by: Talal Nayer
The two wings of the Khartoumian Club
After two aborted revolutions against militarism; October 1964 and April 1985; the contemporary situation gives us the impression that we are eye-witnessing the unhurried death of the Fourth Democracy; the democracy that came after the months of struggle, tears and blood. The revolution of December took down the head of the regime Omar al-Bashir, but the al-Inqazz [i] is rooted structurally in the transactional government, ideologically, militarily, economically, and much worse; politically. The ruling body in Khartoum - the Forces for Freedom and Change – hypothetically embodies the revolutionary forces that generated the uprising between December 2018 and April 2019, an uprising which took place even years earlier.
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) is a coalition of inconsistent and irreconcilable dogmatic forces, but what syndicates these conflicting parties that they are all appropriated to the Islamo-arab ideology. The ruling class in Khartoum wasn’t and isn’t willing to accomplish peace or democracy in Sudan. Any real democratic change will not advantage the Khartomian elites for the reason that they will be incompetent to find their historical privilege on politics and economy. That is why declaring war in the name of patriotism is the only way to avoid this fundamental transfiguring in the political equation in Sudan. Any modification or transformation means that those Khartomian elitists will not be capable to rule Sudan again, at least Sudan in its old formula.
The last defence-line:
The conflict in Sudan is essentially cultural, and warfare is a consequence and not a purpose. Understanding this principle can make it easier to anatomize the mind and the mentality of the Khartomian elitists. The peace negotiations - in Addis Ababa and Juba - witnessed the inflexibility of the government’s delegation, and most of the negotiation rounds crumpled violently under the military-mindset of the government’s delegation.
The military arm of the ruling class displays intransigence and the refusal to any acceptance of secularism or impartial peace agreement. The aggression of the army - from my point of view – is only a division of rules: The Forces for Freedom and Change plays the rule of the political wing by keeping their mouth muted while the military wing is taking the responsibility of defending the Khartoumian club and its privileges.
The western diplomacy designed an arrangement or a treaty for Sudan called (The Soft Landing) which can be summarized shorty in: a deal that preserves the Islamist military regime in power but in one condition; shares the power with the political parties. The Revolution of 19 December knocked down The Soft Landing pact, but the political wing of the Khartoumian club sneaked around the revolutionary groups and spread out the deal by series of secret and public gatherings with the military leaders. The ultimate result of these congregations is signing the Constitutional Document in August 2019.[ii]
Al-Kafeel is always right
The Constitutional Document was a kiss-of-life for the Islamist militarist regime which has an obsession with the Islamo-arab ideology. The hysteria with this dogmatic model gives the idea of how the Sudanese regime deals with foreigner affairs:
Khartoum government continues to send fighters to Yemen in contrast to the will of the Sudanese citizens only to satisfy the Saudi government who involved in a never-ending blood-stained confrontation with the Houthis since 2014.[iii] The recent normalization relationships between Sudan and Israel doesn’t come from contentment or a strong position, it came off only under the pressure of the UAE government which sought after normalization with Israel but the Emiratis didn’t want to be red-handed alone, they dragged helpless Sudan. When the normalization with Israel was a political taboo on the Arab World, the Sudanese were more Arabs than the Arabs and they supported the Palestinian militias financially and politically, and also militarily.[iv]
Nowadays and as soon as the decision-making-centre moved from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, the taboo had been broken, and what was forbidden in the recent past it became at the moment utterly ordinary. Sudan continuously – goes forward and backwards - keeps pace with the Arab trend, and in this day and age the wave moved in the direction of Israel, and the Sudanese government agreed.
“The customer is always right” "is a motto or slogan which encourages service staff to offer an extraordinary priority to customer satisfaction. When it comes to the bond between Sudan and the Arab countries, The Petro-dollar-states are not customers, but they are actually the masters because “al-Kafeel is always right”[v] when he pays the price. The Sudanese economy with its rich natural resources still depends on aids from the Gulf States. When it comes to Sudan and the Arab countries it seems like crystal-model of a slave-master relationship when the high priority is the satisfaction of Oil-Kingdoms.
