Friday 30 July 2010

Garang: up for grabs

Today, 30th July, marks the date of the helicopter crash in the border zone between Southern Sudan and Uganda that ended the life of John Garang (1945-2005), life-long chief of SPLM/A and late First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan according to the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed 9th January 2005. Garang’s sudden death just 6 months after conclusion of the breakthrough agreement catapulted his life’s commitment, the SPLM/A, from a political force gearing for national hegemony and regional ascent to a power conglomerate of South Sudan. Accordingly the notion of an independent South Sudan as opposed to an all Sudan project of the SPLM/A and allies gained superiority, and aspirations of many a non-Southern sympathiser of the SPLM were effectively thwarted.
Looking up to the SPLM/A as a ‘liberator’ rebellious agitators in the Nuba Hills, and in Southern Blue Nile, bordering Southern Sudan, and in the more distant Beja areas of Eastern Sudan, and the Jebel Marra plateau of Western Sudan either took up arms to engage the central government based in Khartoum or campaigned in the name of the ‘New Sudan’, Garang’s idiom for the future of the Sudanese polity beyond ‘colonial’ design.

Garang demonstrated amazing resolve at maintaining leadership of the SPLM/A, contrary to the history of the political movement in the South, ever plagued by endless splintering and factionalism. Other than the split of the Nasir faction led by Riek Macher and Lam Akol in 1991 Chairman Garang swiftly counteracted any attempt to question his military/political leadership. His ability to crush adversaries gained him both notoriety and silent respect. On the political plane he was a master of the tactic/strategy dialectic. Responding to the tide he changed sails from Marxist convictions that characterised his first Manifesto in 1983 to the liberal agenda of the New World Order on the collapse of the Soviet Union and regional allies 1990/1991. At the start of his war Garang was dependent on the support of the communist Derg regime in Ethiopia. The US at the time had Numayri in Khartoum, the Free Officer turned IMF lad, an ally of good standing if not particularly pleasant. Garang albeit a graduate of Grinnell College (Iowa) and a postgraduate of Iowa State University had a mind trained politically in pan-Africanist Tanzania and the Students Revolutionary Front of Dar es-Salaam University. Numayri’s demise however was soon to follow at the behest of popular revolt in Khartoum. Garang, sure of the horizon beyond the ancien régime and suspicious of the Sudan Armed Forces Transitional Government of 1985 remained aloof. Dicing his chances of a possible dominant alliance that brings him government by ballot and gun he engaged in Khartoum politicking from regional capitals which could have supposedly led to an agreement with Sadig al-Mahdi’s shaky governments was it not for the NIF coup of 30th June 1989. Paradoxically it was the NIF that brought down the ancien régime, and the revolutionary Garang became buddies with sectarian leaders in the anti-NIF National Democratic Alliance of the 1990s.

Eventually Garang’s Peace came about via handshakes and hugs with the champions of the ‘really existing New Sudan’ Hasan al-Turabi en route, and Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and Omer al-Bashir in destination. 

Infantile abstinence

Last week the Presidency called for a meeting with opposition parties, largely Northern, to discuss the referendum on the future of Southern Sudan. Individual party leaders initially agreed to attend. However, after internal consultations, representatives of the opposition, speaking as the ‘Juba Alliance’ or formally the National Forces Alliance, snubbed the meeting with the argument that the Presidency’s call is an attempt to undermine the opposition’s proposition of a penultimate ‘national inclusive conference’ addressing all political issues and conflicts. On a second thought the opposition, Yasir Arman’s Northern Sector of the SPLM counted in, tabled the condition of widening the meeting’s agenda to include the Darfur crisis, democratic transformation, price hikes and dire living conditions. Well, an immediate NCP response was to decline inclusion of these issues persisting on the notion that the meeting is to exclusively address the impending referendum. In the press NCP voices attacked the opposition for its unwillingness to rise to the occasion. In the name of the opposition the SPLM’s Yasir Arman, speaking to al-Akhbar newspaper stated that the success of the meeting depends on correct procedure and the involvement of all political forces in its preparation, as well as the issues to be discussed which must include ‘freedoms’ and the referendum. It is noteworthy that the Juba Alliance petitioned the First Vice President, Salva Kiir, to postpone the meeting till adequate preparation.

