Tuesday, 28 September 2010

An unworthy client

According to last Sunday’s edition of al-Quds al-Arabi the Lebanese Hezbollah has promised to commit a battalion of its fighters to the ‘struggle against colonialism in Darfur’. Two lecturers in German universities apparently carried a message of that content to the Governor of North Darfur, Mohamed Yusif Kibir. Al-Quds quoted the Khartoum paper al-Ahram adding that Kibir expressed his gratitude for Hasan Nasralla’s message and confirmed his desire to support the Palestinian and Lebanese causes. Notably Kibir complained to his ‘Western’ guests of the regression in NGO assistance to the IDPs in Darfur, promising a government takeover of the ignored duties, and demanding that the NGOs double their efforts to restore the situation to its previous stand!
The German faculty presented a lecture at the University of al-Fasher organised by its Peace Studies Centre in cooperation with the Sudanese Media Centre, a media outlet associated with Sudan’s intelligence service, where they explained the role of the Zionist lobby in agitating the Darfur conflict and the Israeli plot to divide Sudan, and thus, I presume, the background to the claimed Hezbollah readiness to fight the enemy perking on Sudanese soil.
Kibir, my goodness, wants to eat on all tables, Hasan Nasralla’s anti-Israeli jihad and the plotting intriguing Zionist associated NGOs, just whoever happens to pay here and now. That however is no surprise or should not be, it is symptomatic of the Sudanese elite’s utter extraversion. Even when extending support in matters of principle, the complex anti-colonial struggle in Palestine and Southern Lebanon, the bargain is on ‘reward’. Probably Kibir would have something equally thrilling to say had he been visited by India’a Maoist insurgents or the Basque ETA or the Columbian FARC for all he cares. The point is what does he get out of it, a contract, a share, a cut? Now, Kibir may well wish the Darfur fiasco away under the title of an Israeli plot, but that does not save him or his government from facing up to the responsibility of the Darfur they shattered with ethnic labels and cheap government.
Israeli involvement in Sudanese affairs is no secret. Anya Nya officers prior to the Addis Ababa agreement of 1972 received military training in Israel, including the late John Garang, and ties between Joseph Lago and Israeli intelligence and military were beyond cordial. Numayri was a friend of the Israelis and readily facilitated the transport of Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan. In that sense Israeli undertakings are not in the realm of the mythical or the transcendent conspiratorial, but can be concretely established, practically always involving Sudanese counterparts, even the most unexpected like sectarian figureheads, and Islamist collaborators. The question thus is not the Israeli or the Iranian ties but the drive to extraversion and clientelism that bewitches the country's ‘national’ politics. That’s colonialism for you Mr Kibir, start with yourself.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Insane identity

Last week Salva Kiir, the President of GoSS, stated that Northern Sudanese in his territory are welcome to reside and do business, a friendly token short of ‘citizenship’, but in any case a more positive note than Saturday’ utterances by NCP’s Kamal Obeid, the Minister of Information. I quote al-Ray al-Aam: “Come secession, a Southerner will not be a citizen in the North; Southerners will not enjoy the rights of citizenship, employment and other advantages, or the right to buy and sell in Khartoum’s markets”. He then added “we will not give him (a Southerner) even an injection in hospital”. Obeid was speaking on radio to a largely Northern audience.
I am not sure if Obeid was simply taken away by resentment towards Southerners, a common dispensation of the NCP leadership and ranks, or if his grave declaration was a calculated message to the wider NCP constituency and the general public. Whatever the case may be the position he advocates is both dangerously chauvinist, and untenable. By all means the categories ‘Southerner’ and ‘Northerner’ are as ill defined as the notorious borders between North and South, and so is any supposedly ethnic category for that matter. Other than the 1.5 million Southerners who have taken refuge in Northern Sudan during the war generations of Southern Sudanese have lived and worked in the national capital and in major towns as part of the general flow from rural areas to urban centres. Those who fall between the seams of North and South are not just many there are uncountable. I wonder, what in Obeid’s mind is the fate of Southern Muslims in the North, or the Southerners allied to the NCP? By resorting to what amounts to a purge of Southerners from the North via an outright state-endorsed disenfranchise Obeid is inviting to his own doom a confrontation that Sudan has largely avoided over the years of its civil war fought between a guerrilla force and the state army, with the exception of the proxy militarisation of the frontline civilian populations generating pro-government ‘Arab’, ‘Dinka’ and ‘Nuer’ militias. Contrary to Taha’s proclamations of tamazuj (intermixing) and takamul (integration) Obeid is selling to his audience the prospect of a final solution for the ‘Southern Question’ in Fascist fashion.
In the same news report al-Rai al-Aam quoted the SPLM’s Luka Biong Deng, Minister of the Council of Ministers, stating that the Misseriya do not have the right to vote in the referendum on self-determination of the disputed Abyei area. The Misseriya according to Deng are only entitled to graze in Abyei. Nicely enough Deng welcomed the presence of all Sudanese in the South and called for an agreement on extension of the four freedoms between North and South. What Deng shares with Obeid is the subjection of citizenship to the examination of identity coupled with the prejudice of autochtony. The history of Abyei, a Dinka/Misseriya entwine, is not amenable to reversion by decree. A referendum decision to join Abyei to the South will by no means cause the troublesome Misseriya to disappear in a puff of democracy. The claim that the Misseriya are ‘exogenous’ to Abyei, and thus do not have the right to decide on its future, mirrors the proposition that Southerners are ‘exogenous’ to Khartoum and cannot enjoy its citizenship, both are false options. In the conclusion of an African Affairs paper titled ‘Social Capital and Civil War: the Dinka Communities in Sudan’s Civil War’ Luka Biong Deng pointed to inter-communal solidarity and societal networks such as the relationship between Arab nomads, Nuer, Dinka, and other communities, as aspects of social capital that merit further research in the context of civil war. Pick that up Dr Deng.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Save the referendum

