Dr Gandul Ibrahim Gandul
It is no doubt that all the successive, central governments of Sudan, with no exception, have failed to redress the problems of immediate relevance to people’s suffering. In fact, the problems compounded and became more complex and intertwining religion with race. This complexity reduced the Sudan to become one of the poorest countries and the icon of the world’s longest and ugliest civil wars. On December 31, 2004, this chapter was concluded and a new one opened on January 09, 2005 when the Sudanese people witnessed and jubilantly celebrated the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Sudan Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), signaling the realization of peace in one part of the country. It is a hopeful gesticulation that the peaceful conclusion of the conflict would put an end to the most vicious and gruesome war that had ‘harvested’ around two million lives and scores of millions who were either forced to flee the country into exile or made internally displaced persons. Nevertheless, this peace is not meaningful without the settlement of Dar Fur and Eastern Sudan ongoing conflicts; because it would be a fallacy to breathlessly celebrate while the citizens of these regions are being annihilated.
The CPA has come to provide a concrete foundation and a peaceful modality that the Sudanese people can vertically build on the reality of a re-birth of the ‘New Sudan’: the ‘New Sudan’ that is inclusive, and the one which would replace the exclusive mentality of the ‘Old Sudan’. This reality dictates to the Sudanese people, especially the marginalized population, not to misinterpret the context of the accord, and not to align with saboteurs who will try to put hindrance or who may attempt to harvest its fruits, as the masses were once misled in the past and imprudently participated in the protracted civil war. The reason for this cautionary assertion is that we - the Sudanese, and more than often - spend too much time loving our country and putting too much heat and energy in this fancy; and, in the process, we take fantasy in finger pointing to blame each other and, sometimes, others when things go wrong. And we do take credit by chest-hitting when things go right. The international community is credited for pushing the peaceful settlement of the conflict, and it is our turn to sustain it in order to work for the welfare of the impoverished majority. However, the subject of this article relates to the case of Southern Kordofan State, especially the Nuba Mountains region. As a Northern entity, it has severely suffered during the 20-year-long war due to its unique peculiarities.
The tragedy of aggression against human life and liberty of the Nuba people of Southern Kordofan State1 had caused so much misery, great distress, mistrust, deprivation and poverty to the once exultant, content, peaceful, rich and joyful people of the Nuba Mountains region. Needless to say, the devastation has indeed injured the hearts and minds of the people of Southern Kordofan State, Muslims, Christians, the believers of African Noble Religions and alike for their human and property losses during the war; except the perpetrators and those who submitted to subjugation. It will take thousands of years for these wounds to heal, leaving yet painful scars of bitterness. But the forgiveness character of the Nuba, who have conviction for social, racial, ethnic, religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence with others, qualifies for such a speedy healing process. As the war dragged on, wasting human lives became a pattern, producing forcible displacement and mining resources that could have been otherwise used for rural development. It was no secret that the peace process immensely drained people’ patience, and waiting for a conclusive peace, reconciliation and the return to pre-dissension peacefulness among the people of the region are needed than ever before. Indeed, the reconciliation among the people of the state is not only a need, but also a necessity to realize a common ground work and understanding to sustain the agreement in order to achieve the end objectives of improving the livelihood of the people of the state. Nonetheless, the reconciliation process itself is difficult, but attainable. It is important because Southern Kordofan State is among many of the most backward and the poorest states with poverty rate of 50-70% despite its richness in natural resources and manpower as manifested in its demographic, ethnic and religious diversity that can be otherwise a source of strength to concord with a dictum that goes: strength in diversity. More importantly, the quest for reconciliation requires delimiting and forthrightly revisiting the historical grievances exercised against the people of the margin, in general, and those of Southern Kordofan State, in particular, by hypocritical politicians. The objective of this article is, therefore, to demonstrate how the elite emasculated the potentials and the abilities of these people to govern their own affairs, how the reactions of the marginalized people were suppressed and how the elite continued their political, religious and racial tricks on the oppressed. This is critical to allow for an independent and rationalized examination of the past, the present and a search for a prosperous future for the population of Southern Kordofan State. The chronicle of the events is by no means exhaustive, but it is rather a synopsis of events leading to the current situation of Southern Kordofan State. Although the literature on the historical grievances of the marginalized population of Sudan is immense, the readers are referred to the comprehensive writings and publications of some renowned Sudanese scholars in this field.2
A litany of historical grievances