Shari’a is a redline
The Sudanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood penetrated the structure of the Sudanese politics after Jaafar Nimeiry established an alliance with the two of the main Islamist forces in the country; the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Umma party in 1977. Hassan al-Turabi started his Islamization project which sustained successfully even after the breakdown of the second dictatorship in 1985. The Muslim Brotherhood preserved the old wine but in new bottles: they adopted a new name; The National Islamic Front. The NIS was the leading confrontational stream of political Islam during the Third Democracy (1985-1989), they competently forced al-Umma and al-Ittihadi parties to implement the Islamist agenda by keeping the Shari’a Law that was legislated on September 1983. The followers of the NIS were trooping in Khartoum and cheering hysterically: “Shari’a Shari’a wala namut… al-Islam qabl Al-Qoutt”.[vi]
After the collapse of the Third Dictatorship (1989-2019) the Turabian model is style the guideline for the Khartoumian ruling club in the Fourth Democracy. The Communist Party of Sudan, The Nasserite Party, and the Baath Party are historically and ideologically considered secularist parties, but when it comes to the Sudanese context they belong to the Islamo-arab ideology before no matter what else. These political organizations preferred – in the furthermost machiavellian way - to keep silent about the issue of secularism in Sudan just to preserve their small chances to earn seats in the forthcoming elections after the transitional period. The discussion about secularism is a matter of life or death to the forces of the New-Sudan; like Sudan People's Liberation Movement‑North, CUSH congress, and others, but the left-wing in the Khartoumian club can reject their identity as secularists just to indemnity with the Islamo-arab ideology because (Shari’a is a redline).
Hypocrisy disguises with Democracy
The leaders of The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) moved toward Sudan from their exile in Europe and America after spending decades under the western secularist states, but when the leaders of the FFC came to the power they made a decision to rule Sudan with Shari’a law. The members of the Khartoumian club insisted to consider Sudan as an exception from all the rest of the world, and they are trying to resurrect a lifeless model of Islamic State by modernizing it. Ahmed al-Sanngak; one of the spearheads of al-Ittihadi Party in the USA declared that his party is utterly rejecting secularism and the right of Self-determination for the people in Kordufan and the Angasana.[vii] Ahmed al-Sanngak is an exemplary model of politicians in the Khartoumian ruling club; those politicians would like to fight to have Shari’a law in Sudan, but they would prefer to live under a secularist regime; hypocrisy disguises with a democracy.
Genocide in the name of democracy
The knees of the Khartoumian ruling club is shaking from the possibility of a total secularist – from the far right to the far left – their knees are shaking in the anxiety of any real democratic system because if they compete under real democracy, they will face excisional challenges that can lead the traditional political forces into political extinction.
The sectarian pre-designed democracy in Sudan provided an unquestionable privilege to al-Umma and al-Ittihadi parties. The Islamic political parties in Sudan consider elections equally a synonym to democracy, and they are entirely mistaken. Secularist democracy is about protecting the rights of all the individuals and not only obeys the desire of the mechanical majority of the voters. Secularism had protected and should guard the rights of the monitories, and it should make secure the monitory not to be crushed under the dominance of the majority. An election is only a seasonal transactional operation of the political authority, but democracy is daily behaviour and exercise. Democracy is the freedom of speech, the pure separations of the three authorities, and the equal opportunity of all the citizen's regard of their religion, ethnic or cultural background.
The historical privilege of the Khartoumian club is based on the systemic racism and institutional discrimination against the marginalized groups. History told us that the civilian politicians are capable to commit war crimes in the name of democracy: al-Sadiq al-Mahdi established al-Maraheil militias in Kordufan,[viii] and politically reinforced (Arab Alliance in Darfur) militia in Darfur that perpetrated genocide in al-Daein were 1500 of Denika tribe burned alive in a single day 1987.[ix] This Darfurian territorial army is the backbone of the Janjaweed militia that on-Bashir used to terrify and terrorize the society of Darfur.
A secularist constitution cannot dramatically change Sudan into heaven, but it is hypothetically and essentially an obligatory step in the direction of modernization and democratization of Sudan. Secularism will guarantee the cultural neutrality of the state in a republic that is divided predominantly because of the culture before anything else. A secularist constitution will be – at the short duration - a base for political reconciliation, but on the extended term it should lead to an economical rehabilitation based on societal equality, and as a final point, it may lead to a cultural peace that can make Sudan take its natural rule as a bridge between the cultures in Africa.
