Sunday, April 20, 2014


Abdelwahab Elaffendi worries of "alienation nearer to home"
as the government steps up military campaigns against 'aliens' far from home
Abdelwahab Elaffendi was once upon a time a leading Sudanese Islamist scholar. Now professor at the University of Westminster, he recently wrote a rather banal op-ed on Aljazeera English on the ostensible deterioration of Sudanese politics and the loss of "habitual civility" of the so-called Sudanese generations. The substance of the article can be reduced to a number of features: reflexive, observational, morose, weary, helpless, fearful, hopeful for the wrong reasons, and--as always--unapologetically pro-Islamist establishment.

Warped Reality

Elaffendi worries of a trend of "alienation nearer to home" whereby some government official was denied opportunity to pay respects to the venerable and vulnerable Mahjoub Sharif who lay on his death bed. Younger members of the Sharif family "had other ideas", the Islamist tells us.

Elaffendi also worries that Nafie Ali Nafie, an ex-security chief know as the Doctor Doom of rendition, was chased away from the lamentable death of some "young pharmacist shot dead during last September's protests" (as he puts it). Note Elaffendi does not recognize the name Salah Sanhouri.

In all this Elaffendi worries that rebellion expressions are coming closer to the center:

These steps [signal] a radical departure from habitual Sudanese civility... Is this a sign of a further deterioration in social relations, or a positive indication that people are now expressing themselves with increasing frankness, which is essential for genuine dialogue?...Indeed, the uncompromising (not to say abusive) language one encounters on the myriad of websites expressing dissident views is very disturbing, and is one sure sign of the deterioration of Sudanese politics.

On telling my sibling of Elaffendi's remarks, they said:

Elaffendi reminds me of those old British forces that complained of effective and novel hit-and-run tactics employed by American militias, in contrast to British expectation of open battlefield, musket for musket. The British wanted the Americans to show a little decorum (and to be good chaps and take it up the wazoo...[how is that for polity Elaffendi?]). The Americans, naturally, didn't want that.  Elaffendi is making similar remarks about the underground freedom movement, that it is uncharacteristically lacking in adab (manners) and polity with the rulers of blood and iron.

We live in incredible times.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Can we negotiate with the government of Sudan?

Alex de Waal once said:
The issue of the political organization of progressive elements in Sudan demands serious reflection and debate, similar to that initiated by the late Khatim Adlan with his famous tract, “It’s Time for Change.” The question of the political organization of progressives in Sudan is unresolved.
On the predicament of the Central African Republic's recent civil war, Alex de Waal recently had this to say in his criticism of CAR's neighbors' failure to act (Sudan excepted):
Only when the acuity of African political analysis is matched by Africa’s readiness to act on that analysis, will there be any prospect of Africa resolving its problems.
On Sudan's September '13 demonstrations against the state, de Waal wrote a contextualized op-ed that "Makes Sense of Khartoum's protests". In laboring to capture the narrative he says:
The immediate challenge for the opposition is intellectual. Sudan’s political economy needs a structural transformation, and dismantling the ruling party and security institutions will not achieve that. Over the sixty years since self-rule in 1953, Sudan has tried different basic formulae for governance including centralizing modernization (of different ideological strands), liberal parliamentarism, and unity in diversity. The challenge is to find a combination of all three, which in turn means there must be an inclusive national dialogue.
De Waal isn't really saying anything new here but the suggestion that the ruling Islamists be included in a post-revolution national dialog is as absurd as de Waal is obscure in his recommendation. He gets less obscure in Recognizing Nelson Mandela:
The ANC leadership never wavered from its foundational objective of achieving a democratic non-racial South Africa, and regarded all else—such as the criminalization of Apartheid—as subject to negotiation. That leadership also was determined to avoid the dangers of “militarism”—i.e. the isolation of military activity from political guidance....The struggle to overthrow Apartheid was a revolutionary struggle, characterized by rigorous internal discipline that included, when required, secrecy and deception.
De Waal strikes a point Sudanese aren't clear on either: criminalizing the presiding and past high offices of the ruling government's National Congress, the reincarnation of the Revolutionary Command Council.

I had a discussion on the topic of post-revolutionary NCP dialog with my father a few days ago and he seemed willing to compromise with Islamists in power to (in his words) minimize bloodshed arising in deep-state removal.  I understood his sentiment, but was appalled by his willingness to negotiate, reasons for which I viewed more as a pretext than anything.

"You can't include a government in post-revolution dialog when it repeatedly makes false calls for dialog and repeatedly refuses or makes false appeals to fostering a free and fair environment; a government that has presided over the murder of millions of citizens; a government that has overseen the dissolution of longstanding institutions, unraveling of basic health care, the division of the nation, and then some more. Besides, your comparison to the apartheid government is rooted on false pretexts. The apartheid government negotiated and yielded power to the ANC, knowing full well it had no chance in a future democratic South Africa. In other words, we have to see minimum overtures before we are willing to make concessions for (emphasis) a potential dialog, otherwise what are you standing for? Don't even mention it. Hold the fort and raise your demands."

His reply to me, "I'm not an activist. I don't want to continuously talk of how bad the government is. There are nuances we should account for in our private discussion."

My reply: "Oh so this is fun for you. It's fun to theorize on these issues. No listen, I can understand a lack of interest in partaking in activism, and I can understand your general disinterest in applauding activists' efforts. Your country has failed you. And somewhere along the way you got lost in disillusionment. But have some respect for the dead, dying, and suffering. Be careful what you say and think. There are lines we cannot cross both in public and private. There are activists out there echoing the same sentiments you are... ready to appeal to the public to lay down their lives to expropriate this government and then ready to negotiate with it. It's absurd.  How we start the next government is extremely important and must strike the right balance of justice and minimal strife. Including the Congress party is unacceptable."

Knowing well my disliking of Marxists he walked away mumbling, "yeah that's what the Marxists say."

I just chuckled and shook my head.