As recent as 1924, the discrimination against the people of the margin manifested the minds of the riverain Northern Sudanese. An example of this is the making the conspiracy of the White Flag League (WFL) incident of 1924 by the northern leaders of that time and then the condemnation of it. The confrontation was led by the junior ‘black’ military officers – namely, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif, an offspring of a Dinka mother and a Nuba father, and ‘Abd al-Fadeil al-Maz, of Nuba parents, from Miri Jebels of the Nuba Mountains. According to Khalid, 4 Ali ‘Abd al-Latif was, probably, the first Sudanese to demand self-determination for the Sudanese. The article was written in the Hadarat al-Sudan newspaper, owned by Sayyid ‘Ali al-Mirghani and Sayyid ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi. Even though the provocation was a nationalistic move against the British colonizers, the response from the Sudanese sectarian leaders was abrasive and discordant. , commented insensitively on the incitement in its June 25, 1924 issue. What the paper contained was ‘unprintable’ slanderous remarks. Nevertheless, they printed it. The newspaper unequivocally demanded the immediate ‘extermination of the errant street boys’ … and continued to exclaim ‘what a lowly nation is this that is now being led by people of ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif’s breed and what ancestry did this man descend from to merit such fame and to what tribe does he belong.’4 These same wicked attitudes of over eighty years, which were rightly and precisely described by Dr Mansour Khalid as ‘unprintable slurs all reflective of semi-concealed prejudice towards the Sudanese of non-Arab stock’, still racket the minds of a few Northerners, if not all. It is not secret to declare that if the insurgents of the 1924 were from the center or the far North such an article would not have been written in the first place as a protective measure and a huge massive clandestine activity would have gone underway. A case in point, the General Graduate Congress’ anti-British activities that followed WFL did not take such an overtone simply because the leaders were righteous, from virtuous tribes and celestial (heavenly) lineage, or so they believed. Regrettably, today, the words Gharraba and Janobiyeen indiscriminately take toll on all people of Western and Southern Sudan, respectively, who support these revirain leaders, to reflect a suppressed respect or lack of it.
The discussions leading to Sudan’s independence in 1947-1953 years excluded the people of the ‘margins’, and the independence came hurriedly with the complete absence of the deprived. The stance of some Northerners was genuine and foresighted in predicting an upsurge of antagonism if the problems of the entire country were not properly redressed. One of the proponents of this notion was Ibrahim Badri, a member of the Constitution Amendment Commission (CAC), who unambiguously advocated his position in a lengthy memo to the British Governor-General of Sudan expressing the utter need to address the problems of the rural peasants, pastorals and the nomads to invert unforeseen twister.5 He also demanded the guarantees that would safeguard the acquired rights of these people. Unfortunately, Ibrahim Badri’s position was rebuffed by the then Sudanese ‘representatives’. Disagreement and havoc escalated among Northern CAC members due to the provisions suggested in Badri’s memo. Resentment soared, score of the members resigned in protest and finally CAC was dismantled altogether. In 1953, a ‘due consideration’ lingua was used by the hardcore Mohamed Ahmed Mahjoub in gesture of preserving the rights of the deprived South if it opted to the unity of today’s Old Sudan! The ‘due consideration’ was granted, but when the issue was settled and the ‘meal’ was served, the West, the East and the South were excluded and neglected altogether and their people pronounced as primitive savages who cannot run their own affairs, thus the Northern elites served as their caretakers and guardians.
In years following independence, the partisan or rather factional-sectarian feud of flip-flopping politics for self-centric interests failed to address the needs of the people, and the marginalised population in particular. Less than 3 years after the independence when ‘Abd Allah Khalil peacefully handed the reigns of power to Gen Ibrahim Abboud.6 The takeover was dubbed a military coup d’etat, but never described as a racial affair nor was it considered treason punishable by death, even though it was not against a foreign occupier as was the incitement of 1924. Abboud’s regime implemented forced assimilation, Arabisation and Islamisation in addition to the continuation of the brutal war persecuted against the South. The economic and political progress was curtailed, and finally Abboud was ousted in the first famous October 21, 1964 popular uprising. As a result, a civilian Government headed by Sirr al-Khatim al-Khalifa took over and produced no much progress. In fact, factional divisions ascended and deception by the Umma Party (UP) and the National Unionist Party (NUP) for not addressing the very reasons for the uprising wheeled up. The services for the rural peasants as well as the urban populace suffered massive deterioration while the ‘chosen’ or the untouchables spent too much time in inter- and intra-parties verbal quarrels to acquire huge wealth. Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi succeeded by merely backing of the Gharraba (Westerners from Western Sudan) to become the premier at an age of barely thirty years old,7 only to deepen the level of destruction in both Southern Sudan and the southern part of Greater Kordofan, specifically the infractions between Misseriah Zuruq and Humur against the Dinka tribesmen. It was during Sadiq’s first tenure when development was sluggish in the remaining part of the country, if not deteriorating at a faster rate.
