Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 15 February 2011

Why Democracy failed in Sudan


By Namaa Faisal Al Mahdi

If the Sudanese politicians had talked to us in a language we understand- we’d been OK

February 15, 2011 — Just the other day I was leafing through Dr Mansour Khalid’s book “ The Government they Deserve”- considered ( the Reference book on modern Sudanese political affairs and quoted by many on matters of the Sudan) after looking at a few passages my head and eyes began to hurt, my hands could no longer hold the book. It is laden with long heavy sounding words and phrases; it is literally a difficult read and a heavy load on both the mind and hands.

Every now and then, I come across the Umma National Party’s literature; the UNP is one of the biggest political parties in the Sudan, and one of the most active in all political and social arenas. Notes, speeches written to be delivered in half an hour, take me three days to read, long words and many times long speeches, that leave me as a listener remembering nothing and not recalling much of what was said.

Last week I stumbled across the You Tube Videos of the Sudanese Political Movement, Girifna, young men and women, nice poetry and a good message, but to the streets of Khartoum, I often wonder how many understand the words they use and why they were using the words they were using.


I take a wander across the Sudanese newspapers and journals- once again, when the writers are dealing with a political issue, the complex words appear and the complex language becomes the perpetuating theme.

In Sudan, we are 1/3 illiterate- not stupid, we have an uncanny ability to eek a living in one of the harshest and most unforgiving terrains known to mankind, our 1/3 illiterates however are not fluent in the language of politicians words.

The rest, many of us - schooled Sudanese, who are trying to make ends meet during a nationally restrictive and internationally tough economic times, have at least two jobs if not more, we - satisfy our thirst for information with the mere glance at newspaper headlines and or a chat with colleagues about the situation, the thirst for food and shelter- overrides the thirst for written information. Specifically when the newspaper does not provide us with local news or news of good cheaper deals or anything other than Musher Basher’s work agenda and the like....

In the world of the Sudan’s schooled and illiterates - politics is a luxury we cannot afford and engagement in the political process is a luxury, many do not know the basic principles of the democratic process, we know of elections and ballot boxes - but the process in itself, of how a citizen can present his/her demands to an elected government is not very well understood, of how the Prime Minister or President manages an elected government is once again- not very well understood.

We called the three times democratically elected Prime Minister of the Sudan- who was Mr Al Saddig El Mahdi -Hesitant, when all he did was run the Sudan’s Parliament in a democratic manner, which is that - he presents a bill to parliament and subjects it to a vote- he would have needed at least a 50% vote to pass any bill through, a mighty task in a collation government, made up of parliamentarians who -themselves- have shown a lack of understanding of the democratic process.

Many of us say- we leave politics to the politicians, and or politics is a dirty game and or we are not concerned- we are only concerned with our daily bread and meek existence,

Well! I disagree -for me as an individual - Politics decides the price of bread, politics in a nation state decide on almost everything....

I am reminded of Carol Hanisch’s words in 1969- The Personal Is Political.And I once again wonder....... What is it with our Sudanese politicians and the use complex words??

What is with our Sudanese citizens refusing to engage in a process which determines much of the basics in their everyday life??

Many of us say that the political parties- specifically the Umma National Party, handed Sudan over to Military dictatorships. Many also say that the UNP couldn’t rule and its time was full of chaos... I an individual beg to differ and repeat what I said before- Any political party, which is elected into office, by a (relatively) fair and transparent election process, cannot pass a single bill, unless it is seconded by a parliamentary vote of at least 50% of the members of parliament.

With regards to the demonstrations- I and We want to bring back democracy in Sudan just to enable us to demonstrate- every day without any police clamp down, battering and noxious fumes of tear gas- we want democracy and WE WANT TO GET THE STREET PARTY STARTED.

We want to hold accountable, every single member of parliament - including the elected prime minster- to what they have done with our resources and what service they have provided and what bills they have passed and why, why and why and to tell them- to do this and that- to make them true servants of the people of the Sudan and not the current state of self appointed dignitaries in their people paid palaces and people paid fast cars. We want them- to take the bus and the Rikshaw like the rest of us.

With regards to the military takeover of government. A democratic political party is not a military structure and or an army structure, it can only rule via a democratic process of election, if the political party is pushed or forced out of office by a military regime holding the gun, it can not do anything, it is not the responsibility of the political party in question, it is once again- the responsibility of the people of the Sudan, it is them who handed the government three times the military and it is them who cheered when they heard Omar Al Basher’s first address on the radio.