Peace Negotiations and military: “A coin has two sides”
During bloody eras of the conflict, the ruling club in Khartoum was sidestepping any kind of ultimate and non-discriminatory solution to the political catastrophe in Sudan. The two wings of the ruling club were swapping rules; just like (good cup - bad cup) routine: The political wing of the club plays its rule in this psychological /political trick that was used during the negotiations. In all the rounds of peace-takings, the regime’s team comes with two categories of negotiators who take apparently opposing approaches to the topic of Shari'a or secularism.
The typical psychological /political tactic that the government's representatives may discuss any theme alternately or may challenge the subject at the same time, but the final aim for them is only wasting time or calling for never-ending re-negotiations. We have dozens of examples: Kokadam agreement (1987), Garang-al-Mergani agreement (1988), A'aggar-Nafei deal (2011), and finally al-Hilu-Hamdook agreement (2020).
The military wing in the ruling club – played its rule in (good cup-bad cup) tactic - sidestepped al-Hilu-Hamdook agreement to take the negotiations back to the former situation. It is a distribution of rules between the two wings in the Khartoumian club that is playing his last card: freezing the political status quo for as long as possible.
Shams al-deen Kabbashi is a load voice of the militants in the ruling club; he declared his disapproval to secularism. This explicit media announcement came in a precarious time: The Communist Party of Sudan draw itself off from the FFC’s Central Council and al-Umma party is threatening to go the same path. Kabbashi’s announcements are politically pre-calculated, he would like to reassure the rest of the political members in the ruling club, he is clearing explicitly that the military is standing behind them to protect the Islamo-arab model in its last defence-line.
Metamorphosis: a transitional period, of a transformation period?
Currently, the political coalition in Khartoum is in an inconstant mercuric condition; and there is no crystal-ball to predict the future of the Sudanese politics, but by detecting and investigating the present it is possible to have a prediction about the future: the systemic demolition of December’s Revolution will continue, and the two wings of the ruling club will fight the revolution from inside the institutions that supposed to achieve the goals of the revolution unless the political equation changed.
The circle-of-life insures that the democracy in Sudan will end up into a dictatorship; just a like a Kafkaesque nightmare. The political scene in Sudan resembles the caricature where the wolf is under sheep's clothing; just to prove with no doubts that the transitional period is just a transformational period from the Fourth Democracy into the Four Dictatorship.
[i] al-Inqazz: The National Salvation Revolution (Arabic: ثورة الانقاذ الوطني “Thawratt al-Inqazz al-Watanii”) is a coup d'état on 30/06/1989 against the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and President Ahmed al-Mirghani.
[ii] Sudan Constitutional Declaration: In August 2019, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) initialled a Constitutional Declaration that will replace Sudan's 2005 Interim Constitution and govern the three year transition period.
[iii] Sudanese troops continue exit from war-stricken Yemen, al-Monitor, 03/02/2020
[iv] Sudan says supports Hamas despite Israel's "aggression", Reuters, 04/11/2012
[v] Kafala: (Arabic: نظام الكفالة niẓām al-kafāla, meaning "sponsorship system") is a system used to monitor migrant labourers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in the Gulf States. Al-Kafeel (Arabic: الكفيل meaning “sponsorship”).
[vi] The slogan (Arabic: “شريعة شريعة ولا نموت... الإسلام قبل القوت”) which is roughly translated to: (we want Sharia law or we will die [for it]… Islam comes before food).
[vii] President of the al-Ittihadi Party in America: We declare our total rejection of secularism and calls for self-determination, al-Rakoba website, 07/11/2020, (The original source in Arabic HERE)
[viii] al-Maraheil: a tribal militia formed mainly of al-Baggara tribes
[ix] al-Daein massacre: (in Arabic مذبحة الضعين) is the subsequent violent events that took place in the town of al-Daein on 28/03/1987. Ushari A. Mahmoud and Suliman Ali Balldu documented in their book (The Massacre of al-Daein: Slavery in Sudan, in Arabic مذبحة الضعين: الرق في السودان), they wrote about events of the massacre that can be summarized as follows: The Janjaweed Militia organized 4000 armed Bedouins from the Rizeigat tribe, all of them equipped with swords, guns, and combustible materials. The Janjaweed launched a devastating attack against the residents' people of Dinka; they killed 1700 by burning them alive while they had been trapped in a train intended to take the Dinka away from the killing fields. The militiamen committed war crimes; mass rape of hundreds, the enslavement of 4000 people, the random the shooting of children and disabled in the city hospital. The Janjaweed desecrated and demolished Saint Bakhita’s church.