President Al-Bashir: Will the old method work?
By: Elrayah Hassan Khalifa
A few days ago I watched president Omer Al-Bashir in a brief interview with Al-Arabia TV channel. He came from
Khartoum to attend a conference in
Turkey, pretending that he would not “give a damn” about the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the whole episode was not more than a poorly acted theatrical play; because he and his advisors knew very well that judges of the ICC court have not taken cognizance of the charge yet. In his response to Al-Arabia, Al-Bashir used the same shallow heroic rhetoric of Mo’ammar Kaddafi and Saddam Hussein; defying the great powers, particularly the
United States. When the broadcaster reminded him of the fate of Saddam Hussein, who used the same language, Al-Bashir was quick to respond that Sudanese people have been colonized and their lands have been occupied twice, nonetheless they were able to fight and liberate their land. However, the most cowardly gesture made by Al-Bashir was his reference to the overzealous young people in the Arabic and Islamic world, who he said would be ready to attack, of their own volition, in case anything happened to
Sudan (meaning himself of course). When he found out that his statement could be interpreted as an express instigation, he attempted to extricate himself from this entanglement by adding that he didn’t mean it (on the official level). For every viewer, it was evident that Mr. Al-Bahir was inviting a “take the law into your own hands” technique contrived by Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. At the same time he tried to elude the public opinion by escaping responsibility of his inflammatory statement after he had made his point across.
The statement by Al-Bashir stands out as strong evidence to the policy of the Sudanese government which aimed at hypnotizing the young people and having them serve the interest of their dubious Islamic project. This policy, which has been employed by the Islamists, was carried out in the war against the SPLA, in which a huge number of young boys from both the North and the South lost their lives, at a time when the country was in a compelling need for their contribution in economic development and social mobilization. Not only did the leaders of Islamists refrain to take part in the battlefields, but they further practiced nepotism by preventing their sons and relatives from going to war. Dissidents who broke away from the organization provided such information as part of their critiques to Islamist leaders, who promised and theorized something but practiced otherwise. In opting to Jihad as a driving force, Islamists created a religiously emotional environment, in which the government portrayed itself as an Islamic protector beset by enemies in and outside of the country.
All types of media including TV, radios, and newspaper, which were publicly owned, were manipulated to serve the government policy. A culture of war and violence became the prevalent norm, as the official opinion exhorted and praised death in the sake of God. In this environment the overwhelming majority of youth started to draw to the government version of Islam, either voluntarily or by intimidation. The government resorted also to the curricula and modified it to adapt to the changing policy, it was designed to instill the values of Jihad and martyrdom, derived from stories of early Muslims. On the other hand, the government pursued a most dishonorable, dishonest and wicked method to feed the imaginations of those docile young men. These methods included promising good tidings for those who would die as martyrs promising they would find virgins awaiting them in paradise, and the absurd miracle stories from the battlefield about the monkeys who were fighting with the Mujahideen. However, the most bizarre situation introduced by the government was the event of death in the battlefield. Usually the government would communicate the news of death in a religiously and culturally abhorrent manner, in which a group of officials in a grotesque spectacle, would fill a car with food materials and surprise the relatives with the death of their son. The officials would demand from members of the families neither to cry nor to grieve, but rejoice for their bridegroom son who was in paradise with the virgins! This outlandish act was exercised with a complete disregard for the appreciation of the families’ loss and in denying them the right of privacy to mourn on their own. Members of the families would stand in astonishment and disbelief and most of them would decline the offer of the food materials. After Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLA/M) brought the current the government to its knees and made it accept the Comprehension Peace Agreement (CPA); everything has changed. The exponent of the Islamic project, Dr. Hassan Abdalla Al-turabi, declared publicly that the whole episode of this frenzied discourse about Jihad and martyrdom was nothing but a hoax. He repeated this provocative statement on more than one occasion, ignoring intentionally families’ heart breaks and the loss of tens of thousands of innocent young men’s lives. Furthermore, he implicitly retracted all the verses he cited from the Qura’an in support of martyrdom and marriage to the virgins.
