Mabior Garang de Mabior
11 May, 2019
Attn: Open Letter to the Sudanese People
Greetings in the Name of Allah, the Beneficent and the Merciful!
My Fellow Sudanese,
I would like to start by honoring the memory of all the men and women who sacrificed their precious lives to push the struggle forward in this generation. Your sacrifices will not be forgotten. I am writing regarding the resignation of former president, H.E. Field Marshal Omar El Bashir, on 11/04/2019. I have been silent for one month in memory of our hero, the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, who waited for one month after President Bashir took power in a military coup in 1989. He was suspicious of the hidden motives of President Bashir and his new minister of justice, the late Hon. Hassan El Turabi. The late John Garang warned that Islamist extremists were conspiring to take over the Sudan. And indeed, it was not that long before Hassan El Turabi declared the Islamic State in the country. This was the time that Sudan supported Osama Bin Laden and his Mujahideen even fought battles in what is now South Sudan.
The Sudanese people have done it again. The ousting of former President Omar Bashir is a great achievement; it is not the first time that the Sudanese people have risen up against a repressive regime, although this is the first uprising since the breakup of the country. The traditional elites in the north can no longer bamboozle the people that there is a “Southern Problem”. As you know, there has been a pattern of coups and intifadas, with the first coup in the modern history of the Sudanese people having been carried out by General Aboud and his military council in 1958- only two years after independence. The first Republic of the Sudan failed at its inception similarly to how the first Republic of South Sudan failed only two years after independence. The problem of the Sudanese people continues to be a crisis of identity, both in the north and in the south. This crisis of identity led to the breakup of the old Sudan- as we failed to nucleate as a Sudanese people- with the traditional elites in the north insisting on defining the nation as an Arab Islamic State, to the exclusion of Sudanese diversity. The Sudan would have had the great honor of being the first independent African country were it not for this identity crisis, as she attained independence in 1956 before Ghana in 1957.
The word “Sudan” is an Arabic word meaning “black”. The Arabic Speaking Greco-Roman invaders of North Africa in the 7th Century named the territories to the South Bilad el Sudan (meaning the lands of the blacks). It is ironic that in one of the countries with the blackest Africans, we are confused about our identity. Even in what is today the Republic of South Sudan, we have failed to see how we are still Sudanese, albeit in a different country. The people of East and West Germany considered themselves German; the North and South Vietnamese considered themselves Vietnamese and eventually these people ended up uniting to become one nation. Despite their hostile relationship, the North and South Koreans consider themselves Korean. It is only in Sudan that we find this anomaly of rejecting our identity. I have observed with great pride as the masses of Sudanese people in North Sudan have protested chanting for the implementation of the vision of new Sudan and for the country to be reunited.
While these are noble aspirations, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Republic of South Sudan was established through the popular will of the people of South Sudan. The Sudan cannot be one again without addressing the nationality question that gave traction to southern separatist sentiments. For those who know our history, we know that part of the Sudanese identity is characterized by movements of unity and separation dating back to King Menes and the unification of the two lands in ancient times, which brought about the first dynasty of Kemet (commonly known as Egypt). The Kingdom of Kemet broke away from Nubia (commonly known as Kush), to establish her own independent civilization and from time to time the pharaohs from Nubia would restore order to Kemet when it was invaded by foreigners.
This history of movements of unity and secession is manifest today in the independence of South Sudan. It is possible that a future generation could unite the Sudanese people again. A unity of the people need not be a political unity- political unity would only be a formality if we achieve a people unity. And this unity must be based on concrete realities and not imagination. The underlying issues that led to the breakup of the old Sudan must be addressed, or else the Sudan (north and south) will continue to break up into ever more ridiculous entities.
It is a tragedy that the promises of the struggle of the Sudanese people have been reduced by the traditional elites into a struggle for power. The promises of the struggle have been betrayed. This betrayal in modern times starts with the Mahdist revolution. The Mahdi mobilized millions of Sudanese people to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (Commonly known as the Turkiya) after World War One. This was the first real opportunity to forge a common Sudanese identity. Sadly, the Mahdist revolution was not for the liberation of our people but a collusion between the northern and southern traditional elites, who saw their livelihood-the slave trade-threatened by the Abolitionist British who inherited the colonies of the Central Powers, which included the Ottoman Empire.
The (unadulterated) Sudanese People share a common shamanistic culture; from Sufi Mysticism, to the Upper Nile Prophets, to the Azande Magicians. The Mahdist revolution took advantage of this history to mobilize our people; they became known as the Dervishes. The Mahdist Revolution was crushed by the British with the invasion of Lord Kitchener and the Mahdi family was coopted. A new form of Abrahamic religions was introduced by the British in the north and in the south. The traditional elites in the north abandoned the traditional Islam of the Sudanese people, in favor of British sponsored Wahabist Islam. The British did this to curb the influence of the Sufi Mystics.
