Wednesday, 9 February 2011

In the separate North

Monday witnessed the formal announcement of the outcome of the Southern Sudan referendum in Khartoum, an incontestable 99% for secession. The vote for an independent nation in the formulation of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) represents the victorious culmination of the struggle of the Southern Sudanese, mission accomplished. The National Congress Party (NCP) on the other hand is making a considerable effort to dispel the gloom associated with the event of partition in the North. In this regard President Bashir is particularly occupied. The Big Man has literally spent the last week clinging to the microphone. Amongst other public engagements the President briefed the officer corps of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on the current political situation on 3 February. He repeated the same to the police forces, and then again to the officers of the security service on 6 February. On 7 February he addressed a rally of the student wing of the NCP, and on the following day he flew to North Kordofan where he spoke to a rally in Um Rwaba. On all these occasions the President had basically one message to convey: the NCP is not responsible for partition, it is the SPLM who is to blame for not following through with the commitment to unity; the enforcement of shar’ia does not constitute a cause for partition; North Sudan post-secession will be 98% Moslem and therefore the path is clear for the full embrace of Islam as the religion of the state and shari’a as the governing law of the country
Apart from the NCP only its associate or rather chapter, the Just Peace Forum (JPF), headed by al-Intibaha’s chief, al-Tayeb Mustafa, marked the announcement of the referendum outcome with a public event. The JPF organised a celebration on Monday in which a ‘black’ bull was slaughtered as a token of redemption. Technically, the JPF can declare its sole objective realised, and with it the justification of its existence. Nevertheless the ‘vindicated’ party issued a statement declaring its post-secession agenda, namely the promotion of the institutional character of the state; the combat of corruption; the division of state powers; the reform of educational curricula to correspond to the new situation in North Sudan; and the promotion of national sovereignty. Judging by the phrasing the JPF might with a stretch of the imagination be a good candidate to join Khartoum’s liberal opposition!
On the sidelines of these initiatives the NCP announced Monday that it had reached an agreement with the chief of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, whereby a joint committee will work out common positions between the two parties regarding the future constitution and the structure of the state in the new North.
The NCP is ‘administering’ the situation, I suppose, effectively articulating the dwindling political space in the North within the coordinates of its enterprise. I reckon, whoever wishes to challenge this closure will be faced with two major concerns: how to engage North Sudan’s rural crisis beyond the fragmentation of ethnicity tags; and how to address the question of shari’a without surrendering to the colonial/native dichotomy that underlies its post-independence political allure. 

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