Saturday, 30 July 2011

The season of al-Intibaha

Formally speaking, only the Just Peace Forum (JPF) among all the Sudanese political forces, North and South, has realized its prime objective with the partition of the Sudan into two countries, the Republic of the Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. Neither the National Congress Party (NCP) nor the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) actually ever committed themselves openly to the secession of South Sudan. To both political hegemons partition is on the face of it the consequence of the failure to make unity attractive in the jargon of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), i.e. a by-product of their political wrangling but not an objective as such. The JPF and its mouthpiece, al-Intibaha, Khartoum’s best-selling newspaper, are both birth associates of the CPA signed in 2005. While both structures, the party and the paper, basically voice the ideological ‘visions’ of one man, al-Tayeb Mustafa, the popular appeal of his arguments deserves an attentive and nuanced investigation beyond the cheap criticism to which the man is permanently subjected by Khartoum’s liberal intelligentsia.
Mustafa’s essential claim is that the divergence between the Moslem Arab North and the Animist, Christian Black African South is so great as to make shared existence in a unitary state impossible. On that basis he argued for a homogenous North Sudan where the majority of the population is Moslem, and of Arab stock. He thereupon came to the conclusion that only partition can resolve the pernicious conflict between the two entities. To market his views Mustafa borrowed heavily from the chauvinist dictionary of riverain supremacy, and developed in a stream of lengthy editorials a history of the Sudanese civil war as a tale of Northern benevolence and sacrifice opposed to Southern betrayal and treachery. His strategy met with success since it reflected at a certain level a popular angst in the Sudanese heartland of an imminent takeover by the militarized peripheries, foremost the South and its allies in the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile, and the insurgents of Darfur. With that in mind the separation of the South was perceived by the Intibaha public as a moment of ‘liberation’ from the Southern threat, and correspondingly a signifier of the demise of the all Sudan encompassing ambitions of John Garang’s SPLM. Rid of the Southern menace al-Intibaha campaigns today with extra gusto for the ultimate prohibition of the SPLM’s associate organisation in (North) Sudan and expectedly for nothing less than a military settlement of the crises in the three areas to use the CPA’s term, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile.
In its frantic search for a political constituency Khartoum’s anti-NCP petty bourgeoisie, literary and modern, feigns excruciating abhorrence at al-Intibaha’s rhetoric in association with a self-indulgent passion for the plight of the marginalized. At the root of this passion however is the failure to recognise that al-Intibaha did no more than phrase the quiet convictions of their very effendiya class in the language of the masses. In a sense al-Intibaha exposed the original racist sin in the making of the petty bourgeoisie ideology. Ever parasitical, Sudan’s effendiya, the heirs of the colony, could only sustain their political hegemony through alliances of convenience with the conductors of power. Since the emergence of the mainstream nationalist movement in Sudan under the aegis of the Graduates’ Congress in the late thirties the effendiya clamoured for the political patronage of the two main mass politico-religious brotherhoods in the country, the Ansar and the Khatmiyya. The joint ties of petty bourgeoisie ambition however led them at a later stage to seek the political muscle of the officer corps and shed the shackles of sectarian dominance, a dream realized under the regime of Colonel Nimayri. With the Islamist counter-bloc in power the effendiya proper precipitately reinvented their political mission to fit the ‘New Sudan’ wave backed by the military might of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Instructed by convenience rather than insight the post-Cold War effendiya sought to recapture Khartoum with the ethnic firepower of the ‘marginalized’.  It is however in al-Intibaha that they counter their vindictive double.  

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