Rumour has it in Khartoum that the Politburo of the Umma Party is virtually split between a bloc supportive of the appeasement process with the National Congress Party (NCP) and the more recalcitrant. The first, to no surprise, is led by the party’s Secretary General, Siddig Mohamed Ismail, while the second features Miriam al-Mahdi, Sadiq’s daughter, described by sympathizers as Sudan’s coming Benazir Bhutto, and his son in law, el-Wathig el-Bireir, the husband of another daughter, Zeinab al-Mahdi. In a recent surge of the feud Ismail dismissed el-Bireir from his post as organizational secretary of the party, a position that allowed the latter to engage in a semi-conspiracy with the youth wing of the Umma Party against the Secretary General. This youth wing lately described Ismail as a NCP stooge in a widely circulated press statement.
For the record Siddig Mohamed Ismail was effectively forced upon the 2009 general conference of the Umma Party by the wise Sadiq al-Mahdi who basically invited on his own account an additional 256 members to the conference to beef up support for his preferred candidate. Ismail who is not particularly popular among the Umma Party’s younger Khartoum cadres has the backing of the party’s businessmen as well as the religious figurehead of the Ansar brotherhood, Abdel-Mahmoud Abbo. Sadiq al-Mahdi towers over both as the Chairman of the Party and the Imam of the Ansar, two positions that he boasts of claiming by the vote rather than through inheritance.
According to Sadiq al-Mahdi the vote also channelled all of his ten sons and daughters into the party’s central board, a sort of central committee as it were, and subsequently into the Politburo, with the exception of his youngest, Bushra (born 1978), who currently serves in the National Intelligence and Security Service. In these higher echelons of the Umma Party Sadiq al-Mahdi’s offspring are joined by their spouses and other close kin.
Interestingly, his two daughters, Miriam and Rabah, both of whom have gained a reputation in the Khartoum political scene, appear more at ease with quasi-leftist civil society rhetoric than with the religious argumentation of their father, the Imam. Judged by their writings and statements they could easily qualify for membership of the Northern Sector of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) if not the Communist Party in its current status, a point that al-Intibaha’s chief, al-Tayeb Mustafa, has not failed to repeatedly impress upon Sadiq al-Mahdi in the context of several diatribes supportive of a prospective Umma-NCP alliance. The test of the two women’s gender-informed feminist liberal inclinations I guess is exactly this, will they opt for an own platform or abide by the terms of patriarchy that they so often loudly deplore? I guess the trap is, whatever they do, they still have to compete with the NCP’s Amira al-Fadil, the cabinet minister who somehow represents the liberation of the White Nile, a traditional Ansar/Umma Party stronghold, from the decades of semi-feudal loyalty to the Mahdi house.