How Sudan "Will Never Be The Same Again"

"If Sudan’s Riverine Arabs have distinguished themselves for anything throughout Sudan’s long history, it is scheming silently for an opportunity to strike. If I were Burhan, I would never sleep soundly in that Presidential Palace".

By Jacob Jiel Akol*

The one incontestable assertion from late Dr John Garang de Mabior is that “Sudan will never be the same again”. As we speak, it is not, and the process is in progress.

Already South Sudan, 1/3 of the country, is independent. The remaining 2/3 has been at war with itself since 2003 in Northern Darfur, Southern Darfur, Nuba Mountains/Southern Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan.

To keep himself in power, former President Bashir armed the Northern Sudanese periphery, first to fight rebels from the South, then used them to supress their own rebellious tribes when holding on to the South was proving unattainable and causing increasing rebellion in then Northern Sudan itself.

The separation of the South and the war within the remaining 2/3 has resulted in dwindling fortunes, as former glittering new hotels and wide streets of Khartoum begun to look dull and dim with increasing poverty of the general population.

It all resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of the populations and out pouring of Sudanese to refugee camps, mostly to Chad and to South Sudan; as well as more and more Sudanese youth braving inhuman conditions through war-torn Libya and across raging Mediterranean Sea for the safety of Europe.

It has all led to the public overthrow this year of the 30 years dictatorship by Al Bashir of the Riverain Sudanese Islamist pandementalism/Pan Arabists.

Now we have a new man in Khartoum, who appears to be drifting more and more towards Pan Africanism and away from strict Islamic ideology and Pan Arabism. This has excited some Pan Africanists and even some South Sudanese, disillusioned by their own internal conflicts so soon after independence in 2011.

But, how will it all pan out?

Let me take liberty to quote in full my clansman and compatriot Dr Raphael Abiem who, when invited on social media to comment in a discussion about Sudan and South Sudan reuniting in one way or another, responded thus:

“Sudan does not lend itself to easy analyses. Certainly I refuse to believe Sudan, a country deeply rooted in Islam and Arabism, would throw such heritage away to embrace another, certainly not South Sudan. I do not deny there are elements in the Sudan that have had it with both the faith and identification with the Arab world. This is where Sudan is yet to witness such blood letting, the kind of which would put the conflict in South Sudan to shame.

“When odds have squared and Islamists and Arabists have been defeated, in such ashes would New Sudan be born. All this, assuming there is no regional and international dimensions to the Sudanese problem. Look East, North and West of the Sudan and you will see many are interested in what is going on in the Sudan now. It is still gathering clouds and rain, it will. This may pan out sooner than we think.” I should stop here.

However, it may be helpful to point out that our new man in Khartoum, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, was made by the former dictator Bashir, who is now his prisoner. How come?

We should remember that the general and his men were initially accused by protesters of "stealing the revolution;" then it quietened down, seemingly accepting his leadership - for the moment anyway.

We should also remember that Bashir made a fundamental mistake in sending Burhan’s killer men to Yemen to fight a proxy-war there for the Saudi Arabian Kingdom. His presence and standing with the rich kingdom has undermined Islamic pandementalist Riverein Sudanese of the source of their strength: Middle Eastern Arabs in general and Saudi Arabia in particular – for the time being any way.

Yemen’s war will be settled sooner or later and the Saudi Kingdom will be turning their full attention towards events in Sudan and the new rulers.

Burhan’s current moves towards Pan Africanism and seemingly drastic liberalisation of Islamic fundamentals and cordial relationship with South Sudan, may be welcome by the suffering Sudanese in the war zones, but certainly viewed in silent disdain by those who had always prized Islam and Arabism above anything else in Sudan, the class Dr Abiem is alluding to in the quote above.

If Sudan’s Riverine Arabs have distinguished themselves for anything throughout Sudan’s long history, it is scheming silently for an opportunity to strike. If I were Burhan, I would never sleep soundly in that Presidential Palace.

*Jacob Jiel Akol is editor of Gurtong Media and author of “Burden of Nationality, Memoirs of an African Aidworker/journalist, 1970s-1990s.”

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