Lecture by Dr. Sharif Harir, Vice President of the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance and member of the NDA Executive Office. Presented at “Towards the Philosophy and Concept of the Culture of the New Sudan ”, Sudan Culture and Information Centre, Cairo, Egypt, June 3, 1998. (other people who participated in the Seminar included Abdel Aziz Dafa’allah of SNA/SAF , Azraq Zakaria of SNP, Yasir Arman of SPLM/A and Al Amin Shingirai of the Beja Congress ).

The Philosophy and Culture of the "New Sudan"

Lecture by Dr. Sharif Harir

Vice President of the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance

translated by :Ms.Nada Mustafa Ali

“”....I should start by introducing myself because identification itself is part of the topic/issue. My name is Al Sharif Harir.

I am from Northern Darfur on the Libyan/Chad borders.

I am Zaghawi, Darfurian, Sudanese and I belong to the world, but my identification with Sudan is stronger. That is why I returned (to Sudan/ the field) to work on the Sudanese issue from a national perspective.

My conclusion is going to be that Sudan is a country that’s future lies in its history, and its history lies in its future: In Sudan, brothers and sisters, in the margins if you talked to someone from the generation of my father, he would tell you ‘ya heleil al ingeliz’ . We should stop for a while and examine that statement. is a joke, we say it as if it is a joke, but it [reflects] a reality, most people in my age would say ‘dayyanak ya Abboud’ .

The Old Sudan - and I do not want to repeat history lessons - was a product of the Berlin conference of 1875 that was the drawing studio of Africa. It specified the land and the borders, before its inhabitants were identified. Colonialism came: like any other colonialism, it did three main things: 1. Colonizing the land using the colonial army. 2. Taming the people - the African beast - so that they would look at the issues via the lenses of the new master. They too, just like What Turabi says today, were talking about a civilizing course. They had their own sacred civilizing course to bring the African person from darkness to light. They would then add us to their history since we have no history. That was the colonialism that created (modern) Sudan.

In this process, as you know in Karary (battle) alone, about 12,000 people were destroyed, and we learned nothing from that lesson. Then came the second step and created people who thought via colonial mentality. The whole colonial process, in addition t being the biggest violation of human rights, did not involve popular participation of all Sudanese. Then, to cut a long story short, colonialism left. What happened? Because the geographic Sudan was not part of the process, when we adopted the multiple democratic system, we unfortunately, entered into an era of internal colonialism. Why? Fellow sociologists and others know that Sudan has a big number of languages. Some say 595 and some say less; and that Sudan encompasses a big number of ethnicities, some say 570, more or less. But the issue is the multiplicity. Sudan has all heavenly and non-heavenly religions. It includes all forms of income generation for living and various climates. The first generation after colonialism wanted to ‘modernize’ Sudan but at the same time to suppress the existence of multiplicity. We inherited a state but thought we had inherited a nation that is homogeneous.

When we became independent, the [existing] political parties were not nationally based nor were they national in terms of origin. These parties were based on religion and sect. If [a party] was based on religion, this means that Sudanese who belonged to other religions were out of these parties. If it was based on the sect, even Muslims who did not adhere to these sects were out of it. It is regional. In Darfur, we were born Ansar and support the Umma party, the political expression of the Ansar; and our brothers in the East were born Khatmiya and support the UP; the political expression of this sect. All of us entered into an era characterised with structures of internal colonialism. Why do I say that? Son of the Mahdi is Sudanese, son of the Mirghani Sudanese! I am building my argument on the exclusion of other Sudanese. Marginalisation and privatisation of the state, that is, access to Sudanese state was limited to limited groups. It became immune to muhasabah. The other face to the coin was the litarisation of the state, which as well involves the exclusion of the emerging civil society structures from participation in the rule of this state.

Then comes the issue of identity of the country [which] they argued was Arabic-Islamic. This means you excluded a big number of citizens who did not relate to these. As such, I understand why the Southern opposition emerged since 1955 and continued until today. In the South the war did not stop even after Addis Ababa agreement. In the margins, there also emerged movements that discovered that it was out of the state context, and started to demand participation in administrating their own areas. A movement like the Front for Darfur Development, although it was an interest group, had the vision of our ruling elite widened enough at the time, they could know what that movement expressed. It was a movement that emerged to demand the well, the hospital and health unit; but in its essence it was calling for equality.Then there was the Beja congress, started in 1958, then SSM that chrystalised later on; then the Nub Mountains General Union, and the Ingessena Mountains General Union etc. [What was ] the reaction of the ruling elite[?] As I said earlier we ventured in relations of internal colonialism. These systems are characterised by lack of participation and state transparency and our inability of the marginalised to access decision-making centres. Systems of internal colonialism are characterised by what we sociologists call daily racism, structural racism. It is different from racism such as you saying to me for example, Sherif is from Western Sudan, [he is a] Gharrabi, Takruni (local insult for people from Western Sudan) or call one of our Dinka brothers Abb (s ng for Niger); this is your and his business. I can decide to quarrel with you, hit you, you hit me, its over. This is insignificant. But structural racism is when the margins are deprived from reaching decision-making centres in the state, or to influence decision-making. When we established these movements, the reaction of our ruling elite was that these are racists etc. Even today people say in low voice that so and so is racist and so and so is separatist etc.