This political chaos angered energetic young officers belonging to the Free Officers Organization (FOO) with deep roots in Socialism and Arab Nationalism. Motivated by Arab extremism, but covertly disguised in leftist ideology, the group successfully unleashed a coup d’etat headed by the military icon Col Ja’afar Mohamed Nimeiri on May 25, 1969. All officers involved were from the riverain North. Again the takeover was not flagged or labeled as racial. Concurrently, it was announced that a ‘racial plot’ to take over power was in the making, and the new leaders claimed that they had to act swiftly to forestall their move. No sooner had Nimeiri wielded power than a witch-hunt against Nuba leaders and military officers was launched. They were either cashiered, arrested or forced to flee the country, including Rev Philip ‘Abbas ‘Ghabboush, who was able to save his life by fleeing the Sudan. He later got engaged in a fierce opposition against the Nimeiri’s regime, culminating in an attack on Juba Airport during the celebrations of Unity Day in March 1977.8 Nimeiri deviated from Communism and leaned towards one-legged axis of Arabism, thus ignoring the nationalistic agenda. This behavior irritated the Communists who were superficially nationalists in their schema. The Communists tried to topple Nimeiri in an abortive putsch in July 1971, albeit they were successful in holding a grip on power for three days. Since religion is a sacred niche where the Sudanese would sacrifice for, the May Revolution tenderly hit on this sensitive cord and was able to gain a considerable support. Again, the race card was ‘stripped off’ this military endeavor.
In 1975, another disgruntled group of army officers headed by Lt-Col Hassan Hussein Osman launched an unsuccessful adventure to take over power from Nimeiri. The group, predominantly from Kordofan, included non-commissioned officers from the Nuba and Baggara Arabs. The putsch was dismissed as a ‘racist conspiracy’. Thus, after fifty-one years since the White Flag League incident in 1924, the ‘race card’ was used for the second time against the people south of 13 degrees N, the very same people who, during the Condominium Rule, were referred to as the inhabitants of the ‘Closed Districts’. To the dismay of the nation, all the officers were executed by a firing squad. Less than a year, a group of the so-called soldiers of fortune, who were promised and given ‘keys’, not the virgins, of the paradise for martyrdom, infiltrated Khartoum from Libya under the diehard Brig Mohamed Nour Sa’ad to oust Nimeiri. Most of the hirelings were from the hitherto embroiled Western Sudan - that is, Dar Fur. It turned out that Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi’s Umma Party - together with other members of the opposition National Front, which included Muslim Brothers (the Islamic Charter Front) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - planned the insurgency. This bid to topple Nimeiri and his revolution of dismay failed yet again. The plot was quelled fairly quickly, but with a lot of bloodletting, and a catalogue of human rights violations ensued. The accused were summarily executed and buried in a mass grave at the Green Belt in Khartoum where after a few days, their corpses decomposed and began smelling terribly, only to force the authorities to come and add more soil on them. Worse still, a number of suspected people from Western Sudan were randomly picked up, maltreated, imprisoned and even punished for crimes they never committed.9
The following years were to be crucial for the political future of Sudan; and, in 1983, Nimeiri abrogated the 1972 Addis Ababa Accord that brought a relative peace to the South. However, Nimeiri launched a pre-emptive strike on the agreement by dividing the South into three states, declared Sudan an Islamic Republic by a revelation from Dr Hassan ‘Abd Allah al-Turabi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Then and there, the September laws of 1983 were enacted on all Sudanese citizens: a move that angered many people, including Rev Philip ‘Abbas ‘Ghabboush, who adventured by instigating a foiled coup d’etat in 1984. Not surprisingly, the attempt was termed a ‘racist plot’.10 The media lamented the Nuba and the Southerners as at-Tabour al-Khamis (the fifth-columnists) and SPLM/A sympathizers. As a consequence of this plot, Rev ‘Ghabboush’s head was miraculously spared by an amnesty from Nimeiri in a drama meant to humiliate the reverend and the Nuba for that matter. It is worth noting that Nuba’s quest for power-sharing, economic development, equality and justice in all aspects of public life has been constantly and peacefully demanded by their representatives, including Mahmoud Hasseib. Mr Hasseib, himself a member of the FOO, was later to become the Minister of Transport and Communications in the central Government, the Governor of Greater Kordofan and the Commissioner of Southern Kordofan when it was created. Hasseib, in one of the sessions of the Sudanese Socialist Union (SSU), the ruling party, demanded that the Government should address the historical grievances and lack of social services in the various regions of Sudan, including the Nuba Mountains. Hasseib, unfortunately, was shouted down by the sycophants of the regime, and accused of encouraging secession.11 Alas, Hasseib was assassinated in Khartoum in the 1980s in a mysterious assault.
