Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Sudan’s physicians: strike back

Civilian dressed personnel, presumably National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), assisted by policemen detained and tortured 3 medical doctors, Dr Wala El Din, Dr El Hadi Bakheet, and Dr El Abwabi (photograph right) on Tuesday. The first has been released, and the two, El Hadi and Abwabi, are till the moment of writing in detention in an unknown location.

The three are leading members of an all Sudan Doctors Committee that has been relentlessly campaigning in the last few months for the improvement of working conditions and salaries of the profession. Shortly before the [April] elections the Committee had succeeded in staging a widely popularised and well organised strike that forced the Ministry of Health, and the Presidency, to negotiate better terms of service. However, as is the case with the Government of Sudan in any and all negotiations and agreements, the Ministry and the Labour Department failed to abide by the terms of agreement, set for implementation starting May, delivering merely false promises.

Accordingly, the Committee reorganised and called for an all doctors’ assembly to be held in the Khartoum Hospital mess Wednesday with the objective of agreeing on subsequent steps. Pre-emptively NISS decided to ‘decapitate’ the doctors’ movement by detaining its supposed ring-leaders, and thus avoid an embarrassing strike that would further expose the hallow nature of presidential decrees and pronouncements, one of them being the pledge to deliver on doctors’ demands. On the evening of the same day that the ‘ring-leaders’ were arrested the President issued yet another decision to improve the service conditions of registrars and house-officers.  

NISS and NCP (aka NIF) have long believed that they had ultimately tamed Sudan’s urban monsters through the large scale ‘shock and awe’ campaign of the nineties. And truly, the security apparatus succeeded in draining Khartoum and the major towns of their finest organisers, trade unionists and political activists. For an interlude of 1o years, 1995-2005, civil obedience was the norm, and the NCP had total control over the Sudanese urban scene, disturbed only as of 1999 by the fratricidal Popular Congress Party. The emergent protest ethic, as exemplified by the doctors’ strike, the student demonstrations in Dalanj, the demonstrations for water in the working class Omdurman district, Um Badda, carries a feature that should surely worry NISS and NCP; it transcends political divisions and bridges between identities. In essence, it is the ethic of displeased tax-paying citizens worthy of policies, administration, and government by choice! 

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