The referendum on self-determination of Southern Sudan carries in concept the promise of offering the Sudanese polity a ‘restart’, an opportunity to redeem the Sudanese state from its colonial ‘pathology’ and conceive of politics anew along the paradigm of citizen rather than subject. To achieve this goal the referendum has to be imagined as a national political engagement of the first order.  That said the push and pull of SPLM and NCP, accusations and counter-accusations, carry the risk of turning a national affair into a feud of petty politicians. The risk is even greater bearing the fact of the swift readiness of both parties to market the referendum as a pass to American favour.

The current referendum debate focuses largely on division of assets, or spoils if you like, give us this oil well and we will give you this stretch of land, a grotesque demonstration of what Bayart termed ‘the politics of the belly’. Repetitively, local SPLM officials have been quoted in the press asking their subjects, the voters in the referendum, to make the right choices, and follow the right procedures. The higher ranking banjs were less blatant and demanded those who will not show up to vote not to register lest they spoil the count. International guardians and well-wishers, of course, opt for the more subtle awareness-raising and voter education, the blanket NGO business.

To its local constituency the NCP, incapable of politics proper except survival, is spinning the referendum into another element of what it pictures as an ever-determinant and obsessive conspiracy against its rule despite the noble motives and peace loving drive of all motions NCP. Internationally however the tone is on the referendum as a proof of merit. I guess Ali Osman said it all in New York in defence of Bashir. The rules of the game are thus laid. On all sides now it’s ‘freedom for the referendum’, namely cut us loose i.e. Bashir and Co, we let the referendum roll, and cut the SPLM loose.

What we are missing here is the potential of the referendum as an opportunity to educate our collective mind on why we need one in the first place, to address the history of the North-South entanglement as it were and charge our colonial entrapment head on. In principle the upcoming referendum constitutes in historical terms the first incidence of scrutiny by the vote of the structure of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the precedent of independence was of course bypassed by a declaration of parliament. The referendum is the people’s earning, so bring it home. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fussing about secession

Salva Kiir’s latest remarks on the inevitability of South Sudan’s secession aroused considerable fuss in Khartoum’s press. Editorials and reports poured out a combination of wrath and childish disappointment at the big man’s quite expected propositions in front of an American audience. It need not be forgotten that Kiir had already made several references to the desired and expected outcome of the referendum. Now, with a few months to go before the deadline it is just a matter of consequence that the incumbent President of the semi-autonomous South Sudan and hitherto undisputed coming President of the new country gets more vocal about the state of affairs at hand. Notably, the NCP itself has largely given up its face-saving pro-unity campaign, a pro-forma initiative anyway.