In early March 1985, Nimeiri’s patience with Muslim Brothers ran thin; and, in order to please the populace and use the brothers as a scapegoat for everything bad about his regime, he arrested most of the leaders of Islamists, including Dr Turabi, the head of the officially banned Muslim Brothers, and claiming that a plot was discovered by the intelligence apparatus to expel him from power. Nimeiri, who was always mad, got angrier and went on air to characterize Muslim Brothers as ‘brothers of evil’ in a bitter regret just weeks before his dismissal in the second popular uprising on April 6, 1985. It is uncertain until today what the future of Muslim Brethrens would have been when Nimeiri pledged to deal with them upon his return from the United States: a homecoming journey that took Nimeiri more than twelve years only to be granted an amnesty and heroically received by the ‘brothers of evil’, who took power 4 1/2 years after his vow to deal with them. Such a long-term arrangement could not be established and accomplished with the Janobiyeen or the Gharraba. Surprisingly, on March 02, 2005, Nimeiri’s Peoples Workers Forces Alliance Party (PWFAP) and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) declared to merge in a united front in order to ‘confront the challenges and conspiracies against the unity of the country’. This statement and the merger are demeaning to the role the SPLM/A played in fostering the peace and a united ‘New Sudan’. However, this is not a surprise since it is always ‘they’ who should lead and stamp it first and the efforts of others is extravagant. Otherwise, what is the meaning of this remarriage after years of animosity and disassociation?
On April 06, 1985, an intifadah (popular uprising) against Nimeiri’s regime was hijacked as it was the case with its older sibling – that is, October 21, 1964. Unfortunately, the Sudanese plebeians were cajoled into putting their trust in Lt-Gen ‘Abd al-Rahman Mohamed al-Hassan Swar al-Dahab12 and Dr Jazouli Dafa Allah.13 Both Islamists, they sprung and covertly played the role of Muslim Brothers, the then National Islamic Front (NIF). Therefore, it was no surprise that the two men stood against the demands of the Sudanese people. Again the people were sidelined and so were the causes of the uprising, which included, among other things, alleviating the suffering of the masses, lifting the state of emergency, putting an end to civil war in Southern Sudan, liberating freedoms, reforming body politics of Sudan and the abrogation of Nimeiri’s infamous September Laws, adopting the 1956 Constitution as amended in 1964 and holding a ‘National Constitutional Conference’ to hammer out Sudan’s chronic ailments. None of these objectives of the uprising was achieved and the Government was branded ineffective, because of the persecution of the war in the South as it entered its ugliest phase in addition to instability in Southern Kordofan Province. Inter- and intra-sectarian and factional fighting multiplied exponentially. Too many parties of ambiguous agenda were created, probably by the work of the Umma, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the NIF parties in order to derail the populace from the substantive elements of the uprising. Disarray and dissatisfaction among all walks of life increased and spread. In the midst of preparation for scheduled elections as a step towards ‘democracy’ and in an unprecedented move, Jazouli’s Government fabricated a serious accusation against an active Sudan National Party (SNP) founded by Rev ‘Ghabboush. Consequently, his followers were falsely implicated in yet another ‘racist plot’, rounded up and imprisoned. Jazouli aggressively went on air-waves in Radio Omdurman to call on the Sudanese people to join hands against what he described as an African war against the Arabs and Islam. The accusation proved to be unfounded. Rev ‘Ghabboush was released shortly before the election, unleashed a political campaign in al-Haj Yousif Constituency in Khartoum North and won the bid against all odds.
Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi ‘managed’ to come to power in 1986 semi-general elections for the second time with unmatched support from the people of Western Sudan as they once stood behind him and his great-grandfather, the Mahdi. Unfortunately, Sadiq al-Mahdi truncated this significant power base, went on legalizing the Maraheel (Arab militia)14 and the so-called friendly forces of Anya Nya II, which were exclusively Nuer tribesmen set against the assumed SPLM/A-dominated Dinka. Ironically, no nation or a country on earth that divides its population or its armed forces into friendly and unfriendly forces; this only happens in the Sudan, and this is the kind of practices that fractures the national unity. Anyway, the people of Sudan, especially the Southerners and the Westerners were deceived once again. At the peak of economic, social and political downward, commotion in the Sudan was precipitated by sectarian bickering, and the Sadiq Government turned deaf ears to the national crisis and indulged itself in forming ineffective coalition governments, as it was nicknamed Hakoomat al-Gharraba (the governments of the Westerners – that is, people from Western Sudan): a reflective of deep-rooted racism.
Thence to November 1988 when, in a desperate bid to salvage the country from disintegration, Sayyid Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s DUP signed Sudan Peace Initiative in Addis Ababa with Dr John Garang’s SPLM/A. There was jubilation by all Sudanese masses in the streets. But Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi, the supreme head of the Government, his brother-in-law – viz., Dr Hassan ‘Abd Allah al-Turabi, and others were not impressed, to say the least. They turned down the offer for their own political ambitions, self-centered chauvinism and miscalculations or rather because it had to come from them, or they would stamp it first! This was another slap in the face. Sadiq should have interpreted the popular acceptance of the initiative as a public plebiscite for peace, and ride along these lines, but he chose to wobble. The war in the South was not always taken by the Northern politicians seriously, as this was thought of as being fought away from home – that is, the triangle of Khartoum, Wad Medani and Kosti. This was confirmed by Sadiq’s own remarks that if Dr John Garang did not want to stop the war, it were his people that were dying anyway; this racially motivated attitude of Sadiq, who was supposed to be the Prime Minister of the entire Sudan, but visioning the national crisis parochially and racially, towards the Southerners incensed one of his Southern Ministers and resigned from his Government - namely, Dr Walter Kunijok of Sudan African Congress Party.
The drama of exchanging the roles began when Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi, peacefully and with a mockery to the Sudanese people, who put him in power through a democratic process, handed over the reigns of power to his brother-in-law, Dr Turabi’s NIF on the night of June 30, 1989. The ease in which the NIF seized power raises a number of serious questions as how much Sadiq really knew about the plot; and, more importantly, why there were no measures or counter-attack procedures to reverse the coup d’etat. No surprises since the two men – that is, Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi and Dr Hassan al-Turabi, are two faces of the same coin, and each one tends to seek a refuge from the other when calamities strike. The analogy is true because the two meet, eat and take evening tea together, and probably plan together on how to run the country, each on his on way, but they appear on television as feuding.15 After years of harassment and intermittent occasions of internment, Sadiq managed to flee the Sudan to Eritrea. However, so many theories had been bandied around regarding the manner in which he was able to run away from the watchful eyes of the NIF security. Sadiq’s behavior in exile and the methods he utilized in dealing with his erstwhile colleagues in the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) cast a heavy shadow and raised serious speculations about the mission he set to achieve when he fled the country and suddenly appeared in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in December 1997. Nonetheless, the vacation was a short-lived one, the mission was not accomplished and Sadiq eventually decided to return home. But before so doing, Sadiq met President Omer al-Bashir in Djibouti and signed the so-called Nida’a al-Watan (Nation’s Call) in which he argued that it was an initiative to ‘stop the bloodshed and stale the tears of mourning mothers’; but, in fact, it was a homework for his return to Sudan.16
