’s politicians as long as they do not venture into the prohibition of actually organising against its authority. The less celebrated instances of concrete civilian mobilisation against the NCP’s domination in the past year or so did not feature the political establishment proper, and were discretely frowned upon by its cautious and negotiation-minded authoritative representatives. The anti-NCP Girifna campaign during the April elections took off on an original note forging links to the bitter streets. However it remained a protest movement in the style of Khartoum’s university politics and later succumbed to the lure of NGO superstition adopting the sterile language and vegetative tactics of the awareness-raising business. Its sting survived in the form of the current ‘Youth for Change’ platform albeit plagued by the infantile withdrawal from the question of power as suggested by the consolation of the tag ‘youth’ and the willingness to surrender political processes to a vague liberal fantasy of Khartoum’s veteran parties. 
At the level of demands the successful doctors strike of June last year is probably worthier of interrogation than the poorly nursed initiatives of the versed activists. Over the period of six months focused and creative agitation drew hundreds of notoriously conservative professionals into defiance mode behind trade union slogans. These two constituencies, the students and the middle class professionals, have twice before ignited the mass political strikes that brought down Khartoum’s military rulers, Abboud in October 1964 and Nimayri in April 1985. The ensuing short-lived periods of elected parliamentary government however crashed repeatedly at the challenge of Sudan’s rural crises, the political economy of the peasant/pastoral hinterland. 

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting and thoughtful analysis. Thank you for posting this!

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.