According to El Affendi the Sudanese Islamists had as far back as the mid 1970s favoured the secession of South Sudan if that proved a necessary price for the establishment of a homogenous Islamic state in the rest of the country. At the time the Islamists were driven by their frustration at the Southern support of their enemy in power, Numayri. The political reasoning they entertained was a broad Muslim coalition that includes the major political parties, Umma and DUP, and excludes the Southern Sudanese allied to Numayri via the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement (1972). The Southern challenge to ‘Muslim’ take-over manifested itself in the failed coup attempt of 1976, whereby Southern Sudanese military officers of former Anya Nya extraction proved instrumental in maintaining Numayri on the saddle. Arop Madut-Arop in ‘Sudan’s Painful Road to Peace’ names Chol Aywaak Gwiny and Nikonora Magar Aciek as examples of Southern Sudanese officers who served Numayri well in his hours of dire need. 

In response to the SPLM’s largely rhetorical what unity query, as repeatedly stated by Atem Garang, the vice speaker of the national legislature, the NCP is currently responding with what secession? Bashir and Co have largely backtracked from the earlier insistence on the priority of border demarcation and are currently absorbed with arguing an oil-rescue exit from the Abyei dispensation, probably with some degree of American understanding if not sympathy. The affair, bemusing enough, has transformed into an intra-American debate; Roger Winter and Richard Williamson charging against Scott Gration and Hillary Clinton for ‘softening’ on Abyei. In the words of the Khalifa Abdullahi, sovereign of Mahdist Sudan, responding to news of British-Italian negotiations in the summer of 1890 on the future of his Eastern provinces following the Italian conquest of Eritrea: “It is painful that people cannot stop dividing up countries that are not their own” (P. M. Holt’s book on the Mahdist State in Sudan). I guess it is even more painful when an ever adolescent political leadership is degenerate enough to surrender the fate of its own peoples to the romantics of self-styled trans-continental saviours. The cynicism of the situation is this: failing to make one country Sudan’s fatigued politicians, borrowing Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim’s diagnosis, are quite likely to fail in making two. The preacher opposition I am afraid has till now no better idea than Sadiq al-Mahdi’s ‘call the UN’. For heaven’s sake, they’re already on it!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Abyei takamul

The NCP lately raised the suggestion of declaring Abyei an integration (takamul) zone whose inhabitants enjoy dual citizenship, i.e. of both North and South, and where an algorithm of rotational posts between ethnic Dinka and Misseriya constitutes the format for government.  In other words, the NCP is here suggesting overwriting the Abyei protocol in favour of an ethnic division of power rather than the feared Abyei referendum.
The notion of takamul complements the earlier two notions of tamas (frontline) and tamzuj (intermixture) with which the NCP has tried to grabble with the problem of it’s southern frontier. The triad is interesting in the sense that it somehow reflects the quest for an Aristotelian balance between two extremes, confrontation and harmony, settling in finally for integration. Now, despite the wise allure of the suggestion it is nonetheless a repetition of the same false opposites. Conceptually, the NCP remains trapped in the cliché notions of the ‘Southern Problem’ that have not only precluded its resolution in the favour of nation-building but also arrested the imagination of nation-building in the fractionating quagmire of race and religion, whereby an extremely chauvinist definition of what is ‘North’ is excluding even al-Fasher, Kassala, and Wadi Halfa from the national repository.  The NCP’s governing fantasy of a Southern ‘cultural’ threat, generally an amalgamation of the Graduates Congress effendiya ideology, sways between fear of absorption into non-Arab Africa and a romantic obsession with the ‘lost’ South snatched away by the aliens, and long due back, as so well phrased by Abdel Wahab El Affendi in his article ‘Discovering the South’. It is this imagery that supports NCP El Tayeb Mustafa’s anti-South venom and NCP Ghandour’s unity tears. As chronicled by El Affendi is his article, the early Islamic Movement had only ‘domestic’ solutions to offer for this conundrum. Ali Talb-Allah, the first leader of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood married a Southern Sudanese woman as a token of commitment to the cause of unity. A contemporary repeat of the same, as rumour had it, is Bashir’s suggestion to Ali Osman Taha to marry John Garang’s widow, since he was already occupied with two.
Anecdotes aside, the NCP’s takamul built on the essentialist opposition of North and South offers but statist algebra as a medium to address burgeoning historical baggage. Instead of shifting borders, what the NCP seems to have in mind is shifting populations. According to news reports contingents of Misseriya have been mobilised by Khartoum to seek permanent residence within Abyei Permanent Court of Arbitration boundaries. The takamul move I suggest targets not ‘integration’ in any reasonable sense, as long as ethnicity overdetermines citizenship, but signals an attempt by the NCP to reign in the Misseriya leadership, freaking out already over the Abyei referendum.  A Misseriya-SPLM rapprochement, improbable as it seems now, could eventually tilt the balance along the tamas line.          