Nimeiri’s Government divided the South into three weak states, reducing it and indulged its people in infighting and petty squabbles for trivial titles and inexistent powers. He did the same in the North, especially in Kordofan Region. The NIF Government followed in its footsteps and further divided the country into many pockets of powerless states, promoting the old cliché of ‘divide and rule’. This is the true nature of the successive governments of Sudan. Such adopted tactics by the NIF Government boosted the total number of states in the Sudan to twenty-six and hundreds of provinces or localities. The Greater Kordofan Sate, for example, was further divided into Northern, Southern and Western Kordofan, with potential to create another state in the eastern Nuba Mountains to appease or pacify its supporters in that region, as the former Governor of Southern Kordofan State, Habeeb Makhtoum, promised to accomplish.17 Whether in the North or the South the states were created on ethnic and tribal lines with no proper mechanisms of governance or resources to support these jelly-like institutions. The NIF plan was to weaken the regions and to create a more conducive environment for power struggle should any change come to the Sudan that would re-align these newly formed states to their parent or sub-parent states. This situation was manifested during the re-amalgamation of Western Kordofan to the original boundaries of the former Southern Kordofan Province by the provision of the current juvenile peace agreement, which formed Southern Kordofan State. The people of the former Western Kordofan State - consisting, partly, of inhabitants from the former Southern and Northern Kordofan States - are not happy and unsatisfied with the new arrangements of each going back to its ‘parent’ denominator. It is only a matter of time when the South, the Greater Dar Fur, the Eastern, the Blue Nile and the Northern states would explode by trying to strip off power from the current retainers if effective and efficient mechanism is not implemented to divert egocentrics and power-mongers.
In 1990, the Sudan witnessed yet another flagrant attack on human liberty when a group of 28 officers and unspecified numbers of NCOs and soldiers were executed without or with nominal court martial for allegedly planning to topple the NIF Government. The group consisted mostly of dissatisfied minority who sensed stagnation, if not regression. If the coup instigators were from the inner circles – or, at least, the NIF affiliates, imprisonment would have been their dividend. The plotters were said to have belonged to Arab Ba’athists and some disgruntled army officers. The swift manner in which the coup protagonists were dealt with, bearing in mind that the incident took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, belied the religious nature of the regime.
Dr ‘Ghazi Salah al-Din al-‘Atabani, the former Presidential Advisor on Peace Affairs, failed miserably to push the peace negotiations forward. The stalemate was one of the dividing proponents of the people of Southern Kordofan State along both religious and ethnic lines. Dr ‘Atabani mobilized the people of Southern Kordofan State during the early days of the negotiations and argued that the Muslims are the majority: 18 an indisputable fact, and that the Nuba people are the minority in the state.19 Regrettably, people praised and applauded this divisive persuasion. The ethnicity-tribal and racial-minority argument is even more annihilating and divisive than the former. Race was used as a ‘powerful ax’ to slash the presumed harmonious life that had existed among the people of Southern Kordofan State for almost two centuries. Dr ‘Atabani fought tirelessly to permanently and forcibly stamp the modified name of Southern Kordofan Province, that was decreed by President Nimeiri in 1974, to become Southern Kordofan State. Nevertheless, the area was locally, nationally and internationally known as the Nuba Mountains.20 Due to the religious nature of the Khartoum regime, the name of Southern Kordofan State has no spiritual significance to warrant all the fuss. The name of the Nuba Mountains Region would neither compromise any religion nor ridicule any group, but the political myth has overwhelmed the ‘diminutive’ clique to violate the rights of all inhabitants. Paradoxically, the Sudanese Dinar, with religious and probably racial significance, or so the Sudanese were made to believe, is unrecognized by the majority of the Sudanese including the NIF Government, which recognizes the pinning of the Dinar at 2,500.00 Sudanese pounds to $1.00 US dollar. However, the Dinar is en route to be changed again to its original Sudanese pound.21 It was expected that the Sudan Government would walk out of the negotiations halls for violating the religion signifier by the infidels! The point in making this assertion is to demonstrate how the NIF was able to engage people in trivial issues in order to create social cleavages, bogus arguments and factional disagreements.