Why do we- Sudanese choose military dictators over democratically elected politicians? well- because the dictator speaks to us - the masses in a language we understand, we can relate to what he’s saying, we can relate to Musher Basher’s saying “ we built this, we did this, we will do this and we will make it easy” even if it is a bunch of lies and we are sure to know the government of Sudan in Khartoum says nothing but lies, but it is lies, that every person in Sudan can understand.

We bring back the military, because we do not understand the democratic process, we do not understand what the Prime Minister is saying let alone what he is doing- we go back to the simple language of the military men, the language they understand.

We -the Sudanese masses- however, cannot relate to and or understand the words of politicians who say to them “we will pioneer radical instruments to eradicate the manifestation of deficiency parameters in the Sudanese provincial regions”-or the like.

We are 1/3 illiterates, 1/3 non readers, one whole living in one the harshest environment known to mankind...........

My dear Mr and Mrs Politician of the Sudan, please speak to us in a language and manner we understand, we do not care to know that you speak complicated words, we care that you speak to us in a language and manner we understand. We are with you, but we do not understand the words and the message you have been telling us, make it simple, we are 1/3 not so great with words.

We want democracy back, but please speak to us in a language we understand.

* Namaa Faisal AL- Mahdi is an educator in the Sudan Open Learning Organization (SOLO), an educational NGO in the Sudan, with HQ in Khartoum, working mainly in providing educational opportunities to vulnerable populations in the Sudan

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  • 15 February 2011 20:28, by Jaja

    Dear Namaa,

    What an on point and brilliantly written article. It is true that Sudanese politics has always and only been left for the intellectuals, that is those who were either wealthy or had access to higher education outside the country. I noticed that crowds at political rallies or speeches only join-in when Allah ’w/akhbar’ is chanted since its the only thing they know and can relate to.

    Sad to say but all politicians speak in euphemisms; it only up to the people to study and try to decipher which these people are saying. Hence politics in Sudan is reserved for the intellectuals , many whom which are the new generation (thank goodness).

    - Jaja

    repondre message

    • 16 February 2011 07:47, by Namaa

      Thank you very much for your feedback Dear Jaja, lets all hope and pray for the peaceful and prosperous Sudans ( North and South).

      All the best regards

      repondre message

  • 18 February 2011 15:17, by Jada Lotole

    Your Piece "makes my mouth water" haaaaa ! just a joke !am not making democracy difficult !
    Brother Namaa , you realy articulated the factor/s that hinder understing of democracy so wsiely ! I like it !
    One USA highly placed official once said . quote " Humanrights is an indispensable component of democracy " I agree with this statement .
    In addition therefore to the factors that make democracy feeble and a failure in the Sudan may include the follwing :
    - Humanrights are not being upheld
    - Some of our folks assocaite democracy with religion ....and hence easily manipulated by the powerhungry politicians .....

    My question to you my brother goes as follows :
    Dont you think we Sudanese need to re-define democracy just like the way Tunisians and Egyptians did ?

    repondre message

    • 21 February 2011 05:44, by Namaa

      Hi Jada,

      I totally agree that human rights need to be upheld,
      that Civil Society needs to be empowered and made effective to hold the government accountable,
      That we need a free press to keep both the government and civil society accountable

      I also agree that we need to - for now, include our tribal governance system as part of our democracy system, but to start all these balls rolling, we need to understand democracy, we need our politicians to connect to the people and the only way this connection is possible is via a language we - all Sudanese Schooled and Unschooled understand
      All the best
      Your Sister- Namaa

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  • 20 February 2011 05:04, by kitir

    The unclear language spoken by northern (Nile) elites, is a part of will designed strategy to put marginalised people out of the game (power), that why the address us in language we can’t understand to not understand, the incomprehensible tongue in question (ARABIC) will soon be a unique spoken language spoken in the country, forced by law and backed by sharia reference to Bashir speech in Gadarif. Let’s talk honestly, what the wrong with addressing address people in their own language (like prophet did) in country like Sudan where the majority of population ignore speaking proper Arabic? You may agree with me that one of major factors of division of Sudan is the coercive teaching of Arabic language and its values to undermine the existing one; this is against the ALLAH’s will that ,created various languages!! The Nordic elite to justify these inhumane acts, simply claims; they are lieutenant of God in the land, refer to NIF/NCP literatures!! So the Nordic are needed to change their mentality not speeches,, otherwise they will remain until they say to people we( Understood you) like Bin Ali

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