Now, on a strictly formal note the opposition could be pardoned for insistence on wider agenda that involve its queries over Darfur and the political climate in Khartoum. But on examination the opposition is none but floating its liberal notion of change by consent via a conference of equals where the good of democracy defeats the evil of dictatorship; a dream that is the substitute in fantasy for the (im)possible popular revolt in 1985 and 1964 style. Absorbed in nostalgia to ‘repeat of the same’ the opposition has yet to comprehend and ‘stomach’ the coordinates of the concrete situation so stubbornly defiant to triple repeat of history. The NCP, in contradistinction to Abboud’s junta (1958-1964) and Numayri’s dictatorship (1969-1985), has managed to generate sufficient local constituency to survive if not to replace Sudan’s old elite. And more importantly, the NCP has cushioned itself in sufficient international conditioning and paradoxical (dis)repute, in particular via the CPA, as to make its ousting a risk to ‘international peace and stability’ in UN terms, and in common language a disruption of imperialist designs. Contrary to the aspirations of the liberal opposition it is the NCP regime – Sharia in place – that has won subservience to imperialist powers and compatibility with global capitalism. Pardon my language, but a flash look at NCP economic policy ever committed to neoliberal dogma and hungry for FDIs may prove to be enlightening. I fear that the opposition has no other plan in its baggage but political abstinence, an infantile symptom whatever way you interpret it.

Monday 26 July 2010

Leak Sudan

In an impressive and radical win for ‘the right to information’ the whistleblower published Sunday over 91 000 confidential reports covering the war in Afghanistan in the period 2004 to 2010. The reports, largely military, provide accounts of US military operations as well as intelligence documents and minutes of meetings with political figures. The world press is in furore over the revelations of the reports, most prominently the scale of civilian deaths at the hands of the US military in Afghanistan, and Pakistani support for the Taliban. The White House had more embarrassment than explanation in response to the major documents leak, probably the largest in US military history.

Wikileaks is an open-access on-line organisation that publishes sensitive, classified documents from governments and corporations on an anonymous submission basis, thus protecting individuals who provide the information and exposing power magnates, governmental and private, to the scrutiny of the public eye. The website went public in 2007. Its founder, Julian Assange has a reputation as a hacker, computer programmer, and developer of free software.

Writing in Omdurman I imagined what I would like to see leaked from Sudan government and its adversaries, military and otherwise. The CPA contains a meek clause that calls for a comprehensive process of national reconciliation, one that has been equally ignored by NCP and SPLM lest it wake up ghosts of the past. Political opposition in North and South, so hopelessly devoid of initiative, has also failed in igniting life into this wholesome yet untapped promise. Other than the demand of the Sudanese Communist Party on occasion of its 5th conference January 2009 to initiate a national process of Interim Justice, on the example of the South African ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ and the Moroccan ‘Truth and Justice’ no political force has lent the idea any serious support. In so doing the Sudanese elite, in government and opposition, denies the peoples of the country a major healing gateway to overcome the wounds of the predatory state and imagine unity on new grounds.

The cornerstone of such a process is revelation of the facts of state violence in our history and the opening up of state security and military documents to public examination. Instead of the incessant emotional blackmailing over secession and unity investigation of the conduct of war between North and South over the past 50 years or so, including recruitment and arming of tribal forces along the North-South border, the SPLM/A split in the 90’s and the resulting ‘war of the intellectuals’, the ordeals of civilians in garrison towns under SAF control, and the fate of POWs on both sides, to name but a few issues, may clear the ground for a more serious discussion of the future in one country or in two. The only publicly available document that we have as an example is probably the report of the independent investigation committee into the Torit events of 1955. Since then silence guards the dead and destitute of Sudan’s violence. To regain ownership of our wars from international caretakers, human rights organisations, peace cartels and foreign governments, we need to look into our corpses and wounds ourselves, with our own open eyes. May be then, we can imagine another future. 

Friday 23 July 2010

Unity tears!

