Ghazi Salah al-Din, the head of the National Congress Party (NCP) parliamentary caucus and a leading intellectual of the post-Turabi Sudanese Islamic Movement, doubted in a recent interview whether he would join the contemporary Movement, in its 2012 version, had he the opportunity. In a style reminiscent of the interview tactics of the late Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud Ghazi dodged the question by asking it to himself and refusing to answer. He told his interlocutor that the Islamic Movement was in an ambiguous situation that makes any judgement on its affairs quite difficult. The Movement, argued Ghazi, does not rule, has never ruled, and it is not clear whether it should rule at all. With this statement he apparently redeemed the Islamic Movement that he joined as freshman in Khartoum University of the baggage of twenty three years in power, a legacy that he seemed willing to shove over to the NCP as a the carrier of immediate authority. Ghazi dismissed ‘politics’ as such as the business of “villains”, a condemnation that he felt comfortable to pronounce from the armchair of the distanced intellectual.
Ghazi’s brief interview is no journalistic coincidence. Separately, or may be not so separately, veteran members of the paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF) who share the experience of combat against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) during the 1990s in what was then southern Sudan, have been meeting recently in Khartoum to reminisce about the ‘jihad years’ and debate the future of the Islamic Movement. One such meeting took place on 27 July in the Khartoum University mosque, famed as the headquarters of the Islamic Movement’s student wing. The attendants were mostly men and women who dedicated their twenties to the Islamist cause as students, lost friends and colleagues in the battlefields of Sudan’s multiple insurgencies, but were largely orphaned ideologically as a consequence of the 1999 feud between Hassan al-Turabi, the historical leader of the Islamic Movement, and President Bashir, the man who continues to rule with its emblem. One such figure is al-Naji Abdalla, today an emerging politician in Turabi’s PCP. Naji reportedly sobbed as he addressed the crowd. “A meeting of the mujahideen should not be an occasion for shedding tears without consideration of the future of the Islamic Movement…We come to you with open hearts and without any political agenda. We only seek the glory of the Islamic Movement and do not fear but Allah”, he was quoted saying.
Naji was known to me and my colleagues in the student organisation of the Communist Party - the Democratic Front - as ‘the cooking-oil thief’. I am still to find out the background for this accusation, but I must confess doing my share in perpetuating it in speech and writing. As Naji’s adversary I had little opportunity to hear his ‘story’. Today, it seems, Naji, and Ghazi, are attempting to do exactly that: tell their story, and thereby seek absolution from the adventure of power. The basic contention against this mode of (disavowed) politics, i.e. story-telling, is that it reduces the objective reality of the exercise of power, the villain’s burden to borrow Ghazi’s depiction, to a subjective tale of virtue and sin, material for sympathetic understanding. This is a double fraud. History is no psychoanalysis couch, and there is no escape from its clutch to the bosom of a transcendental beholder.