Friday, 17 September 2010

Double surrender

I recently read a brief piece written by Taj El Sir Osman, the political education commissar of the Communist Party (Sudan), and a member of its Central Committee titled “On the Concept of Political Islam”. In his cursory note Osman argued that history has long transcended ‘theocracy’ as a state form, a form that movements of political Islam promise and aspire to. He then threw in examples of theocracies, namely Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan, that have aborted human rights and civil liberties, and to add leftist pepper, cashed in economic resources in favour of the few parasitic capitalists. In his take on Sudanese political Islam, Osman made the point that Sudan’s Islamist state constitutes an obstacle to the nation’s unity, standing to the test in the coming plebiscite on the future of Southern Sudan. He added grievances of imperialist penetration, namely loss of national sovereignty and susceptibility to foreign intervention. To conclude Osman argued for a secular state that guarantees democratic rights and freedoms, as opposed to vile theocracy, on the grounds that only a secular state provides the structure for peaceful transition of power amongst competing political parties and classes.
I guess its fatigue, comrade. You must be terribly tired. Instead of analysis, the concrete analysis of the concrete situation, Osman has given in to the easy trek of liberal preaching; political Islam as a ‘genetic’ illness rather than a political discourse embedded in a socio-economic reality over which the ghost of colonialism ever hovers. In this sense it is the liberal reflex that deserves the term reactionary rather than the visceral pro-Islam twitching of the masses. Earlier insights of Sudanese communists into the attraction of political Islam certainly outweigh the current surrender. In an article from 1965 Abdel Khalig Mahjoub, the late Secretary of the Communist Party, acknowledged the egalitarian ideal of early Islam however rightfully argued from the history of Islamic statehood that this ideal was defeated to a no come-back. Using the concepts of political economy he explained how a rift of inequality came to separate merchant kings from their subjects, to inevitably override the crude communitarian form of the Medina. Leaping into current dilemmas, Mahjoub stressed that an investigation of the slogan of an ‘Islamic constitution’ and its genesis necessitates an analysis of the emergent constellation following the October 1964 Revolution in Sudan, a tumultuous period that seriously endangered the powers of the sectarian alliance. In an allegorical climax and with great sensitivity towards the egalitarian concept inherent in the mass appeal of an Islamic revival Mahjoub declared that Socialism is the Islam of the twentieth century. In so doing Mahjoub’s concern was not so much a cultural attestation of the archaic nature of political Islam but a positive approbation of egalitarian ideals in favour of his progressive project.    
In choosing an essentialist argument against political Islam Osman defeats himself twice. He sides with the imperial fantasia of political Islam as indigenous madness thus surrendering to his imperialist enemy. On the wrong side of the colonial schism he no less surrenders to political Islam itself left out as an ‘authentic’ claimant of mass protest against the imperialist entrapment.    

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Mr al-Mahdi: is that your best shot?

On the event of the Moslem Eid al Fitr Sadiq al-Mahdi, Chairman of the Umma Party and pre-NIF coup Prime Minister, presented worshippers in Omdurman and the wider audience with a set of suggestions to peacefully overcome the referendum, what he referred to as the most significant challenge facing the country. Sadiq al-Mahdi, a master of formalism made points that appear all so soundly valid, but are very much telling of his major political handicaps.

On the forefront he suggested that the two partners to the CPA, NCP and SPLM, refer the administration of the referendum to the UN, and even more placid, refer the resolution of contentious issues to a committee of wise elders agreed upon by all political forces in the country. This suggested committee should complete its mission by the end of 2012 without prejudice to the referendum time-line. According to al-Mahdi, a repetition of the elections scenario in the referendum would lead to further polarisation, and a probably more destructive war. Effectively what al-Mahdi is asking the partners to the CPA to do is to surrender authority over the CPA and its climax, the referendum, to non-signatories, the UN and the ‘opposition’, a step that would imply a transition of power tantamount to regime change in Khartoum, whereby the opposition and the UN preside over the referendum, and its signatories remain in watchful waiting of its outcome.