Khartoum newspapers reported Wednesday that dentist, university professor, NCP figure, and serial paramount chief of the labour umbrella organisation Sudan Workers Federation of Trade Unions, Ibrahim Ghandour, broke into tears while addressing a meeting of the central committee of the General Education Workers Trade Union in Khartoum, apparently over the possible secession of Southern Sudan. Ghandour was quoted in the press as saying “history will not forgive us if the Sudan splits, and will not forgive the onlookers”. On a similarly emotional note Ghandour announced the initiation of yet another pro-unity campaign on the 5th August involving the launch of a Southern Sudan Workers Union. 
The organisation Ghandour and his party have effectively disembowelled over the 21 years of NIF hegemony laid the improbable seeds of unified struggle across the North-South barrier in the 1940’s. At the time, and contrary to colonial effendia doctrine, one to which Ghandour is heir, the labour movement in Sudan struggled vehemently for the demand of ‘equal pay for equal work’ targeting the unification of workers’ wages in North and South as opposed to the British colonial practice of paying workers in the South less than their Southern counterparts. The labour movement campaigned with grassroots vigour, suspicious and foreign to Ghandour, against the dignia, a head tax imposed by the British administration on its Southern subjects. It is these instances of proletarian unity, today a vague historical ghost, which once constituted mass democratic attempts to provide the antidote against the de facto split in the Sudanese polity between North and South. 
The organisation that Ghandour currently heads was established by labouring men and women in March 1949 under the aegis of the Sudanese Movement for National Liberation, later to become the Communist Party of Sudan. And it was Ghandour’s essential mission to make sure that it parts forever with its roots in labour struggles and its vision of an alternative nation-state. It is actually a mockery of Sudan’s post-colonial history that an organisation once a spearhead of liberation and progress led by the likes of Mohamed al-Sayed Salam and al-Shafie Ahmed al-Sheikh, railway artisans and home-grown figureheads of the Railway Workers Union, is emasculated to the bone and transformed into a department for state propaganda. 
Regarding tears, Ghandour is advised to save his for personal calamities since they do not compare with the tears and blood of the uncountable many who have suffered and continue to suffer from the predatory state that he represents, however without being captured by the cameras of Khartoum’s press, and devoid of the neat handkerchief conspicuous on Ghandour’s photograph. Fancy these days the question of unity/secession is presented as an emotional dispute whereby lovers exchange artifacts of an imagined happy past. al-Sahafa newspaper, for instance, has made a habit of publishing a daily photograph to demonstrate North-South intimacy: a Northerner and a Southerner embracing and Southern women in Northern attire. Now, clear and simple, the North-South war was not about a deficit of tolerance! It’s political economy, stupid!

Wednesday 21 July 2010

What is in a coup?

Last Monday marked the 39th anniversary of the abortive communist coup against Ja’afar Numayri, 19th July 1971, a 3 day showdown that ended with the massacre of the leading figures, civilian and military, of the Communist Party of Sudan at the behest of military tribunals set up at a flash. An angry and vindictive Ja’afar Numayri backed by regional powers, Egypt’s Sadat and Libya’s Ghadafi as well as probable complicity of British intelligence, moved swiftly at the opportunity to behead the young and ambitious political movement drunk with modernity.

19th July has thus become the Karbala of the Sudanese left, a sharp and bloody turning point that thrust the party back from a daring, confident and discursive political force knocking with vigour the gates of the future to a juvenile self-satisfying aggregate of the of the like-minded absorbed by a more and more golden past. The experience of the coup and its aftermath invites among the comrades recurrent showers of romanticising reminisce every year, where the bravery and the integrity of the martyrs is praised and the evil and treachery of their enemies is reasserted lest anybody forget. Historical knowledge of the calamitous event however is limited to a ‘policing’ account, devoid of the Marxist acuity and breadth that interprets an event into its socio-economic ecology. Even the role of imperialist forces, usually overstressed in leftography, did not receive more than a fleeting mention in the Party’s official account and did not attract historical testing and verification.

That said the NIF 1989/1999 coups seem today the historical double of the disastrous leftist attempt 1969/1971, however as a copy it has bandaged the ills of the original without necessarily healing them. When the Free Officers led by Ja’afar Numayri snatched power in 1969 in coalition with a cohort of communist officers the late Abdel Khalig Mahjoub, Secretary General of the Communist Party, kept his critical distance and insisted on maintenance of the independence of his Party. The leader of the Islamic Movement, Hasan al-Turabi, embraced his coup and thrust the Islamic Movement full fledge into the state without a whimper, effectively liquidating the Islamic Movement as it had existed prior to 1989. Threatened by the state in 1971 communist officers attempted a wholesale take at the dream of ‘revolution’ under the leadership of the vanguard Party sandwiched in the ‘National Democratic Front’ yet singled out, whereby fantasy turned into nightmare. The Communist Party faced the enmity of the state at zero distance and paid the price. Turabi on the other hand, manoeuvred out of power in 1999, held his grudge grinding his teeth and seeking new shores, SPLM memorandum and JEM strings. According to al-Mahboub Abd al-Salam he refused to engage the army yet again brushing off the idea of a repeat ‘corrective’ coup with the disillusion of a man who has learnt his lesson. Nevertheless he could not save the Islamist Movement from attrition by rule, just like the communist leadership post-1971 could not manage to save the Communist Party from attrition by opposition. In both cases ideas were sacrificed at the blows of heavy yet empty boots.  

