Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 4 November 2003

The Yoam Kida Yoam Kida Political Swamp


Mahgoub El-Tigani, Sudan Tribune

November 3, 2003 — Days ago, many northern observers spoke negatively about the new merge of the split-group SPLM-United with the mother SPLM/SPLA: Dr. Lam Akol, they alleged, has been swinging in a pendulum of allegiance between the NIF ruling regime and his own SPLM/SPLA warring colleagues. This is "a sign of dishonor," exclaimed his observers, since he has been changing allegiance regarding the "Cause of liberating the South from Northern hegemony," exactly as a person "changes a piece of cloth." Now that there is an opportunity of some booty with the expected peace agreement between the Sudan Government and the SPLM, the critics further alleged, the former university professor Akol would not waste a minute to get his own share, once again at expense of "the Cause."

True, the SPLM factions, including the Shulluk-based Akol troops and the Nuer-based Machar troops have certainly experienced a form of Yoam Kid Yoam Kida attitude, as a famous 1960s song by the southerner singer Richard McCarthy might have nicely claimed: that is to say a "go-in-go-out" politics with the Dinka-based SPLA, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Khartoum fundamentalist regime. Here, there are several questions, however, that should be immediately asked: what reasons in actual fact underlie this cyclical emigration of notable southerner politicians between the SPLM/SPLA centralized authorities and the Sudan Government’s central power?

Haven’t northern politicians experienced all kinds of intra-splits and inter-power zigzags when the opportunity was just right for their central regimes to act fairly well with the South instead of the unprincipled manners the most recent northern government continues to show towards the South unity and welfare? Why is it that observers’ wrath on the originally northerly-invented Yoam Kida Yoam Kida politics or go-in go-out alliances is so prejudiced that it tends to reprimand only the southern politicians who have been severely coerced to play politics in a swamp of civil war and social relegation besides the ten times "dishonored agreements,’ the most widely cited phrase of the Honorable Abel Alier, whenever South-North relations are mentioned for half a century or more?

To tell the truth, northern counterparts, perhaps more than southerners, exercised similar strategies with additional tactics that qualified many of them to popular names such as "Hakim Dima" [the "Power-Seeker," a grandiose title that is nationally reserved to the Muslim Brotherhood Chief Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, with whom the SPLM/SPLA signed a letter of understanding in accordance with the most unpopular northern political traditions!], "al-Mutasaligeen" [the Power-Creepers - another term that was largely used to describe the Muslim Brotherhood members who exerted every possible effort to get political or administrative appointments, as well as the Umma/DUP members or the Communists who abandoned their parties for the sake of a few jobs with military regimes], and the "Tanablat al-Sultan," a term applying to both northern and southern politicians who did their "worst" to stay in the seats of authority only to enjoy State financial corruption.

Naturally then, there should be some way to straighten out the North-South, as well as the South-South and the North-North power relations since all these pairs of interrelationships have been largely disturbed, corrupted, and manipulated consistently by army-ruled dictatorial regimes (namely the ’Abboud, Nimeri, and al-Bashir tyrannical governments) or harassed by the major failure of the 1986 democratically elected government to abolish the Nimeiri arsenal of wasteful laws to straighten out the South-North relations, despite unprecedented popular support since the mid 1980s to democratize the State. These bureaucratic-structural reasons might well explain the weaknesses of Sudanese power alliances rather than interpreting them in the light of individual power-seeking or de facto indigenous leadership competition that, on its own right continues to influence the Sudanese arena in the absence of stable secular traditions before and after the Sudan’s Independence Day.

Perhaps two Sudanese sayings suggest a reasonable discussion on these issues: 1) Moat al-Jama’a ’Iris [a collective funeral is a wedding day]; and 2) al-Nas ’ala Deen Muluka [people follow the tradition of their rulers]. Let us see how these popular proverbs relate to the Lam Akol most recent merge with the mother SPLM, which, if seriously implemented, would make a significant step, regardless of the critical observations by many observers, towards unifying the South-South power-striving groups, something that the whole Sudan badly needs in the present time since a strong unified South is indeed a necessary safeguard to enable the Sudanese to reform their longstanding prejudiced relations, especially in the next transition rule.