Of course, such an easy takeover of political affairs in Sudan is beyond al-Mahdi’s current political credit. CPA partners may ask the UN for observation and technical assistance but the political stakes of the referendum are their guarded arena. An SPLM that surrenders the referendum to whatever power would be committing political suicide, and an NCP that hands over its authority over the referendum would be playing its most precious card gratis. Even al-Mahdi’s claim that an elections like referendum scenario would be destabilising is grandly fictitious. The NCP-SPLM deal that settled the elections in favour of the status-quo maintained stability of a different kind, the stability of fixed authority. The notion of design-free elections would have meant a fragmentation of power in Juba and Khartoum, democracy yes, but not necessarily stability.

Sadiq al-Mahdi’s formal and politically cleansed arguments are a token of his incapacity to fully appreciate the weight and calibre of his adversaries, a deadly sin if you are out to win power, or to keep it. During his reign as Prime Minister Mr al-Mahdi’s delayed recognition of the SPLM/A’s military and political stamina cost him his office, and the country its hard-won democracy. Arop Madut-Arop’s book “Sudan’s Painful Road to Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA” provides an illuminating account of Sadiq al-Mahdi’s pendulum like indecisiveness and susceptibility to NIF blackmail over the strategic issues that constituted the agenda of war and peace at the time. If asked the same questions today regarding the 1983 September laws and the format for an all Sudan constitutional arrangement he would still prevaricate.  Mr Imam, give us a break!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Another type of coup

In an Op-Ed for al-Akhbar daily Mohamed Ali Jadein, a leading figure in the reformed Sudanese Ba’ath Party, provided his readers with anniversary remarks on the 23 April 1990 anti-NIF coup attempt, remembered these days for its coincidence with 28 Ramadan on the Moslem (lunar) calendar. The abortive coup is particularly remembered for the unforgiving violence that faced its organisers. The NIF regime summarily executed 28 army officers accused of involvement without hesitation, and followed-up with a mass purge in the officer corps.

Guarded by hindsight Jadein distinguished 28 Ramadan from previous military counter-coups as being devoid of the will to rule; apparently the officers had in mind to transfer power immediately to a civilian government without even an intermediary ‘revolutionary command council’. He went on to draw an unqualified parallel with the 1924 revolt spearheaded by the officer cadets against the British colonial administration. Jadein, in the political leadership of the Sudanese Ba’ath, neither confirmed nor denied the loud claim that the coup was Ba’athist in spirit and organisation. In lustre democratic jargon Jadein made the claim that the officers involved classified into an array of political affiliations, a point that supposedly supports the notion of a coup in line with popular democratic aspirations.

It must be said though that the promise of an immediate return to democracy is a classical argument of all putschists; the coup being a hygienic procedure, an enema if you like, to allow democracy a healthy re-start. Today where ‘democratic transformation’ seems to be the magic wand even a flinching questioning of the reality of parliamentary democracy in Sudan seems to be self-defeating if not outright political suicide. Amongst all political forces initially intent on doing away with Sudan’s ancien régime – Ansar & Khatmiyya ruling families and associated effendiya bureaucracy – only the NIF has pulled through to assume the political leadership of the Sudanese bourgeoisie, and refashion Sudan’s socio-economic landscape. The response of the Sudanese left has been a regress from its once staunch ‘transformative’ agenda, seeing its historical mission of a ‘national democratic revolution’ essentially directed against the ruling elite of sectarian ‘pseudo-feudalists’ and their allies, caricatured in the hands of an ‘Islamic’ vanguard. Even the promise of a ‘democratic’ resolution of the South Sudan question, namely via exercise of the right to self determination, dragged and dropped on the wrong side of Sudan’s political barricades. The recoil of the left led it ultimately to tandem with enemies of old under the banner of ‘democracy’, an act of political convenience par excellence, however with very little strategy to inform it.

On the anniversary of 28 Ramadan the question is not what type of coup was it, transitively democratic or transitively authoritarian, but what democracy, and for whom? To re-engage, the Sudanese left must re-discover radical politics beyond the screen saver ‘democratic transformation’. 

Monday, 6 September 2010

African realpolitik

The East African published an article discussing the background to Kenya’s hospitality towards Bashir despite ICC arrest warrant and the surely well expected fuss resulting from Bashir’s attendance of the inauguration of Kenya’s landmark constitution. The central point made in the article is the imperative of East African interests in the matter. Kenya, which stands to gain ever more economically from sustenance of peace, considering the volume of trade and services it already exports to its neighbour Southern Sudan, and which stand to lose from a resumption of war, not least the flux of refugees into its territory, made a choice congruent with its interests irrespective of Western disdain.