Friday 16 July 2010

Church secession

According to the BBC church leaders in Southern Sudan have urged their flock to vote for secession. An association of church leaders, including one Muslim leader from Central Equatoria, even forged a forum for the purpose ‘the Sudanese Religious Leaders Initiative for the Referendum’. The BBC quoted Bishop Yugusuk, of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, as saying “We should not let them decide for themselves...If they decide for unity it will be disastrous”.

The fact that the church is trespassing political space so loudly tells of its ambitious claims, in particular global church organisations, in the emerging country. During the wars in Southern Sudan the church has been instrumental in provision of aid and primary services to IDPs, refugees, and civilians resident in SPLM/A controlled areas. More so, the church provided an organisational form and an ideological message to rejuvenate shattered communities and maintain their endangered coherence. However, not without a prize; concurrent with humanitarian assistance proselytization progressed greatly and partly in response to the NIF’s Jihad, religious commitment and observance flourished. Confronted with the banners of a world religion - Islam - many Southern Sudanese looked up to the global congregations of Christians as their natural allies, with the occasional accusation of insufficient support. The church, in a cycle of affirmation, nourished the notion that the war was essentially one between a Moslem North and a Christian South, irreconcilable poles that can only speak in the language of crusade. The church’s dominance in education in the South, and its penetration and outreach as a mass organisation, provided it with ideological advantages way beyond that of secular political forms, SPLM included. It is thus not surprising that it flexes its accumulated muscles and lever at will for the cause of secession. As fantasies go, it is well positioned to gain even more influence, considering the funds and skills it has in its global disposition, and to translate its ideological dominance into political currency.

SPLM leaders seem at ease with such proximity, if not symbiosis. A year back GoSS President, Salva Kiir, addressed worshippers from the pulpit of Juba Cathedral cautioning them of voting for unity unless they wish to become second class citizens in their own country, a statement that was quickly refuted by the official GoSS spokesperson.

It is thus necessary to contemplate the consequences of surrendering so much political space to ‘faith’, not necessarily from the perspective of unity with the North, but in regards to the nature of the emerging state in the South, and the imperatives of a new polity so laden with hopes and expectations, and so hard-pressed to deliver. Slipping into a NGO-run state or a NGO/church run state are both false ends to such a long and bloody quest for franchise and sovereignty. 

Thursday 15 July 2010

Query liberation

I spent the good part of last week in the capital of the South, Juba. This time around, I had more time for lengthy evening discussions with friends and colleagues, Sudanese and otherwise. As is nearly always the case, the North-South get together, even at a personal level, invites the greater ghosts of historical collision. Gearing up for the expected secession most of whom I met were tensely jubilant, and greatly expectant. The excitation of a new world beyond the referendum finish-line is overwhelming, and penetrative. Risks are named, but sidelined, opportunities are fantasised but not really identified and scrutinised. It is hard to impress on people the notion that secession does not necessarily equate with redemption; and actually presents a start of a not less challenging process as was the trek to ‘liberation’.

If lessons can be learnt there is an immediate lesson to acquire from the early independence history of ‘old Sudan’. In response to popular demands of economic rights, equitable development, and due recognition and consideration of national groupings Sudan’s ruling elite raised the silencing slogan of ‘liberation not construction’ in the face of its contenders implying the priority of the form independence over the content of the nation-state project. This stance dominated ideological space, apart from short ‘revolutionary’ ruptures when the edifices of the colonial state were questioned and subjected to Marxist inventory, foremost during the tumultuous 1960’s.