This Wahabist Islam of Mohamed Ibn Wahab and King Saud has made war on African cultures in north Sudan, even replacing the original religion of Ahmed Ibn Abdalla (PBUH). The Sudanese people should understand that they have more of a stake in the history of the birth of Islam than do the Greco Roman Muslims. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), during his exile to Medina sent refugees to the Nile Valley because the original Arabs have kin here. This history is being suppressed by the traditional elites. The Christians of South Sudan-who practice a European version of Christianity- have also made war on African cultures. This has amplified the identity crisis in both Sudans.
The late Dr. John Garang de Mabior tried to enlighten us about this crisis of identity and encouraged our people to be Sudanese first; this is the identity that can unite us. Before we are Muslims or Christians, before we are Dinkas or Zandes, or Nubas, or Jaleeen, we should be Sudanese. This revolution which ousted former President Omar Bashir is a step in the right direction, but our people should be vigilant against the traditional elite, who have been passing the mantle of power between themselves since independence in order to forestall the promise of the African Liberation Struggle which brought independence to many African countries. The military has always hijacked the people’s revolution. From the coup of Gen. Aboud in 1958, to that of Gen. Nimeri in 1969, to the coup of Omar Bashir in 1989, one thing is common. Whenever the Sudanese people’s struggle has reached a high stage of maturity, with the people about to agree on how to constitute the Sudan in all her diversity, the army has staged a coup. The Bashir coup was the latest one and the people of the Sudan need to understand:
Why did Omar Bashir take power by force in 1989?
The coup of Gen. Omar Bashir in 1989 was carried out when peace talks between the SPLA and the regime of PM Sadik el Mahdi had reached a high level of maturity and it looked like the Sudanese people might achieve the objective of the struggle, spelled out in article 2 of the Koka Dam Declaration:
a) A declaration by all political forces and the government of the day of their commitment to discuss the basic problems of Sudan and not the so called problem of Southern Sudan and that shall be in accordance with the Agenda agreed upon in this Declaration.
b) The lifting of the State of Emergency.
c) Repeal of the September 1983 laws and all other laws that are restrictive of freedoms.
d) Adoption of the 1956 Constitution as amended in 1964 with incorporation of “Regional Government” and all other such matters on which a consensus opinion of all the political forces shall be reached.
e) The abrogation of the military pacts concluded between Sudan and other countries and which impinge on Sudan’s National Sovereignty.
f) A continuous endeavor by the two sides to take the necessary steps and measures to effect a ceasefire.
The coup of Gen. Bashir was to forestall the victory of the Sudanese revolution, and the people of the Sudan should be vigilant against the military hijacking their revolution or handing power to the traditional elites to make it appear as if change has come. Nothing short of this national constitutional conference shall bring about fundamental change. It would add value to the revolution if the organizers/leaders of this revolution could use the Koka Dam Declaration, the Abuja Proposals and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in order to be able to chart a way forward.
The Sudanese people are one and shall always be one; we have only been divided by the traditional elites in the north and in the south who betrayed the Sudanese people to the trading companies of the Turkiya. The objective realities of our land don’t currently allow for a conducive environment under which we can achieve the reunification of the Sudan. However, if the people take power in the respective Sudans and institute revolutionary policies, then we may be able to unify the country in a few generations, depending on the work we do today. For example, we could remove trade barriers and allow free movement of people across borders by providing dual citizenship to all Sudanese people or we could enact an “Anti-tribalism Act” in parliament so as to encourage intermarriage between the various nationalities which constitute the Sudanese diversity. This is not a farfetched idea, it can happen. But it must be a scientific process and not an emotionalist movement. Genuine dialogue between the Sudanese people is what the traditional elites have been preventing since the coup of General Aboud.
The so called differences that have divided the Sudanese people were originally a dispute between the traditional elites in the south and the traditional elites in the north. The people at the grassroots level have no quarrel. The traditional elites quarreled over the division of the “National Pie” and so the southern elites used the people of the south against the traditional elites in the north, so that they could have their own state in which they could have their cake and eat it- as it were- a state in which they could imitate the oppressive policies of their northern counterparts. It is an open secret among the Sudanese people that the traditional elites ended up colluding in order to forestall the Sudanese Revolution.
There is no contradiction between the independence of the Republic of South Sudan and the implementation of the vision of New Sudan in both Sudans. The people of the north have a huge stake in the independence of South Sudan; the countless sons and daughters from the north who sacrificed their precious lives for the independence of South Sudan is a testament to this. The traditional elites in the Republic of South Sudan have hijacked the revolution and they refuse to recognize this fact, because they have deliberately abandoned the vision of new Sudan. Their logic is that the new Sudan vision was only applicable within a united Sudan. However, the new Sudan vision is not a place on the map but a philosophy for social transformation. A cultural revolution; the creation of a new society.
I would like to conclude by congratulating the Sudanese people for pushing the struggle forward in this generation. They should however not be overcome by euphoria and allow the sacrifices of the martyrs to be hijacked by the traditional elites.
A Luta Continua!
Long Live the Sudanese Peoples!
Long Live the Intifada (Operation New Dawn)
Long Live the Vision of New Sudan!
Cpt. Mabior Garang de Mabior