Although the recent negotiations between the NDA and the Sudan Government in Cairo are intended to resolve the ‘outstanding national issues’, it reflects the hypocritical nature of the Northerners ‘proper’, otherwise why don’t these opposition forces join the SPLM/A and unconditionally support the agreement? As mentioned earlier, it is always them who must approve and stamp it first for anything to become a ‘doctrine’. Regrettably, these forces claim that the agreement signed between the SPLM/A and the Sudan Government is bilateral, exclusive and as such cannot be a modality for redressing the country’s chronic problems. Sadiq al-Mahdi went even too far not only by echoing the same rhetorical assertion, but he also, and as usual, issued ‘too many’ initiatives, which he thought would radically resolve the country’s conflicts!! On the issue of the CPA, Sadiq appeared double-faced in numerating what were needed to rectify the agreement. No surprise then since he was addressing different groups, and he had to engineer different speeches for different audience. For each audience, a different set of remedy is presented. For one audience, for example, Sadiq stated that the agreement contained a number of contradictions, articles of abhorrence or hatred and it was an alliance of opposites.22 The share of another audience was that the agreement required believing in it, explanation, amendment and expansion in order to hold, Sadiq reiterated.23 On another occasion, Sadiq numerated more than twenty-two points that made the agreement binding only to its signatories – namely, the SPLM/A and the Sudan Government. 24 This is an atavistic character of Sadiq, who will never be satisfied with any peace overture even those which are proffered by himself. It is why he always launches one initiative after another only to replace the previous one; and talks too much on every issue-private or public without positive results. Such lack of focus, hesitations and befuddled vision characterize the enigmatic personality of Sadiq, and actually converge to make a political failure out of him.
(1) Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains region will be used interchangeably to denote the geographical area without prejudice to its political and administrative designation agreed upon by the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Also the people of the Nuba Mountains refer to the inhabitants of the region – namely, the Nuba, Baggara ‘Arabs’, Fellata, Dinka, Nuer, Fur, …etc. - unless otherwise stated. The Fellata is used to indiscriminately describe the descendants of West Africa people – viz., the Hawsa, Borno, Bargo, Follani, …etc. - and of countries neighbouring the Sudan from the west – for instance, Chad.
(2) See Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990; Deng, F M, War of Visions: Conflicts of Identities in the Sudan, Washington, 1995; Sikainga, A A, Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1996; Salih, M M, al-Sahafa al-Sudaniyya fi nisf Qarn, Part I, the Sudanese Studies Centre, Cairo, 1996; Korita, Y, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif wa Thwrat 1924: Bahath fi Masadir al-Thwra al-Sudaniyya, (translated from English into Arabic by Majdi al-Na’eem), the Sudanese Studies Centre, Cairo, 1997; and Suliman, M, Sudan: The War of Identity and Resources, London, 2002.
(3) Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990.
(4) According Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990, Ali ‘Abd Latif was imprisoned and released in 1923, became a celebrity and founded the WFL with, allegedly, financial support from the Egyptian government but mysteriously tagged the goals of the movement to include “the unity of the Nile valley”. The riots of 1924 in which Ali ‘Abd al-Latif was involved angered the British who entrusted both the black officers and the Shaigiyya. The British believed that the black non-Arab officers would be resistant or less susceptible to the Egyptian influence. Likewise, the British faith in Shaigiyya was due their reluctant or unenthusiastic support to the Mahdism.
(6) According to Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990, Gen Ibrahim Abboud’s ambitions prior to November 11, 1958 coup d’etat were to open an automobile garage after retirement as he confined to his close inner circles.
(7) For an exclusive reading on power struggle between Sadiq al-Mahdi and his colleagues in the Umma Party - including his uncle, Sayyid al-Hadi al-Mahdi, see Mahjoub, M A, al-Dimocratiyya fi al-Mizan: Ta’amulat fi al-Siyasat al-Arabiyya wa al-Afrikiyya, Khartoum University Press, October 1989.
(8) For more details, See Aguda, O, Arabism and Pan-Africanism in Sudanese Politics, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 1973; Abbas, P, Growth of Black Political Consciousness in Northern Sudan, Africa Today, Vol 20, No 3, 1973; Hoagland, Ed, African Calliope: A Journey to the Sudan, New York, 1978; and Asharq al-Awsat, August 26, 1993.
(9) Bola, A, Masarat Jadeeda, Eritrea, August 1998.
(10) Rev Philip ‘Abbas ‘Ghabboush is a renounced politician from the Nuba Mountains who devoted his entire life for the cause of the deprived people of the black Sudan. Rev ‘Ghabboush has tremendous charisma and considerable followers among the Nuba people, the Southerners and he wields a strong support and alliances with the Beja people of Eastern Sudan, the Fur in Dar Fur and a sizable number of the Nubians of the far North.
(11) See Khalid, M, Nimeiri and the Revolution of Dis-May, London, 1985.
