Category Archives: al-Bashir

John Calvin’s South Sudan: The Theological Groundings of Great Lakes Advocacy

By: Grant Brooke

Generally this forum leans towards the academic. But, for this post, I’d like to begin with a personal confession: In late 2005 I dabbled in Neo-Calvinist (sometimes called Neo-Evangelical) international advocacy. There was a weekend in my misspent churchly college years when my closest friend – now one of the Horn of Africa’s leading journalists – and I illegally camped in a Washington, DC park with hundreds of other evangelical youths. We were there for either the “Lost Boys” or the “Invisible Children” – Uganda or Sudan, I don’t remember which. It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that we were there, and our presence is what our God desired. He wanted us to be cold. He wanted us to ponder starving African bodies. He wanted us to join in his grand Manichean narrative of history. He wanted us to pass around tracks from the Evangelical David Crowder Band, and flirt with likeminded Christian campers.

Years later, as a reasonably secular, restrained academic, it is clear that perhaps I, more than God, wanted to be cold, to ponder starvation, to flirt, listen to music, and place myself in a grand historical drama. The Calvinist theologian I idolized in my college days – Karl Barth – used to say something like ‘when we try to speak of God we often end up yelling about ourselves.’  Perhaps I should have taken heed of his words, as I stood in that park, enjoying the image of myself shouting about an Africa I neither understood nor, in truth, cared to understand.

The Kony 2012 incident has made clear that people like my college self continue to wield considerable influence on U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa. I date their involvement to 1998; the early days of the Bush 2000 campaign. Allen Hertzke, an American academic sympathetic to Evangelicals, suggests that these American Evangelical groups are in large part responsible for the international drive for South Sudan to secede from Sudan. I’m prone to agree. Though, unlike Hertzke, I’m unconvinced that the U.S. Evangelicals’ effect on African policy is all-in-all a good thing. Too often their media outlets simplify facts, and obscure the role of African religions, presenting the conflicts as Christian vs. Muslim. Too often they motivate their members to action by degrading Islam as fundamentally evil and fanatical. Too often they turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by those they openly support.

The groups’ mistakes are well documented – as seen with the reaction to Kony 2012, whose producers were on their way to meet Sudan’s “Lost Boys” when they ran into Uganda’s “Invisible Children.” As U.S. policy towards the Great Lakes in particular continues to often be defined by ad-hoc moments of catalysing advocacy– “Save Darfur,” “Kony 2012,” the budding “Save Nuba” movement – rather than well drawn, long-term, regional planning, I think it’s time we reflect on why these movements continue to thrive despite their systemic errors.

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Filed under al-Bashir, Nuba Mountains, Religion, South Sudan, Sudan

Insects and Islamists: war rhetoric in the two Sudans

by Nicki Kindersley

The new on-off war between Sudan and South Sudan has attracted much international attention, particularly because President Omar Bashir of Sudan has recently begun to use some disturbing words.  Bashir, not one to shy away from a good play on words or a punchy slogan, has encouraged and popularised the use of the term hashara – insect – in reference to the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), a play on the term haraka (movement).  This term has been taken up by enthusiastic proponents of this state propaganda in violence and personal attacks on Southerners in the north, and in inflammatory op-eds in the more enthusiastically pro-war newspapers in Khartoum. (See on Bloomberg and at Human Rights Watch.)

This rhetoric – explained well by Magdi at StillSUDAN  – has been well-publicised, partly because of the easy parallels with the Rwandan genocidaire use of the term “cockroaches.”  The focus on this nastily entomological preoccupation of northern Sudan, however, should not distract from the overall seachange in rhetoric in both Sudans since the independence of the South last year on 9 July 2011.  Both sides (to varying extents) are moving towards a more violent, racist and inflammatory language.

This does not mean that the Southern politicians are openly engaging in the same kind of up-front incitement as Bashir and his supporters.  While Bashir reserves his more virulent speeches for less reported events within Sudan, the SPLA has engaged in a more international-oriented type of terminology, accusing the North of planning ‘genocide’ and ‘Islamisation’ ideas that buy into international – and often evangelical and right-wing – biases and fears.  This is a more politically “acceptable” level of fear-mongering, particularly in NGO and UN-heavy South Sudan; however, away from these public pronouncements, Southern rhetoric is less self-consciously measured.  Southerners returning from other countries, particularly the north, have been called jellaba – exploitative northern traders – and Arabs; some have been called sell-outs and disloyal.  The Ministry of Energy and Mining hung bright red posters around its compound in Juba for South Sudan’s independence day in 2011 calling the northern Sudanese ‘traders of slavery,’ colonisers and even ‘the cursed devil.’  Racial explanations of the current crisis are now far more acceptable in many circles, or at least more prevalent, as this language permeates both north and south.

While Bashir’s rhetoric is arguably nastier, both Sudan and South Sudan’s authoritarian and military-led governments have persistently (and often successfully) mobilised this racial and jingoistic rhetoric since the beginning of the civil wars in the mid-1960s; terms abd/abeed (slaves), farkh (descendants of slaves), slave traders, jellaba and colonialists have loaded historical legacies of their own.  Tracing these terms provides a visible historical barometer of politics and tensions.

This rhetoric is often racist, but more importantly it is mobilising and uniting, while also polarising each side.  As the undeclared war has escalated between Sudan and South Sudan, this language has become at least internally socially acceptable to some – for example, Sudan Tribune’s comments pages are proving difficult to control, despite being the preserve of the English-speaking, online and often diaspora Sudanese minority (see here) The CPA period from 2005-2011 – much like the 1972-1983 period under the Addis Ababa peace agreement – has been a temporary hiatus from the overt public use of this language.  The insects were put on ice.

