Racism Masquerading As Arab-Islamic Nationalism
By Charles Deng
Dr. Abdullah Ali Ibrahim has never been a friend of the South, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), nor its leader, our fallen hero, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. In a recent article in the electronic Sudanile.com, despite some timid praises of the SPLM meeting in Rumbek, he asserted that he never strategically differed with the SPLM on the need of restructuring the “Old Sudan”. Indeed, I was surprised about Dr. Abdullah’s sudden change of heart. Was it for real, or a change of tact? Although I read frequently for Dr. Abdulla because of his intellect and concise language, Dr. Abdulla has invariably been critical of the SPLM as well as “al-junubien”—the favorite term Dr. Abdullah is fond of when referring to the Sudanese from the South.
As usual, Dr. Abdullah did not forget to squarely lay blame at the doorstep of the SPLM for the failure of the third democratic period. In that regard, Dr. Abdullah said that Pagan Amoum, the new secretary-general of the SPLM, congratulation of the Sudanese people on the occasion of the 21st Anniversary of the April Uprising in 1985, rekindled his old problems with the SPLM. According to Dr. Abdullah, Amoum’s assertion that the Uprising was aborted by the second man in the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)—General Swar-el-Dahab—taking power, thereby preventing the people of the Sudan from consummating or realizing democracy, is an argument he, Dr. Abdullah, never bought. He further asserted that Amoum blamed the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and every one for the failure of the third democratic period, except his Movement (meaning SPLM).
To be fair to the man, Dr. Abdullah has not been alone in this crusade, but he has been in the company of an important segment of the Arab-Islamic elite such as Dr. Khalid al-Mubark, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shush and many others. The common thread that ties this troika is their basic thesis that al-junubi (southerner) does not possess cognitive faculties, and must be shown the way by their self appointed big brother, the same attitude of the White Boers of South Africa, before Mandela. This racist attitude leads the troika to the obvious hostility to the SPLM and its leader, their constant and relentless demonization of the SPLM and its fallen hero, Dr. John Garang de Mabior; and conversely, the troika tacit support of the theocratic fascist National Islamic Front (NIF) junta coup of June 30, 1989, as representing the Arab-Islamic Sudan versus the New Sudan.
Despite the fact that it has been the bloodiest and reactionary coup Sudan has ever had in its modern history, Dr. Abdullah first initial reaction to the al-Turabi/al-Bashir’s coup was cooperative and supportive. Consequently, Dr. Abdullah has not been able to explain to the satisfaction of his former northern colleagues and admirers on the left as to the real reasons behind his initial support of this theocratic Islamic junta. For southerners, Dr. Abdullah’s supportive stand vis-à-vis the fascist junta could be explained by three factors: first, his obvious unconcealed hostility to the Southern spirit of resistance—led by the SPLM and Dr. John Garang—to the efforts of the Arab-Islamic North imposition of Arabism and Islamism on the African South; second, which is a corollary of he first, the war agenda that was palpable in the Islamic junta early statements; and third, that war agenda necessitated the abrogation of the only peace plan that all the Sudan people and its political forces had opted for, except the NIF of Dr. Hassan al-Turabi and the Arab-Islamic elite segment referred to above.
This support for the theocratic NIF government is still as plain as the nose on one’s face in the referred to article. Dr. Abdullah could not therefore conclude his article, without attempting to write the last chapter in the history of Sudan and laying blame at the doorstep of the SPLM and Dr. John Garang. True to his colors, Dr. Abdullah attempts to find an explanation in the failure of third democracy in the recent history of the Sudan, oblivious of the fact that he was not the only witness of that period. Any high school kid of that time knows perfectly well what obtained in the Sudan between 1985-1989. Any attempt to distort or change the facts of that period by whomsoever to suit his/her idiosyncrasies is bound to fail, however that attempt is eloquently expressed.
It is vitally important that we soberly sit back and critically examine the events of that period. What obtained during that period is the fact that the Democratic Alliance for National Salvation (DANS) celebrated a hollow victory on April 6, 1985, while allowing the Numeiri’s 15 generals, headed by Swar el-Dahab, and the Muslim brother prime minister, al-Gizouli Dafalla, steal the people’s Uprising. In other words, the DANS celebrated and left the central decision-making power in the hands of Nimeiri’s successors. In addition, the DANS had no agenda, and if it ever had, the priorities in that agenda were upside down. Hence, the people’s Uprising was higgledy-piggledy led. For instance, the first attempt by the DANS to repeal the infamous September Laws—the main legacy of Nimeiri and his partners from the Muslim Brotherhood—met with stiff resistance from the TMC, the traditional sectarian parties, and the prime minister, al-Gizouli Daffalla, a Muslim Brotherhood’s cadre. The SPLM pointed out this contradiction in its first statement about the people’s Uprising.