Going back to the statement of president Al-Bashir; who was thinking that by making such a communication he would galvanize the religious emotions and mobilize those (enthusiastic Muslim and Arab youth) who would hurriedly come to his defense. But I have news for him; the people of
Sudan would not buy such an argument, after they saw and heard from the authoritative figure of the government, who was once the rightly-guided for all the officials of this government, including president Al-Bashir himself. After Hassan Al-turabi declared emphatically that the war which the government waged in the South was not Jihad and hence those who died simply lost their lives. Furthermore, he made a mockery of the notion of martyrdom and marriage to the virgins. That being said; what does president Al-Bashir have to offer for those who would die for his sake as his statement suggested? What method is he going to pursue? Would he adhere to the same approach and use the same rhetoric, which had been renounced by his Godfather as being religiously repugnant? It seems that the positive aspect of the long experiment and events which was reflected in educating the peoples and raising their level of awareness left a wide discrepancy between them and the rulers. While the peoples were able to discern the real nature and objective of the so-called Islamic project as a means to realize the personal interest of the rulers and promote their views and ideas with entire exclusion of others, rulers are still laboring under a dilution that people still have not fathomed their real intentions. The paradoxes of the government were so conspicuous that it did need deep thinking to grasp.
Immediately after assumed power, the government resumed the war against the South after giving it a religious dimension, namely, the concept of Jihad. Consequently all the affiliates of the SPLA became infidels overnight and the government did not lose any chance to mobilize the people using the Islamic rhetoric of
protecting the Islamic state. But did the government honor the pledge they have made to the people based on which they gave their ultimate trust and sacrificed their lives?
Assume that (for the sake of argument) the government exercised the concept of Jihad in a strict, authentic way as was required by the religion of Islam; how could it religiously justify the CPA with the SPLA without compliance with the rules of Jihad? After signing the CPA, Dr. John Garang, chairman of the SPLM came to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, and it is reported that; he was received by more than six million people, all of whom were rejoicing and euphoric. A sign of hope was hovering on the country of
Sudan on the arrival of this great man. Two questions were lingering in my mind at the time, the first was; this government has been in power for sixteen years (1989-2004) through which it used all its human and material capabilities to instill the values of Islam. Why could it neither convince Sudanese public of the viability of these values, nor did it offer good examples to embody the meanings of these values? Those six million saw in Dr. Johan a symbol of aspiration for freedom, peace, development and dignity which they lost amidst the lies and mendacities of their Islamsit rulers. The second question was; how did Islamists expect the Sudanese public to comprehend the glaring contradictions of the miraculous transformation of someone like Dr. John Garang, who was once declared and fought by the government as an infidel to become the second most important figure in the Islamic state!? Is Jihad still legitimate and viable, or was it a transitional means manipulated for the sole reason to achieve personal interest?