On the other hand, Western countries, by far the US, have maintained an amazing record of doublespeak in regards to the regime in Khartoum. The latest news reports of intimate intelligence cooperation between the spy agencies in the countries, CIA and NISS, complement earlier leaks. This pattern is not particularly novel, it seems an ashamed copy of the US Cold War havoc in Africa, reminiscent for instance of the White House-Mobutu love affair. This time around though, the US self-suffocated with its ‘democratise the World’ campaign, cannot entertain Bashir in the White House, but can somehow fly his spy chief over for business dinners.

Gration, the envoy, and welcome arbitrator in SPLM-NCP feuds, has shifted the weight of US policy towards Sudan from punish to appease, in the face of distraught criticism from the remnants of the Save Darfur Campaign and a considerable bloc in the administration itself. The same anti-Grationites however went hush with regards to spy-spy games; those of course are transcendentally beyond reprimand since they serve the much higher cause of the ‘war on terror’.

Kenya, driven by realpolitik, needs Bashir at the regional table. The same realpolitik however demands from Sudan’s neighbours a consistent policy that goes beyond the referendum and the ICC. The African Union Panel led by Thabo Mbeki already suggested lines of African engagement including ones pertaining to the question of justice. The current focus on the South has robbed Darfur of the media buzz and, consequently of heated diplomatic interest. Nevertheless, Darfur remains paradigmatic for African entrapments, settlers versus migrants, peasants versus pastoralists, Africans versus Arabs; in the words of Adam Azzain, a Sudanese scholar of Darfur, an open wound that attracts all sorts of bacteria. Africa, 50 years into its independence, needs to generate the political will that translates into actual African solutions for African problems. The fate of Darfur in the international conundrum of interests is certainly a test ground for this will. 

Saturday, 4 September 2010

War War War

In the gaze of its benevolent sympathisers Southern Sudan is ever trapped in war, be it external against a belligerent Khartoum adamant on derailing the promised referendum, or internal as a result of perplexing tribal conflicts and clan feuds resistant to comprehension let alone resolution. In a campaigner’s take against the Obama administration’s Sudan Policy John Prendergast lately warned in the Wall Street Journal of an impending war between North and South, a war he suggested would be the worst round of Sudanese bloodletting yet. Such doomsday scenarios, without prejudice to plausibility, are exemplary of the fund-generating operationalism of transnational NGO politicking. In the language of campaign, politics is replaced by picturesque sensationalism and scare. The problem with statements like those John Prendergast is so fond of making is that they are so simplistic it seems perverted to contradict them. However they are to be resisted and exposed to what they really are: marketing tools for the transnational business of the humanitarientsia. What Prendergast is concerned with here is not Southern Sudan but the trademark Southern Sudan. 
When press coverage of Southern Sudan gets a bit sophisticated the result is the disillusioned ethno-mapping of tribes and clans. In a piece for the Christian Science Monitor, Maggie Fick reported of a meeting joining Riek Machar and the embattled Luo and Jikani Nuer. In a mix of journalism and lay anthropology Ms Fick presented her readers with a multitude of Nuer ‘clans’ battling it out to a perplexed Riek Machar, a Nuer himself but from another clan (!), over the ‘Nuerland’, and confusingly resistant to reconciliation and peace as if addicted to the gallant AK-47. Machar, the Vice President of Southern Sudan, is quoted asking in oblivion: “Water has been here all the time. The fish have been here. So why is there conflict now?” Well Ms Fick, be assured, the designer of the ‘war of the intellectuals’, as the intra Southern Sudanese civil war of the 1990’s consequent of the SPLM/A split is known amongst those who suffered it, is much better informed than that. 
The wisdom of tribes and clans although alluring and effervescently exotic cannot fully account for conflicts entwined with the agonies of carving out a state from largely acephalous societies stunned into modernity at the tip of the gun. Similar to their British and effendiya predecessors the liberation elite of Southern Sudan maintains implicit interest in generation of ethnic cartography, and so, their subjects lodge in ethnic categories, ethnicity here being a mode of political representation rather than a bond of common descent. To explain the Jikani-Luo confrontation one may have to look a bit further than fish and water, what about administrative boundaries; the spoils or even promises of the state?
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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.