On reading Southern press coverage of the Youth League campaign for secession I could not help noticing the implicit imperative forwarded by the Youth League to swallow grievances and freeze demands for the sake of the coming independence, i.e. ‘liberation not construction’, as if these were isolated processes, and they are not. Whilst seeking independence the Youth League is advised to translate nationalist pride into the more mundane but concrete necessities of the masses, not so ‘high’ may be on nationalist inspiration. Man does not live on bread alone, but cannot live without it nevertheless. With the tide of secession dominating, the concerns of groups wary of Dinka hegemony and patronage in the civil service and the political administration must be adequately addressed, not necessarily in terms of ethnic representation but foremost on the basis of the primary Southern Sudanese demand: citizenship. Informed by the experience of religious discrimination South Sudan needs to escape the trap of state-church overlap. The pulpit, in rapture at being a recognised political floor, needs the appropriate downscaling deemed necessary in a secular state. This may not be an all too easy process, considering the influential role church aid and foreign faith-based organisations play in the South, in particular as providers of health and educational services.

The SPLM, once with socialist leanings, is today not particularly conscious of its political self, apart from the quest for independence, and the thirst for Foreign Direct Investment. Come independence, more qualified answers to the queries of nation-building will be required of the ‘liberators’.  

Sunday 11 July 2010

Egyptian ‘Nile’ dollars

Egypt announced Sunday that it will hand the Government of Southern Sudan 300 million USD tagged for water and electricity infrastructure projects, quite a handsome sum I suppose for a country greatly dependent on US aid.

As a regional super-power and Sudan’s big brother Egypt has lost considerable prestige and influence over the years. Compared to the heyday of Egyptian involvement in Africa, in particular the brotherly support provided by Nasser’s state to liberation movements across the continent and the organic veto over Sudanese affairs um al-dnya (mother of the world) has compromised a lot of its past posture. Once an ambitious empire, although technically under mandate, and able to stretch a long military arm upstream to the sources of the Nile Egypt now is scuffling to overcome an East African power bloc intent on doing away with the colonial agreements that determine Egypt’s share of the Nile waters. The Egyptian nervousness regarding emerging East African economic powerhouses anxious to increase their cut of the Nile’s agricultural and hydroelectric potential is not hard to explain considering its ultimate dependency on the river. However its failure to grasp the blow of geo-political winds around it is not.

Regarding Sudan, it has lost out to a host of politically more acute competitors, regionally to the IGAD councillors in the case of the North-South re-configuration, and to Libya and Qatar in the case of Darfur. Apart from the regular exchange between presidential palaces in Cairo and Khartoum the country awash with Sudanese refugees, dissidents, businessmen, shoppers, and tourists has largely failed in re-inventing its organic connection with its Southern ‘hinterland’. Instead of an Egyptian arbitrator it is now almost always an American viceroy who decides on the what and how of Sudanese dilemmas.

Faced with the expected secession of Southern Sudan, a development that runs contrary to mainstream notions of Khartoum/Cairo geo-strategic security, Egypt can only dig deeper into its pockets and cash up to win favour with the proto-state already integrated into the East African market and largely committed to fraternal solidarity with its stronger neighbours. In frank terms Egypt’s obsessive bargain on SAF to secure its interests upstream has proved to be a knock-down misjudgement. It long supported Numayri even in his delusions; and post-Turabi it cushioned up to Bashir and Co sure of their strong military hand. Well, both did not deliver, Numayri landed in Cairo a president without a country, and Bashir may well deliver a nightmare to Egypt, i.e. a new state on the Nile, supplanting its fantasy of military rule.

Thursday 8 July 2010

What? al-Intibaha? No!

Sudanese commentators are bewildered at the decision of the NISS to ban al-Intibaha from publication till further notice, bearing in mind the implicit official approval it enjoyed over the past years of the interim period. al-Intibaha’s generally racist argument for secession of the South, coming from a Northern platform, captured the fatigued imagination of riverain chauvinism, and echoed the siege mentality of a now decadent NCP elite. Most supporters of al-Tayeb Mustafa’s opinions, owner of the paper and lead columnist, occupy the NCP Newfoundland of state patronage. To them a go-back to Sudanese party politics, Umma and DUP, would mean an end to their careers and state-sponsored prestige, foreigners as they are to the machinations of the, once upon a time, ruling families and networks. Similarly a forward to a governance system that includes junubiyeen (Southerners) and gharaba (Westerners) would threaten their hold on power and dilute their influence in a sea of the ‘marginalised’. As such they can only claim a defensive ideology aggressively opposed to re-structuring of the state.