Like his counterparts, the Islamists, president Al-Bashir was wrong about the Sudanese people. He took their endurance of hardships and sufferings caused by the policy of his government; as subjugation and fear. This is a gross ignorance of the nature of these great people. The recent Sudanese history would reveal that in October, 1964 these same people were able to orchestrate a revolution, perceived by all accounts as an extraordinary phenomenon, in human modern history. In that revolution, masses of people, without formulated plan united collectively to change the regime. They were not armed, except with the will to change. This revolution has been eloquently described and rightfully evaluated by Ustadh Mahmoud Mohammad Taha, (Ustadh) the one and only; who was able to unravel the exceptional characteristics of this great people. He pointed out that what the Sudanese people had accomplished in the October revolution was unique and unprecedented in history, where the people through power and not violence were able to impose their will and force the military dictatorship to step down. The revolution had no organizers, no demagogies, but was rather a spontaneous emotional unity, or lively spirit, if you wish, which reached every man, woman, every young and old, as though it was his own personal concern. This emotional and intellectual power, according to Ustadh paralyzed the thinking of the military and forced them to surrender. Furthermore, it has introduced a new formula for the mechanism of change, in conformity with the socio-political standard of our time. This new formula has not been widely recognized, as humanity is still, in some respect, lives in the jungle era where the strong is respected and revered and the weak is oppressed and humiliated. When Ustadh spoke about the immeasurable greatness of the Sudanese people it was not from a standpoint of fanaticism or hollow chauvinism, but was based on extrapolation of authentic Sudanese historical accounts. He emphasized that people of
Sudan are giants led by dwarfs. This could be proved by many examples; in the aftermath of the October revolution the dreams of the Sudanese people were shattered; as the revolution did not go beyond the emotional momentum and physical change. The sectarian parties were always imminent to reap the fruit of the Sudanese victories and transformed them into total fiasco and disappointment. When the Sudanese people repeated the same revolution (following the same fashion of the October revolution), in 1985 to overthrow May regime, after it ruled the country for sixteen years (1969-1985). The sectarian parties (especially Umma party) emerged after sixteen years with new vision (or so the people thought) and the people did not hesitate to give them their allegiance and to elect them to rule the country. But the sectarian parties failed and disappointed the people.
These historical accounts were meant to shed some light on some aspects of the characteristics of the Sudanese people who can not certainly be fooled by the statement of president Omer Al-Bashir. The experience they had, though sour, has greatly armed them with awareness, a secure weapon against ignorance, backwardness and exploitation.
While I was reading Sudanile, an internet newspaper, I came across a moving article by Dr. Mutaz Bilal, who seems to be one of those zealous Islamist youth who participated in the Jihad war against the SPLA. The article was about the experience of a courageous person, who did not shy away from his past, but spoke frankly and truthfully about it. He stated the followings:
“I feel astonished by the qualitative leap occurred to my thinking towards both the images of Dr. John Garang and Yasir Arman. As for the former; after I insulted and threatened him with my chanting during the war, I started to respect him even more than my leaders (in the Islamic organization). The same goes to the latter, whom I could not endure hearing his name being mentioned, now with his strength, integrity, and his genuine belief in his issue he reminds me with the martyrs. Our current generation has undertaken violent and painful intellectual paradoxes, after which it realized the profoundness of the nature of things. This generation knew that, removal of injustice from those who disagree with you (even on the level of faith) greatly outweighs the blind following of those whom you agree with.” This was a person not only believed in the project of Al-Bahir and his Islamists brothers, but he actually put his life on the line for the sake of the Islamic state. Thus, those who joint the movement for the sake of religion, such as Dr. Mutaz do not need to rack their brains in order to discover the real intentions of those Islamists. One can assume, therefore, that the majority of those who are still staying with this organization or supporting the regime; are either opportunists, looking to promote their personal interest, or entirely uninformed. Dr. Mutaz was a good example of a person who was seeking the truth, yet when he realized the fallacy of the organization, the spiritual barrens and the lack of religious values he was looking for, he immediately moved away. Moreover, he felt that he had a duty to expose the practices of those Islamists, that way they would not be able to mislead any Sudanese individual. My personal observation is that those who are still serving with the Islamists, whether in the (the National Conference), or (the People’s Conference), have consciously or unconsciously assimilated all the habits of hypocrisy, lies, lack of human values and the ability to be defensive. This is generally because their environment of sordidness can not produce good individuals.
I am quite certain, and I feel comfortable that the timid invitation made by Al-Bashir on Al-Arabia, will find no reverberation, what so ever, among Sudanese people, who were able to discern the sinister intentions of Islamists and their manipulation of religion for personal gain. The experiments which the Sudanese people have stored throughout their historical ordeal have shown that they always act at the appropriate time and in a decisive manner and when they unleash their power for change they are unstoppable. This has happened twice in Sudanese history and each time their rulers put them down. Is this not compelling evidence that these people are giants, while their rulers are dwarfs?