Monday, 27 July 2009


During the latest phase of its clandestine existence (1989 - 2007) al Midan, the organ of the Communist Party of Sudan, welcomed its readers with a permanent demand as a footer: print, copy and distribute. In those days the paper was 6 - 12 pages size A4, published at an erratic rate of around once per month depending on available funds, materials, and of course underground circumstances.

Following the agreements in Naivasha and Cairo al Midan returned to the newspaper stands with a corrective note in its header: a daily newspaper published provisionally once per week; direct reasons being lack of cash, lack of staff and and sublime fatigue. Well, after a crash period of ups and downs al Midan slowly gained grasp of itself and its message, and has lately been able to publish twice weekly, a routine edition on Tuesdays and an extra, usually with focus on a single issue (elections, the economy, health care, housing..etc) on Thursdays. Two major obstacles face the future of this veteran paper (established 1954), obstacles that have grown with it since its inception, first and foremost poor funding, a permanent feature of resistance politics that remain unmillitarised and thus fail to claim international appeal; and second, but of primary importance, censorship. The censorship that Midan faces today has precedent only in the colonial past, it is officially on the market, yes, but its message and content is tightly controlled by a regular visitor who has taken more or less the function of editor in chief. Today the paper will simply not be issued, the late evening visitor from the Security Bureau decided to rip off approximately 60% of its content, news articles and Op-Eds. The pieces prevented from public display this edition include:
  • Leading editorial on water shortages in Khartoum: Khartoum suffers a chronic deficit in water supply. Where I live for example, in Omdurman, water taps have been largely dry for the past 6 weeks or so. A family of 5 needs to buy water delivered in a barrel on a donkey driven cart at a daily cost of 40 SDG (approx. 17 USD). Note that the salary of a university lecturer is in the range of 400 - 500 USD per month. Most daily papers have reported the problem of water in town, however Midan went a step further and dared to report a women led demonstration for water in Omdurman this week.
  • a public statment from the Communist Party in Um Rwaba (North Kordofan) demanding a review and reduction of the high taxes imposed on petty traders, teas sellers, taxi drivers and local nurseries. The statment also mentioned the annual cycle of teachers' strikes in the town, and demanded negotiation between teachers' representatives and the local authorities to ease the situation in the already forsaken public schools.
  • An interview with Joseph Modistu, former MP in the last elected parliament (1986) and prominent Southern Sudanese communist. Modistu criticized GoSS and spoke of rampant corruption and nepotism in the South. He went further to demonstrate similarities between NCP dictatorship in the North and SPLM rule in Southern Sudan. For Modistu unity is the unity of the disenfranchised and impoverished on both sides of the celebrated politco-cultural divide.
  • An article on the economic utility and ecological consequences of the government project to raise the Roseiris Dam on the Blue Nile. The article debates the government plans associated with the project in terms of transparency, property relationships, and effects on the ecology of the river and the region.
  • A column criticising the government's adherence to IMF blueprints and the latest request by the Minister of Finance for IMF financial and technical supervision, the first flash of which is an announced raise in indirect tax.
  • A report on the situation of residential land allocation in al Bawga South, an area South of Khartoum on the eastern bank of the Blue Nile, where squatter settlements are being forcibly cleared and land is being reallocated according to conditions and standards perceived by the population in the area as unjust.
This evening the security officer demanded from Midan's administration a signed committment not to publish any of the censored pieces on-line or in any other form. I don't know if they have actually signed, or what this signature would legally imply. One thing is clear however, we might as well go back to print, copy and distribute!

The image is of an issue of Midan dated 2 September 1965 celebrating its first edition 1954.

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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.