The ban of the paper nevertheless posits Khartoum’s liberal opposition with a dilemma: In form they feel committed to the notion of free speech, freedom for all. Already the Sudanese Journalists Network, a loose association of like minded anti-NCP journalists has voiced a demand to lift censorship and reverse the ban on papers, foremost al-Intibaha, the closure of which a statement by the network described as a “pronounced violation of all rights and laws”. In content the same journalists have persistently demanded the control of al-Intibaha’s racist outpourings. Some of them actually got involved in lengthy tit for tat verbal confrontations with al-Tayeb Mustafa. Now they are caught up in the paradoxical trap of defending al-Intibaha’s freedom on the basis of liberal equality, al-Intibaha ambiguously in the position of victim from within.

Such a situation is only penetrable through a qualifying stance, freedom for whom? And to do what? The question of banning or releasing al-Intibaha is a wrong one, since it invites wrong options. al-Intibaha is on no account a victim of state oppression. It is the voice of the oppressor rebranding for redemption. A similar escape from ideological defeat has been granted Turabi and Co on the grounds of partnership in the opposition à la ‘an enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Instead of defending al-Intibaha’s false freedom, the demand should be the judicial prosecution of the paper and its party, the Just Peace Forum, on constitutional grounds in a process that pulls in the NCP power bloc that funded and supported al-Intibaha till it exhausted its purposes. Instead of offering al-Intibaha the recognition of a victim and the attire of a freedom fighter, the duty is to discredit the paper’s ideology, dismantle the organisation around it, and to expose the hypocrisy of its ban. 

Wednesday 7 July 2010

al-Intibaha’s freedom

Security forces in Sudan banned yesterday a number of Khartoum dailies, the star among them al-Intibaha, specifically banned indefinitely. According to the Sudan Media Centre (SMC), an organ proximate to the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), al-Intibaha has strayed far away from the commitments of the Interim Constitution (2005) and the journalists Code of Honour. Moreover unconfirmed reports claim that the Executive Board of the paper has decided to dissolve the publishing company altogether. In an immediate response, al-Tayeb Mustafa, Chairman of the Executive Board and owner of the paper, also the President’s uncle, and the most prominent columnist of al-Intibaha told Quds Press that the ban of his paper is an outcome of an undisclosed deal between the SPLM and the NCP.  

al-Intibaha started publication early 2006, as an organ of the Just Peace Form, an offshoot of the NCP whose prime line of advocacy is separation of the South on the grounds that North and South are irreconcilable others, racially, religiously and culturally; and that the South has persistently been a burden on the Arab Moslem North economically, and an exhaustion militarily. al-Tayeb Mustafa gained prominence as the principal racespeak general of Sudanese riverain chauvinism. His daily column dedicated to the disrepute of all things SPLM, and all notions secular, was widely read since it captured to a degree the sentiments of scare from a revenge takeover by the ‘marginalised’, an idea he persistently transmitted in terms of racial and cultural corruption.

As part of the overall racespeak policy of the paper al-Intibaha maintained a focus on Southern affairs, reporting extensively on disputes inside the SPLM and anti-SPLM forces. The paper more or less celebrated tribal collisions in the South, and rejoiced at the Athor and Co rebellion. In the run up to the elections al-Intibaha fiercely campaigned against the Northern Sector of the SPLM and its presidential candidate Yasir Arman. It instigated and nourished visceral riverain Sudanese fears of a ‘black belt’ that threatens to throttle an island of Arab-Moslem civilisation.

Similar to Turabi’s detention al-Intibaha’s ban puts Khartoum’s liberals and professional democrats before a test of ‘moral’ principle. Should they support the ban of a paper that they have continually criticised as being racist and chauvinist and thus commend the actions of the NISS; or should they defend al-Intibaha’s formal right to exist in line with their commitment to the freedom of speech. Probably many will choose a legal twist and claim that the problem is the arbitrary nature of the NISS intervention and that the ban lacks the correct judicial procedure. I wonder if we are to witness a pro-freedoms solidarity carnival where opposition figures and journalists deplore freedom restricting laws, however this time in the premises of al-Intibaha

Sunday 4 July 2010

Nyala.. Jaffa..Tel Aviv!