Nicki is a PhD student at Durham University, researching the recent history of Southern Sudanese communities and their political activity in greater Khartoum, Sudan. You can read more of her work here.

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Filed under al-Bashir, South Sudan, Sudan

The Sudanese Islamic Movement: the third tareeqa, part two

Picture credit: Magdi el-Gizouli / StillSUDAN

This is part two in a series of two posts on the reorganisation of the Islamic Movement in Sudan by Magdi el-Gizouli. Magdi el-Gizouli is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute, a regular contributor to the Sudanese press, and author of the influential blog StillSUDAN. Click here for part one.

The 11 May extraordinary meeting of the Islamic Movement’s Shura Council was in a sense an attempt to translate the remarks of the President into organisation principles. In the NCP media the debate was titled the relationship between the three Hs – the haraka (movement), the hizb (the party) and the hakuma (government), but none of the NCP’s bigwigs actually advocated for the ‘guardianship’ of the haraka over the hizb, at least not in public, with one notable exception, al-Tayeb Mustafa, the presidential uncle and the chairman of the Just Peace Forum (JPF), the president’s home-grown party as it were. Mustafa contended that the memo did not go far enough, and failed to address the real issue at stake, in his words the marginalisation of the Islamic Movement in the regime. It is our ambition to inherit the NCP, he told a meeting of his party’s Shura Council late in January. The NCP is too weak to withstand the challenges facing the country, he said. Continue reading

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Filed under al-Bashir, al-Turabi, National Congress Party, Sudan, Sudanese Islamic Movement

The Sudanese Islamic Movement: the third tareeqa, part one

Picture credit: Magdi el-Gizouli / StillSUDAN

This is part one in a series of two posts on the reorganisation of the Islamic Movement in Sudan by Magdi el-Gizouli. Magdi el-Gizouli is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute, a regular contributor to the Sudanese press, and author of the influential blog StillSUDAN. Come back on Monday for part two!

Earlier this month the Shura (Consultative) Council of the Islamic Movement, an extended central committee of four hundred members, held an extraordinary meeting to discuss a draft new constitution of the Movement to replace a set of ad hoc rules to which only its members had access. The new constitution identified the Movement, the parent organisation of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), as a cultural, social and religious organisation and effectively surrendered its political mandate to the ruling NCP. News of the 11 May Shura only reached the media in the form of a concise communiqué. In fact, the Islamic Movement itself can be considered a semi-clandestine organisation; it has neither headquarters nor a legal personality. A private citizen in Sudan can only access the Movement as a member, and it rarely demonstrates its existence when not in crisis. In January of this year news surfaced in Khartoum that a memorandum signed by a thousand members of the Islamic Movement had been submitted to Nafie Ali Nafie, the deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). Initially, the party denied that any such document existed, but was soon forced to go public under the pressure of al-Intibaha, the newspaper which eventually published the document, now dubbed the ‘memorandum of the thousand’ following established tradition.

Memoranda are a distinctive genre of political writing in Sudan imbued with a particular fetishist awe. High politics, to the ruling classes, is at most no more than the exchange of such texts. The first in that line in Sudan’s modern history is arguably the audacious 3 April 1942 memorandum of the Graduates Congress ‘in the name of the Sudanese people’ to the Condominium government requesting “the issue on the first possible opportunity by the British and Egyptian governments a joint declaration grating the Sudan… the right of self-determination, directly after the war”. Douglas Newbold, the civil secretary at the time replied saying the Congress had “forfeited the confidence of the government”. There could be “no restoration of that confidence” until the “Congress had so reorganised the direction of its affairs” that the government could “rely on having its wishes respected and its warnings observed”. In private Newbold took a more lenient line with Ibrahim Ahmed, the President of the Congress, and his fellow seniors, widening the split between so-called moderates who favoured reconciliation and extremists who sought confrontation. Ibrahim Ahmed, and Newbold, prevailed, but Sudan was delivered to the effendiya of the Congress a few years later. Continue reading


Filed under al-Bashir, al-Turabi, National Congress Party, Sudan, Sudanese Islamic Movement

A Comment on Gérard Prunier’s ‘Give War a Chance’

By Grant Brooke 

Last week in the New York Times, Gérard Prunier’s joined an increasing number of SPLM-connected voices calling for war with Sudan. Prunier’s piece is right on several points: 2005’s CPA excluded many necessary parties, the partition focussed too much on religion as the divisive factor, Khartoum cannot be trusted to follow through with international agreements, and al-Bashir’s recent language to describe his opponents is quite despicable. However, the op-ed – and the subsequent pro-war argument – has three core flaws:

1)     It completely ignores the economic realities of the current conflict.

2)     It assumes a united anti-Bashir front is possible, and will yield (a third) Sudanese Spring.

3)     His argument comes far too early.

Allow me to expound on each point:

By ignoring the economic realities of the current conflict, Prunier furthers a line of thinking that holds Khartoum as an irrational religious actor rather than the torturous rational actor the regime most often behaves as. This prospective conflict does not arise from identity politics. It is a direct result of the game of economic chicken the North and the South have been playing for months. To the World Bank’s astonishment, the South has chosen to completely shut-down its economy in order to avoid paying exorbitant transfer fees for its oil. The results are staggering.

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Filed under al-Bashir, Gerard Prunier, South Sudan, Sudan