Things continued like that for a while. Movements formed in the margins call for equality etc, and the centre - whether [ruled by] military or democratic masters - refuses to recognize these grievances. The issue became one of human value and of identity. Do we all belong to this country/nation? Events developed, in short, and the South continued with its resistance throughout; but the expression of what people want has changed from one stage to the other. If we were able to read between the lines, we could have known what Southern brothers demanded: they did not want (an independent) South, just as we were not calling for secession of Darfur, nor were the Beja calling for an independent East. They were demanding to be (considered) Sudanese. That was the case until the Turabi/Beshir regime came; and as some would say Turabi is a negative revolutionist. I believe that Turabi represents the peak of the crisis of all what has been taking place throughout the independence years. Turabi is not a rootless fungus. He grew within the prevalent Sudanese politics. The Turabi regime came and compelled all of us to reach the point that was reached by our brothers in the South since 1955. All of us have carried arms to fight the regime in Khartoum.As was noted earlier, this concept was first introduced by SPLM. We all started to talk [New Sudan], without agreeing on the meaning: what does the concept of New Sudan stand for? But we assume a minimum agreement on that the New Sudan which we mean is different from the Old Sudan, that we want a New Sudan. The geographic area is there. The people of Sudan are there: Dinka, Shilluk, Zaghawa etc. What is the new that we are demanding in that Sudan? I believe that regardless of our differences, we cannot differ over the fact that we did not discover Sudan until we carried arms. Even those who used to rule the country did not discover it until all of us took up arms: we are carrying arms and Turabi is carrying arms. So we started to discover Sudan. Sudan as there all the time, following modernity and modernisation etc., we used to refuse the acknowledgement of the reality of heterogeneity and multiplicity of culture in Sudan. That is how we produced a new tribe in Sudan that controls all 595 tribes.

It is not a specific tribe of the Sudan, it is an additional tribe that we created through our political practice, our perception of other tribes and cultures as inferior or Superior. This tribe builds upon the twinning between Arabism and Islam and species Sudanese identity as Arabic-Islamic. The identity of any country is wider than the dominant language and even religion. Identity is temporary. That is why when I identified myself I said I am from Northern Darfur, and Zagawi, etc., etc., and I belong to the world. Islam is part of my identity, even Arabism. Now I am talking in Arabic with you. But I learned Arabic at schools, with the (use of the) whip. And the teacher who taught me Arabic was Halfawi (Nubian). These are facts. It seems small but it is important in our attempts at understanding the concept of the New Sudan and the philosophy behind the culture of the New Sudan.

We come from a society with all these “segmental cleavages”:

religion, culture, language, colors even in one place. Sudan is a continent. So if we produced a new tribe, coming from the area of Khartoum-Kosti-Sinnar (small area), it emerged from this area and imposed its culture as the culture of the whole Sudan. So we omit all these multiplicities and differences! We would be doing the same as what external colonialism has done. That is, we tame/conditions the minds of all Sudanese so that they see every thing through this culture, and that all their other cultures are trash. In the years of independence, most of us accepted that. We accepted that our languages are inferior to the dominant language, that our arts and cultures are inferior to the dominant culture. What is Sudanese art? Sudanese art should be multiple. We too one of these alternates, made it a common denominator, and imposed it by force. Force, is the use of state power to subjugate people: police, courts etc. As what happened in the South, and as what is now taking place in Western and Eastern Sudan, even in Khartoum. I do not need to go to Darfur (Western Sudan) to be able to know that there is marginalisation, exclusion from participation and demeaning of human beings. In the margins of Khartoum, even us who are here have been marginalised by the regime in Khartoum. If we want to go back to Sudan we need to see what is new in the Old Sudan. A first step, we take a step back to discover the multiple and different Sudan. We have to do that, otherwise we will not reach any peace, security or settlement. We have to acknowledge the Other and not exclude them on the presumption that our culture is superior. Through interaction we reach what we want gradually. Unity cannot materialise if I saw in the existent political structures what makes me feel that I am inferior to others.

In the margins, we find that no tribe sees itself as inferior to any other group until [people from these tribes] come to the Khartoum-Kosti-Sinnar triangle, and finds people whose language he does not know. If he tried to talk their (Arabic) language in broken way (with an accent), like what I do now, they would laugh at him. If you wore different clothes they would laugh at you. And at the same time the structures can also allocate you to the job that suits you. As such we need to reconsider the system of governance in Sudan. What happened in Asmara 1995, citizenship as the basis for identification etc, all that represents severe criticism for all that has been practiced since 1/1/1956 (independence). Why do I say that? Although some might not agree with me on that, if we emphasize these practices, we can achieve the new Sudan. Even the people of the old Sudan joined and signed these treaties and became renewed, they joined us in criticizing the Old (Sudan). We appreciate that because we believe that it is not shameful to acknowledge wrong deeds, but it is shameful to discover wrongs and keep going. This is the first stage and we move on.

Sudan is a country that’s future lays in its history, in what we did not discover previously, and that we started to discover. That it’s history is in the future, is because we do not manufacture history. Someone can say that we are the makers of October (1964 ‘revolution’) and April (1985 uprising) and other great things that we might not find among other peoples/nations. Yes, this is history that we made, but that we aborted the next day! In my opinion, the Sudan [that reveals upon] discovering the old Sudan. A Sudan in which there are no structures of internal colonialism, the Sudan that respects the value of the people that live in it, is the New Sudan. And we build on something that exists, something that has been fought. All the governments in Sudan claimed to be fighting the so-called tribalism while actually fighting the tribe, which is a mere social unit.

Tribalism is a partiality we refuse. The new Sudan singles out two elements from politics: the first element is religion regardless of its followers . The second element is race/racism. If we became racial or religious extremists we are back to the dominance and structures of internal colonialism.”

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