(12) Lt-Gen Swar al-Dahab heavily built his reputation on the tremendous wealth of his family sophist religious background, and was believed to be a moderate Muslim and highly regarded by his peers and subordinates in the military. It is believed that he was reluctant to assume power to keep his promise of not abrogating the oath of loyalty he took to defend the Nimeiri regime. Swar al-Dahab also set an unprecedented example by handing over power to the civilians one year after the takeover as he promised.
(13) Dr Jazouli Dafa Allah is a medical doctor from a small village on the eastern bank of the Blue Nile not far from Wad Medani town, Gezira. He capitalised on his medical profession, a prestigious field in the Sudan and as a leader of the Sudan Medical Council.
(14) It was during Sadiq al-Mahdi’s tenure when certain tribes in Kordofan, northern parts of the South and Dar Fur were armed and charged to defend the pastoralists and nomads allegedly against Southern insurgents. It is worth mentioning that the majority of the Umma Party MPs were from Western Sudan.
(15) Dr Hassan al-Turabi is married to Sadiq al-Mahdi’s sister – namely, Wisal al-Mahdi. It is then natural that the familial bonds are maintained and protected at any cost. This assumption is validated by the possibility of the two leaders taking turns in running the country’s affairs and probably their offspring. For instance, when Sadiq al-Mahdi became the Prime Minister and Dr Hassan al-Turabi was appointed the Attorney-General, a committee was formed to carry out an investigation into the dealings of the Islamic banks, including Faisal Islamic Bank. The two men reached a compromise that led to Sadiq stopping this committee to achieve its objectives, while Turabi releasing Dr Shareif al-Tuhami, an Umma Party member, who was imprisoned on charges of corruption committed when he was the Minister of Energy during Nimeiri’ tenure (Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990).
(16) See Sadiq al-Mahdi’s books, al-‘A’wda (the Return) and Tahatdoon (Rightly Guided). Part of the Umma Party army that joined Sadiq al-Mahdi in Eritrea returned home with him. They were stationed at Da’irat al-Mahdi and were discontented due to the preferential treatment their leaders received: a situation nearly created unprecedented catastrophe, though some of these disgruntled soldiers attacked Dr Omer Nour al-Da’yem, Sadiq’s now deceased assistant and staunch Umma Party loyalist.
(17) Al-Bashir, I H, In Search of the Lost Wisdom: War and Peace in the Nuba Mountains, Khartoum, 2002.
(18) In 1992, the NIF regime declared ‘Jihad’ (a holy war) on the Nuba people whose majority are devout Muslims. The Muslim majority argument as propagated by Dr ‘Atabani and the NIF stalwarts, proved to be a racial campaign to eradicate the Nuba people out of the face of the earth.
(19) It is arguable that Dr ‘Atabani proved the NIF’s guilt of liquidating the Nuba who ‘were’ once the majority, but were reduced to ‘minority’ by the infamous declaration of holy war and forced relocation to distant concentration camps in al-Obied, Sodri, Bara, …etc. all in Northern Kordofan State.
(20) The historically provincial capital of the Greater Kordofan was Talodi (Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains); it was then moved to al-Obied as a result of Nuba rebellion against the Condominium Rule. It should also be noted that the changes in the name of the region never magnetized much attention nor was it a source of disagreement between the people of the Nuba Mountains region. Ironically, names of many localities in Southern Kordofan State and other parts of Sudan have been changed by the NIF Government without a protest. The loud outcry made by the NIF during the peace negotiations was solely due to utter stubbornness and feet dragging in order not to conclude the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The paradigm set forth by the NIF, especially in Southern Kordofan State, is detrimental to the reversal process in the future should people choose to revert the old names.
(21) Asharq al-Awsat, February 22, 2005. The origin of Dinar goes back to the Roman Empire, and the word Dinar comes from the Italian language, which means money, and the Spanish word for money too is dinero. The Arabs adopted this word from their contacts with the outside world, including the colonisation of southern Spain – namely, Andalusia.
(22) Al-Jazeera News Network, March 25, 2005. This is a part of sermon given by Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi during Juma prayer, Sudan.
(23) Sudanile. Omer Al-Qara’i Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi Wa Al-Enkfa’eya wa Da’awi Al-Tajdeed. March 08, 2005.
(24) Sudaneseonline. January 16, 2005.