The Jerusalem Post published an article 02.07.10 describing the happy unfolding of the life-stories of 3 Darfur refugees in Tel Aviv. Three industrious young men pooled their savings and opened a humous restaurant that enjoys astonishing success. To the standard Israeli humous dish they contributed a Sudanese twist, a shot of ‘ful’, chopped tomatoes, and a wholesome boiled egg. The Jerusalem Post made a point of demonstrating the gratitude of the three towards Israel with quotes like: “I’m proud of Israel because it treated me like their child, like their son. They protected me, they helped me, treated me very nice, so I can never forget this”.  I wonder how many Darfur IDPs can say the same about their own ‘elected’ government, DPA signatories included.

In the deafening rush towards the referendum on the future of Southern Sudan Darfur’s sorrows have sunk down on the list of Sudan bothers. Of course, Doha is on and running; and an imminent deadline for conclusion of the process and tabling of an agreement has been announced by the Qatari mediation. However, what agreement and with whom? The proposed deal brings in a new partner on the Darfur agreements market, but does not promise more. The Liberation and Justice Movement, lacking in imagination to the degree that it had to borrow its name from the two veteran Darfuri movements, Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, and in itself largely a conglomeration of break-off factions from the two, 10 factions to be precise, is under great pressure from mediators and sponsors to flatter the global diplomacy on Darfur with an apparent success story. On the ground, the confrontation between rebels and government forces has largely degenerated into an anarchic situation where only particular inter-communal initiatives can deliver stability. The incapacity of the state to act as a neutral arbitrator and enforcer of the law is ever more striking not only in confrontations between Fur and Arabs but significantly in the spirals of violence between the major Arab pastoral groups of South and West Darfur. Rather, regular armed elements, Border Guards for instance, belonging to competing groups have been themselves involved in combat as well as arming and training of their kin. The recent peace process between Rizeigat and Misseriya involved top state officials, as high up as Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, as well as UNAMID representatives.

In their Tel Aviv restaurant the 3 Darfuri refugees employ an Israeli Arab woman from Jaffa who expressed her delight at what she described as a ‘United Colour of Benetton’ experience. Multi-cultural rhapsody notwithstanding the Jerusalem Post made it clear at the end of the humous article that the three Darfuris are not here to stay: “I dream that someday the fighting will be over and I will be able to go back there, because it is my country, my family, my culture. And someday, may be Israelis can come to Darfur too”, said Hassan from Bulbul in the vicinity of Niera [sic]. 

Saturday 3 July 2010

Money for unity

Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha is in Juba bargaining the case for unity with quickly designed development projects, much akin to Quick Impact Project (QIPs), so popular among touch-down NGOs, hit and run style. Well, this is as far as official statements go. It is well probable that much more solid political bargains are on the table, including a smudge ‘confederation’ option as an escape route from the yes/no answer of the impending referendum on the future of Southern Sudan. In parallel, government media is actively propagating the cause of unity with supposedly more culturally representative content, tribal dances from the South and a polished version of Juba Arabic for the sake of it, with nationalist sloganeering from Omdurman’s musical heritage as the background. As is usual with NCP face-lift attempts it is about dodging facts on the ground rather than confronting them. The approach that NCP propaganda specialists have so suddenly devised in line with the presidential ‘make unity attractive’ campaign seems to be the devilish double of the jihadist onslaught of the 90s, a populist make believe.

Unity propaganda is not addressing a Southern constituency in any sincere sense; rather it reflects an NCP pre-emption of the consequences of secession on its image in the North. The NCP wants to convince its Northern constituency that it has done all things necessary for unity, and it is actually the Southerners who refuse to receive the extended NCP hand.  The propaganda line invests in the historical North-South enstrangement and consolidates it as proof as principle. The message line is simple: ‘we did everything for them, but in vain’.

The impending secession of Southern Sudan is symptomatic of the failure of nation-building as imagined by Khartoum’s ruling elites. The NCP, by conceding at least in argument to the necessity of re-negotiating the Sudanese nation-state, is well positioned to re-invent the Sudan, however at the price of its own rule. That price proved to be too high, and the essential bargain of the CPA was thus shelved. Instead of a national project the NCP is offering trade-offs for unity targeting the dominant Southern elite, in other words bribes. In so doing it is just repeating a history of North-South bribes and blackmails, no news at all on the historical record.

Well, in concrete terms the NCP is offering 114 million Sudanese pounds from the newly created Unity Support Fund. The bridal money is accompanied by a delegation of 18 ministers and five governors from Khartoum including Osama Abdalla, the current minister for electricity and dams, and the man behind the loss of lives and the displacement of populations in Kajbar and Hamadab. 
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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.