Monday, 27 May 2013

The Sudanese: between a rock and a hard place

The National Congress Party – Reform Platform (NCP-RP), a semi-clandestine association of disgruntled Islamists that developed as a carrier of the memoranda politics preceding the Islamic Movement’s November 2012 general conference and the political vehicle of the ensuing coup attempt of Brigadier-general Mohamed Ibrahim Abd al-Jalil (Wad Ibrahim) and fellow officers, issued on Saturday a statement declaring a mass revoke of allegiance to President Bashir. The NCP-RP author(s) used the Arabic word bai’a to define the relationship with President Bashir, a term from medieval Islamic jurisprudence that modern Islamic movements beginning with the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood under Hassan al-Banna have rehabilitated to refer to organisational subjugation and almost unconditional obedience to an all-knowing leader. 
The NCP-RP, dissident civilians of the ruling party and members of the military, announced a replacement pledge of allegiance to Wad Ibrahim arguing that President Bashir had failed to adhere to the conditions of the bai’a he enjoyed since 1989, namely the imposition of sharia and the rule of justice. Bashir failed to maintain the unity of the country’s territory as inherited from our forefathers and did not implement Allah’s sharia, said the statement. The blemish was not limited to President Bashir though. “Khartoum is today one of the most corrupt Arab and Moslem cities, and since its president is a dancer it is the habit of its inhabitants to dance”, added the statement paraphrasing a known Arab idiom. The Arabic word fasaad, translated here into corruption, carries strong connotations of sexual morality, and would better be translated into debauchery judging by the example of the dancing president and the idiom it refers to. In any case, the apparently sharia thirsty NCP reformers are obviously not impressed by the lifestyles of the new Khartoumians. 
The statement went on to deplore President Bashir’s tolerance of the financial corruption of his brothers and the nepotism of his ministers, referred to in the text as ‘racism’. The Minister of Oil Awad al-Jaz , said the reformers, manned the whole ministry with people from his ‘tribe’. The eclectic character of the NCP-RP’s criticism is noteworthy. From the Salafis they borrowed abhorrence towards the alleged promiscuity of the capital’s inhabitants, from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) the algebra of ethnic power-sharing, from the opposition parties the secession blame and from their own ranks the envy of junior cadres towards scandalously rich seniors. The reformers pledged obedience to Wad Ibrahim in order to carry out the battle to change this government which they said ruled in their name as ‘mujahideen’ and army servicemen but reneged on its promise to apply Allah’s sharia. A sympathiser might argue that the sharia rhetoric of the NCP-RP is only tactical in nature intended to challenge the ‘religious’ legitimacy of President Bashir as Moslem ruler. What matters however is not so much the actual practice of sharia but rather its function in political discourse. In that regard, the NCP-RP is rehashing a theme that goes back to the 1960’s when the emergent Islamic Movement, shocked and attracted by Khartoum’s offerings of pleasure, harassed President Abboud’s government and the political class at large with accusations of loose sexual mores. The campaign of the Islamic Movement peaked following the overthrow of Abboud in 1964 with mounting pressure on parliamentarians to ban prostitution in the capital.
As if on campaign, Wad Ibrahim accompanied by the former head of the NCP’s parliamentary caucus Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani and a crowd of ‘Saihoon’, have been touring the native towns and villages of the coup plot officers attending one celebration of their release after another. They recently landed in al-Zubeirat in Gezira. Wad Ibrahim, nursing his political self, declared commitment to the path of reform, and his fellow officer Fath al-Raheem asserted that they were partners in the ‘Salvation Revolution’ of President Bashir and not mere footmen. The cautious Ghazi reiterated the call for reform stressing that it was a lengthy process and not merely a campaign against a few corrupt individuals. Between Wad Ibrahim and Ghazi, I wonder who pledged allegiance to whom. The situation is certainly familiar. Osama Tawfiq, identified as a Saihoon leader, kept the channels patent with President Bashir unlike the authors of the NCP-RP declaration. The President, he said, refused the prosecution of the coup officers and immediately signed the order of their release once it was presented to him. “These are not the men to be tried,” Bashir reportedly said. 
As the NCP-RP loads reloads its sharia guns the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in North Sudan (SPLA/M-N) and its allies in the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) are ravaging the countryside in South Kordofan and adjacent areas of North Kordofan with real gunfire, real enough to busy the medical corps of the demoralized Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) around the clock. Yasir Arman, the SPLA/M-N Secretary General, told US and Sudanese activists on Saturday that the SRF’s recent offensive was meant to convince the population yet unvisited by war that the government was sufficiently weak to be toppled through the combined military might of the SRF and the ‘revolutionary’ initiative of the political forces and civil society organisations that seek to overthrow the regime by peaceful means. Sudan is a failed state, said Arman, and a new “social contract that does not discriminate between the Sudanese” is necessary to reconstruct it, one that he proposed could be achieved if the ruling NCP agrees to negotiations with the SRF as a whole and not only the SPLA/M-N in order to end the wars in the country. In earlier statements, Arman instructed those who reject armed resistance to the NCP to escalate mass political action, rather than subdue to the ruling security-military complex. Arman’s message to the allegedly complacent heartland, rewritten, is simply rise up or endure the consequences of failing to do so. The reasoning is a Manichean one, either with us or with the enemy, mirroring rather than transcending the NCP’s mobilisation propaganda. 
The ‘change’ that has eluded the NCP-RP, officers and civilians, from within, the SRF is dashing to achieve by the reach of its guns from without. Between the disciplinary edge of the Islamist reformers’ renewed sharia passion and the gun-mediated secular social contract pledged by the SRF there is a uniting chain, coercion. The barricades are littered with the ethnically labelled corpses of the ‘Sudanese’.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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