Equally important, the South Unified Front must pay equal attention to the Southerners civil society groups that struggle for human rights and public freedoms with progressive thought and peaceful organization, not with bullets of armed groups. International constitutional and judicial human rights reform is a must in the South and in the North on equal terms. Compensation of the victimized parties, fair trials for criminal cases, and stable implementation of constitutional rights will never materialize without principled recognition and firm realization of international human rights norms by the competent authority as well as the society at large. Those signing agreements by virtue of the office must never be exempted from the deserved prosecution or proper adjudication.

The Moat al-Jama’a ’Iris politics seems quite plausible to the extent that the Sudanese old-centuries wisdom might appear relevant to the current Sudan politics. This goes back to the days of the ancestry pharaohs and kings, those of whom the Nubian Christian King Barshambu and his competing family members on one side, and the Christian rulers and their ambitious cousins the Banu Kanz Arab Muslims on the other side went as far as inviting Egyptian authorities to go-in, even though these Black leaders knew by heart that their African Mediterranean fellows have been accustomed by the peculiar set-up of the Nile Valley north of Uganda to maintain "presumably understandable words or actions" about the Southern Gate of the Nile, whenever they felt so, without much consideration to the competing Barshambu(s) even before the science of modern geopolitics came into being or the White House cash crop stick-carrot strategies decided to move actively in the troubled region.

The Sudanese contemporary Barshambu(s) could go west as far as the United States or east to the Arab League and the Islamic Conference where hostility is flatly waged versus the West and the USA with little calculations, in both cases, to the consequences of ignoring Ashab al-Maslaha al-Haqiqiya - an expression used by the left-wing supporters after the October 1964 Uprising with reference to the Sudanese disenfranchised majority that theoretically is the most targeted population of social change while it is practically made the least concerned with the political game! Hence, the intriguing analysis of the Sudanist-Nubian scholar William Y. Adams about the Mameluke rulers, the Nubian Christian kings, and the Banu Kanz Nubian-Arab successors who engaged in endless "convoluted stories of treachery and intrigue" that always ended up with some form of the Yoam-Kida Yoam-Kida unstable authority structure.

It is not difficult for our northern observers who were apparently "offended" by Dr. Akol re-merging with the mother SPLM/SPLA to take a quick glance at the most shining names in the North, for instance the DUP/Umma leaders who closely collaborated with the Ja’far Nimeiri regime, and then ruled with Nimeiri through top party members as ministers or - at least distinguished members of the single-candidate single-party People’s Assembly - following modern "Barshambu episodes" of the 1970’s National Reconciliation that dealt a strong shot to the negligible Hassan Turabi Brotherhood terrorists to throw them right into the Republican Palace where they were comfortably able to prepare for the June 1989 ongoing authority swamp.

The same hollow Sudanese Socialist Union and the succeeding Brotherhood National Assembly hand-picked parliament, included, still today, DUP/Umma and other northern party members who changed principles as "a person changes a piece of cloth." Nowadays, the firmly opposed DUP/Umma leadership that is varyingly related to the NDA, not the already usurped negligible DUP/Umma factions into the Brotherhood government, is happily sending delegates to participate - without formal recognition - as invitees to the Kenya-based peace negotiations by ’Ali ’Uthman Taha, the one who wickedly overthrew their elected government in 1989. Is this courteous "merge" enough sign of the Barshambu politics in the peace negotiations?!

History teaches us that the whole northern and southern politicians have been marching in the collective funeral; the most undesirable wedding ceremony, as the Sudanese popular wisdom has already noted. The big difference, however, between the North and the South go-in go-out political rounds with the Central Government ruling army is crystal clear: most of the Khartoum politicians have peacefully maneuvered for power relations for the most part, or insured opposition residential compromises without receiving aerial bombing or having to face out the Saif al-’Ubor massive offensive against their villages, as has been the case with the half century Southern "rebels" and the DarFur and the Beja Congress new "rebels" in the present time.

The northern "non-rebel" opponents have been exercising political opposition versus "their" ruling armed forces, being mostly composed of the Khatmiya/Ansar members, even after the strenuous struggle of Hassan al-Turabi and ’Ali ’Uthman Taha to replace the 60-year made 70,000 professional well-trained army regulars with the business-oriented poorly-trained Brotherhood members/supporters/victims in only one decade of totalitarian rule. Both Taha and Omer al-Bashir, for another lively example, are members of northern Sudanese Khatmiya-based families! This should partially explain ’Ali ’Uthman’s repeated visits "for courtesy" to al-Merghani and his political Sufi competitor al-Mahdi in Cairo, along his official visits to the ’Abdin Palace every time the peace negotiations needed activation of the ancestral Barshambu tradition.

