Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sudan’s Islamists: the disavowal of politics

Ghazi Salah al-Din, the head of the National Congress Party (NCP) parliamentary caucus and a leading intellectual of the post-Turabi Sudanese Islamic Movement, doubted in a recent interview whether he would join the contemporary Movement, in its 2012 version, had he the opportunity. In a style reminiscent of the interview tactics of the late Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud Ghazi dodged the question by asking it to himself and refusing to answer. He told his interlocutor that the Islamic Movement was in an ambiguous situation that makes any judgement on its affairs quite difficult. The Movement, argued Ghazi, does not rule, has never ruled, and it is not clear whether it should rule at all. With this statement he apparently redeemed the Islamic Movement that he joined as freshman in Khartoum University of the baggage of twenty three years in power, a legacy that he seemed willing to shove over to the NCP as a the carrier of immediate authority. Ghazi dismissed ‘politics’ as such as the business of “villains”, a condemnation that he felt comfortable to pronounce from the armchair of the distanced intellectual. 
Ghazi’s brief interview is no journalistic coincidence. Separately, or may be not so separately, veteran members of the paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF) who share the experience of combat against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) during the 1990s in what was then southern Sudan, have been meeting recently in Khartoum to reminisce about the ‘jihad years’ and debate the future of the Islamic Movement. One such meeting took place on 27 July in the Khartoum University mosque, famed as the headquarters of the Islamic Movement’s student wing. The attendants were mostly men and women who dedicated their twenties to the Islamist cause as students, lost friends and colleagues in the battlefields of Sudan’s multiple insurgencies, but were largely orphaned ideologically as a consequence of the 1999 feud between Hassan al-Turabi, the historical leader of the Islamic Movement, and President Bashir, the man who continues to rule with its emblem. One such figure is al-Naji Abdalla, today an emerging politician in Turabi’s PCP. Naji reportedly sobbed as he addressed the crowd. “A meeting of the mujahideen should not be an occasion for shedding tears without consideration of the future of the Islamic Movement…We come to you with open hearts and without any political agenda. We only seek the glory of the Islamic Movement and do not fear but Allah”, he was quoted saying. 
Naji was known to me and my colleagues in the student organisation of the Communist Party - the Democratic Front - as ‘the cooking-oil thief’. I am still to find out the background for this accusation, but I must confess doing my share in perpetuating it in speech and writing. As Naji’s adversary I had little opportunity to hear his ‘story’. Today, it seems, Naji, and Ghazi, are attempting to do exactly that: tell their story, and thereby seek absolution from the adventure of power. The basic contention against this mode of (disavowed) politics, i.e. story-telling, is that it reduces the objective reality of the exercise of power, the villain’s burden to borrow Ghazi’s depiction, to a subjective tale of virtue and sin, material for sympathetic understanding. This is a double fraud. History is no psychoanalysis couch, and there is no escape from its clutch to the bosom of a transcendental beholder.


  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Sudan? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Sudan in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

    1. Dear Emilio,
      I would love to write you a letter from Sudan. Alas, I am out of the country right now. I will spend the end of year season in Sudan. I will then write you a letter and send it by mail over Christmas.

      I wish you luck with your collection, and keep going.



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