Despite its misgivings about the April Uprising, the SPLM did not delay in engaging in dialogue with DANS that wrongly assumed they were the main forces after the demise of the Nimeiri regime. This dialogue with DANS resulted in the Koka-Dam Declaration and Ambo Workshop recommendations. The Koka-Dam Declaration and Ambo recommendations were about the necessity of a national constitutional conference, which would rally all the Sudan political forces, including the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), in search for viable and just solution of the issue of war and the acute national crisis. The constitutional conference was basically an idea of the SPLM, embodied in its Manifesto of 1983. Koka-Dam also called, among other things, for the postponement of the scheduled elections that were to be held in April 1986, until the constitutional conference was held so all the Sudan political forces enter the elections under a clear political agenda and constitutional arrangements.
Because of the Northern traditinonal sectarian parties greed for power and the myopic vision of the DANS, the demand of the SPLM to postpone the elections was rejected off hand. The reason being that if the elections were postponed the military would get addicted to power. Hence, in April 1986, elections were only held in the northern constituencies, excluding most of the southern constituencies for reasons of security, producing half legitimate parliament—the same mistake that the same traditional Northern political parties and the October Uprising forces committed in 1965. There were no specific demands SPLM asked the DANS to perform, as Dr. Abdulla would want his readers to believe. An honest and credible historian would find no blame with the SPLM, unless Dr. Abdulla wanted the SPLM to settle for the status quo ante and give up the armed struggle and return to the failed Jallaba Old Sudan.
Nevertheless, our fallen hero, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, met in Addis Ababa with new ‘old’ prime minister, al-Saddig al-Mahdi, for a nine-hour-marathon deliberation in which all the issues in contention were thrashed out. The meeting left the declaration of that agreement or understanding to the prime minister to declare on his arrival back to Khartoum. Al-Saddig did not intend to reach any agreement with Dr. John Garang. At his arrival back in Khartoum, al-Saddig began the idle talk that the representatives of his Umma party that concluded the Koka-Dam Declaration were not authorized, and that major parties such as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the National Islamic Front did not participate. In fact, the oscillation of al-Saddig was the product of his undeclared support of the September Laws and the objection of the party of his brother-in-law, Dr. Hasan al-Turabi, to Koka-Dam, as sell out to the SPLM.
In 1988, the SPLM decided to approach the DUP, the junior partner in al-Saddig coalition government, to negotiate a bilateral agreement with view of bringing them on board into the Koka-Dam Declaration. The dialogue resulted into the historic al-Mirghani-Garang agreement. However, the senior partner in the coalition government, Umma, opposed the DUP/SPLM Sudan peace agreement, and actually voted it down in the Constituent Assembly on December 21, 1988, using the votes of the NIF’s members of the Assembly. As such, the Assembly vote embarrassed the DUP and forced it to quit the coalition. This forced SAF to step in with its famous memorandum in February 1989, compelling al-Saddig to dissolve his partnership with his brother-in-law and called for a government of national unity and accept the al-Mirghani-Garang agreement as the basis for peace.
Dr. al-Turabi’s NIF, which had formed a coalition with Umma after the DUP’s withdrawal from government at the end of December 1988, was infuriated by al-Saddig’s acceptance of the DUP/SPLM agreement, as the basis for peace. Following the resignation of the NIF from the government and its refusal to join in a government of national unity, talk of military coup filled the air. As Garang put it in 1994: “In fact, by 1989, the traditional Jellaba system of Old Sudan became untenable and could only maintain itself by resorting to its most extreme form.” That is why the evil fascist NIF of al-Turabi and Omar al-Bashir staged a coup on June 30, 1989 to preserve the Old Sudan and declared Jihad on the SPLA and the people of the South. All the Sudanese, except Dr. Abdullah, know the rest of the story.
It is clear therefore that it is the indecisiveness of al-Saddig al-Mahdi, the weaknesses of the forces of moderation in the rank of the Arab-Islamic elite and the fascist NIF lust for power that cost the Sudan the treasured democracy and progress.
Dr. Abdullah’s claim that he has never strategically differed with the SPLM is a whitewash and the SPLM and our colleague, the SPLM secretary-general, Pagan Amoum, should not buy it. As to the promise of Dr. Garang before his death to meet the Arab-Islamic segment represented by the Dr. Abdullah, which opposed SPLM and Dr. Garang, this is another poisoned chalice that should only be accepted when Dr. Abdulla and his group have shown some tangible good faith in the viability and the necessity of such dialogue.
I hope Dr. Abdullah has been carefully reading the political scene in the Sudan. The issue of unity of Sudan or its disintegration is not something that can be left to unseen power of God or to some clever craftiness Abdullah may be contemplating. It is my view that if the democratic secular forces, although non-existent at this moment, win the 2008 elections, the unity of the Sudan stands a chance in 2011. This scenario means that Sudanese politics would be devoid of religious, cultural and racial domination to an extend that southerners would not feel as second-class citizens in their own country. If the theocratic forces such as the Umma Party, the NIF (two branches), or the combination of both, win in 2008, then bye-bye the Sudan we all know.
In this last scenario, southern Sudanese will remember the words of its fallen hero and I quote: “I, Cdr. Dr. John Garang de Mabior, is delivering this message again and again, please pay close attention for you to understand it very clearly: I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years, have brought you the CPA in a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience bush life. When time comes to vote at the referendum, it is your golden choice to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second-class citizens in your own country? It is absolutely your choice” (Rumbek, the 22nd SPLM/A Anniversary, May 16, 2005).