Sunday, 20 February 2011

Nafie: the proud bumpkin

Nafie Ali Nafie

Addressing an audience of supporters on Saturday the deputy chairman of the National Congress Party (NCP), Nafie Ali Nafie, compared between what he referred to as the humble origins of the NCP nomenklatura and the affluent backgrounds of the opposition’s leaders. He stated “we don’t want these smooth talkers to tell us about the people’s agonies because we are part of the people”, adding “those who run the government today are the rustic sons of rustic families, and hail from the wilderness and the peripheries; they are not the residents of Khartoum (2) and Amarat and the posh neighbourhoods of Khartoum who learn about the strife of the people through hearsay”. Nafie was speaking on the occasion of the inauguration of construction works of a bridge in Soba, a residential area in the Southern outskirts of Khartoum. “Soba to us is a capital, and when we come to it we say that we reached Khartoum and its electricity” bellowed the NCP strongman.
In his populist style, Nafie hit a raw nerve of the urban/rural divide inherent in Sudan’s political dilemma. For the ambitious elite of rural origin born out of the educational expansion of the 1970s the Islamic Movement, in its various formats (the National Islamic Front of the late 1980s and the ruling NCP), was a channel for upward social mobility and conclusively hegemony. To reach that end the Islamic Movement played the role of opposition within the opposition. With the leftist inclined petit bourgeoisie of Khartoum it shared the animosity against the sectarian parties, the Umma and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which commanded the loyalty of the rural masses, and yet it challenged the nationalism and socialism of the left with a ‘native’ narrative of political Islam. The Islamic Movement’s message had a double edge to it. It challenged the sectarian parties on their own ground and it provided the aspiring rural elite with a working ideology that approved rather than questioned their view of the world, in contradistinction to the more demanding postulations of the Communist Party, the archrival of the Islamic Movement. Presenting political Islam as an ideology of empowerment the Islamic Movement attracted to its ranks the bright and the bold of the rural elite, student newcomers to the temptations of Khartoum, a bastion of Westernization standing above and beyond the rural wilderness that Nafie referred to.
The Communist Party attempted to invest in this contradiction between the rural and the urban and initially achieved considerable success among the tenants of the Gezira scheme and the plantations of the Nuba Mountains. This early success was largely contingent on the Communist Party’s mastery of trade union organisation rather than a reflection of its penetration into rural communities. Thus, the situation emerged whereby the sons and daughters of yesterday’s ‘red’ farmers imbued with the values of trade union camaraderie became the Islamic vanguard of today.
What Nafie missed to mention nevertheless is the fact that the socio-economic factors that ushered in the Islamic Movement’s rise to power, by and large the consequences of harsh urbanisation, may very well represent the causes of its demise. The NCP today can neither satisfy the expectations it groomed among its rural constituency nor can it cope with the emergent urban crisis under its watch. The result of this unrest has till now been the series of ‘ethnic’ insurgencies against its rule, a volatile combination of rural grievances championed by ambitious elites. 


  1. Nafie's one of the most interesting NCP spokesmen at the moment. Why a pumpkin in particular?

  2. Well, when addressing the public Nafie has made it a habit to invoke the impression of a 'rural pumpkin' in contradistinction to the perceived decadence of the opposition Khartoum elite. His vulgarity towards his opponents is one aspect of this image, and the above is somehow its functional rationale.

  3. I understand now the reason of the confusion. I mis-spelled bumpkin as pumpkin. What an embarrassment, and thank you B for the correction.


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