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Shedding Tears For An Elusive Unity

As anyone who has paid attention to the tragic history of Sudan knows, its internal conflict has been marked by extreme violence toward civilians. In the Darfur region of Northern Sudan, war-related killings, starvation and death from disease have been labeled “genocidal” by international human rights organizations, who have accused the Sudanese government, led by Omar al-Bashir, with attempting to wipe out the black African population of the region. In July, 2010, al-Bashir was charged by the International Criminal Court at the Hague with three counts of genocide in Darfur. He has also been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. For detailed background of this terrible conflict, readers are directed to sites here, here, here, and here. This article by a Sudan Star journalist mocks the sudden emotion over the prospect of Sudan’s partition by politicians, especially from a hitherto ruthless leader of north Sudan, Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie.  Dr. Nafie is known for torturing his teacher, for example, simply for teaching evolution.

Tensions are mounting in Sudan, in the run-up to a January 2011 referendum in which Southern Sudan will vote on independence. The Sudanese conflict, which began in 1989, has been driven by historic animosities between the predominantly Arab north, and the black African animist and Christian population in the south.  At stake, from an economic perspective, are Sudan’s large oil reserves, most of which straddles the border between north and south.  The Sudan government and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement signed a peace agreement in 2005, and the government signed a framework peace agreement with Darfur region rebels in February, 2010.

 Ahmed Elzobier can be reached at ahmed.elzobir@gmail.com.

The crying season has started in Northern Sudan. It was reported that hard-line politician Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, assistant to President Omar al-Bashir, cried on Wednesday 27 October in response to an emotional statement by Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) member, Ekhlas Garang, during a women’s conference on unity and peace in Khartoum. Ms. Garang told the conference that “it was unreasonable to ask people to cross from the north to the south using passports”.

“These people belong to one country and it is painful to split relationships of the womb and blood”, pleaded Ms. Garang, tearfully.  It was reported that most participants at the meeting also cried.

Those who know Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, the government’s tough guy, were bewildered by his show of emotion. He is not known for tears. For example, he has repeatedly said that he has no remorse for killing the 28 military officers involved in the failed coup attempt in April 1991. During his tenure as Security Director from 1989 to 1995 Sudan witnessed the worst period of torture recorded in the country’s modern history. Dr. Nafie is infamously known to have been involved in the torture of his teacher and colleague Dr. Farouk Mohamed Ibrahim, former Associate Professor at the University of Khartoum. Dr. Ibrahim was repeatedly kicked, beaten and flogged in 1989 for, among other things, the teaching of evolutionary theory at the university. Whether or not Nafie’s recent tears are genuine, only the coming days will tell. His sentiments, however, were in stark contrast to the dry-eyed statements of other National Congress Party (NCP) members like the Minister for Information, who only last month said, “We will not even give them [southern Sudanese living in the north] a needle in the hospitals."

Some of these ruling party figures resemble the lead character in the film “Primal Fear”, and perhaps in the court of history they will plead insanity, “it is Roy who did it, not Aaron”, a classic case of multiple personality disorder. An American diplomat who recently met with some of these “leading figures” in Khartoum has expressed concern about the level of confusion among the party elites, saying “they are in disarray on all the major issues”.

The tear-shedding is not an NCP monopoly, however. It was also reported that the SPLM leader Pagan Amum cried when he listened to the South Sudan anthem in Juba.

As the [January, 2011] referendum inches nearer, many of us will become emotional for various reasons. For those who would like to shed some tears, please cry for those who have lost their lives, for the displaced and dispossessed. Cry for our ignorance, negligence and indifference. As the map of this country will not be the same, poems and songs need to be rewritten. Dances and rhythms need to be adapted; history and geography lessons need to be adjusted. The title of the “largest country in Africa” will be forever lost. In such trying times, nations need leaders that are more transcending and transformative – but we do not have them! In our messy Sudan, we have undoubtedly killed our Gandhi or Mandela somewhere inside a young mother’s womb in the past fifty years.

Hope still persists, however. In Khartoum, a campaign called Citizenship Rights and Peoples’ Unity, although belated, was launched on 27 October at the Al Khatim Adlan Centre. The authors of this initiative recognize that the issue of citizenship will be the most critical one among all pre- and post-referendum arrangements and a series of workshops was organized by the Centre last month to provide a focus for the campaign. The initiative calls upon all Sudanese people to support the following proposals:

  1.  The recognition of the principle of dual nationality for southern Sudanese living in the north and who wish to remain in the north, northern Sudanese in the south who wish to remain in the south, and the pastoralist tribes in the border areas.
  2. Respect for the “four freedoms”: freedom of movement, residence, ownership and work. These too should be agreed upon and announced before the referendum.
They further insist that the two parties to the peace agreement should “refrain from inflammatory public statements so that citizens from southern Sudan who live in the north and those from [northern Sudan] living in the south, can feel secure in their li[ves] and property”.

This statement of rights “will be available to all Sudanese to sign inside and outside Sudan”, announced the campaigners. The man behind such a noble idea is Dr. Farouk Mohamed Ibrahim, he who was tortured by the tearful Dr. Nafie.  While his tormentors are shedding tears for their lost unity, Dr. Ibrahim remains cool, calm, collected and, as always, humane and dignified.

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