Friday, 7 August 2009

The gaze of democracy

In the ongoing debate on Sudan, indigenous and international, there is a general consensus on democracy, debilitated to the term democratic transformation, as a horizon for settlement, as a coupon to a lush future of tolerance and mutual understanding. But is democracy itself not denied from the outset in the guise of a transformation? Is the promise of chartered transformation, from dictatorship to liberal democracy, not in itself a submission to the governing status quo? Would the men in rather than on the throne simply surrender their spoils of war, percentages and quotas, to the free choice of the masses? Would the current coordinates of power as spelled out in Naivasha and other accords, allow in any serious sense of the word, a restitution of mass power, a reinvention of a mass political subject that reigns in sovereignty, or so the dream of formal democracy goes?

The fresh, and largely ambiguous, notion of New Sudan promised to many a redesign of the political game that would allow for a fairer share of power to the marginalised. However, thinking through the legacy of the SPLM, has this promise not culminated in a process of integration within the established coordinates of Old Sudan? And has not the threat of secession as a final solution, without prejudice to the nationalist sentiments in Southern Sudan, corrupted in essence the call for a New Sudan rendering it obsolete? History does repeat itself, as a fraud. Following the 1985 Intifada against Numeiri's rule the late John Garang was quick to disrepute Khartoum's reborn democracy as a fraud, as a second May. I claim, it was an opportunity missed. That was the moment of potential historic compromise not the signing of the Naivasha agreement in 2005 between Garang's movement and the NIF military dictatorship. Awaiting the SPLM's political thrust in 1985 was a state amenable to re-invention, conditions compared to which the Naivasha deal seems a fraud. The NIF regime fulfils the tag May 2 much more than the vacuum of 1985 - 1989 which the NIF correctly identified as such and subsequently occupied with the event of it's coup d'etat. What could have been achieved through a North-South alliance in the late 1980's returned as a caricature of itself post 2005 as an unholy alliance between two hegemons, whose rule is sustained by the threat of renewed conflict, an alliance of the weary.

In that sense, is democracy packed in the opaque wrappings of legislations not but an injunction of the state? Is democratic transformation not but dressing for a bivalent dictatorship? My claim is simply that within the set coordinates of power democracy remains a formal qualification of authority, a predicate as in the self defeating concept democratic transformation. To achieve democracy, to achieve a New Sudan in earnest a shift in coordinates is mandatory, one that undermines before all else the paradigm of identity. New Sudan, if there is to be one, lies beyond the framework of identity politics. In the far horizon citizens defeat their identities, and that horizon begins now.

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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.