Sudanese northern Yoam-Kida Yoam-Kida politics has been going on within a larger bondage of Sudanese Sufi norms (that is to say the Sudanese Islam), cross-cousin kinship relations, and the inherited Barshambu family traditional competition. All in all, the northern politicians appear relatively comfortable while fighting within themselves with all these mitigating modalities. Exceptionally, the Communists and the trades unions small share of the armed forces and the Sufi powerful traditions was hardly under-utilized, including the disputed linkage of the Communist Party with the Free Officers Rectification Movement of 1971 that many non-Sudanese researchers still believe it had mainly victimized the Sudanese only secularist party by the warring army regulars, al-’Atta and Nimeiri rather than party members.

The southerner politicians are not different from their northern counterparts as far as the army-civilian relationships are concerned. The South works out its Yoam-Kida Yoam-Kida politics often forced to adjust to the northern central governance and its negligence of the South autonomous rule or its denial of the South right to self determination. That is one reason perhaps why the South often resorts to action within its own mode of Sufi (mostly Christian or African religious and sisterly) traditions, which following their own logic dictate strong extended family ties and very special linguistic, ethnic, and "tribal" relations versus the North. These ties infiltrate the whole southern political and military structures. Observers and critics are thus required to study carefully the impact of these ties to help make fair assessment of the South-South politics, as they do justifying the North-North or North-South relations.

The southerners socio-cultural linkages could have been allowed since August 1955 to mould the South-North disputes in a fruitful path of constructive politics, as they did in the pre-independence Juba Chiefs’ Conference for example, when the Southern leaders were never forced to agree with their northern counterparts under threats of armies or aerial bombardment, but were consciously deciding for themselves by themselves on the inevitability of the unified Sudan on the basis of equal indiscriminate terms of political, social, cultural, and economic interaction that still is a national dream.

The northern armies, politicians, and civil service commissioners were largely representing the authorities that corrupted the South-North mode of political relations: acting prejudicially to label the South go-in go-out politics as "immoral, etc." while giving a blind eye to what they, the northerners, continue to perform as contemporary Barshambu politics with their ruling army leaders. The northern leaders are the ones who forced the Sudanese politics to adapt to the power-thirst ’Abboud demagogic elderly, as well as the Nimeiri and the Bashir teen-aging political trainees.

Al-Nas ’ala Deen Muluka [people follow the tradition of their rulers] correctly reiterates the Sudanese popular wisdom. And yet, the blame should honestly go to the Sudanese national groups in question, especially the Sudanese Armed Forces that until this day most ungratefully succeeded in boosting up the failures of ruling the Million Mile Nation beyond all acceptable measures, simply because the Sudanese army, in the best meaning of the concept, governs by force! The northerners have inherited an army whose officers strongly believe they are there to rule, somewhat, someday! The southerners must equally consider what to do with the SPLA and the many other troops in and after the next transition government since the "rebel" troops have been virtually ruling by force, exactly like their northern army colleagues did.

These ideas are not directly linked with the Sudan Government-SPLM recent agreement to branch out "a joint military arrangement" under a most disputable "presidential command," or the most recent Bashir go-out announcements in Al-Ahram Egyptian daily, "accusing" Garang of planning on a "separate" ministry of defense, currency, and central bank (that are bureaucratically necessary to insure the "honoring" of the South needs under any "peace agreement" with the NIF non-democratic rule). Interestingly, the same Bashir continues to ascertain his government’s commitment to make "a permanent and just peace" with the "rebel" South without changing a bit his repression of the North!

This awful contradiction of the Sudanese political arena needs a strong surgery of human rights and public freedoms, which must not come about with coercion (or another military coup) although it must be initiated and then developed with the strong support of constitutionally committed army officers to support the civilian popular movement for democracy and peace, as a few noble army regulars consistently did in the modern history of Sudan.

There is always a chance to initiate new modes of political dealings: these must be established with national consensus so that newly-established Sudanese civil society organizations, new parties, and new trades unions leadership, from the South and from the North find the right opportunity to start afresh principled politics away from army bombardments, Barshambu traditions, or the Brotherhood terrorism.

*Member of Sudanese Writers’ Union (in exile) and the president of Sudan Human Rights Organization Cairo-Branch.

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