I am responding to your two posts, about activism and the review of John Young’s book The Fate of Sudan.
Defining activism, you believe one of the main tasks of activists is to challenge U.S. power, I think here is a major mistake, for many reasons:
(1) l think the better strategy for activists—that is, democracy activists—is to define their role in a positive way. For example, as democrats in the global south our principal role is to struggle with our people to achieve a national political system that fully secures internationally-recognized human rights—including civil and political rights, socio-economic and cultural rights—and then to decide according to concrete analysis of the specific situation who is our ally and who is our enemy.
(2) If the priority is as you suggest, to challenge U.S. power, many crucial questions arise, for example, is U.S. power the only power? What about our local regimes? And what about the power of international Islamic fundamentalism? Should any rational democrat side with Al-Qaida against U.S. power? And what kind of a globe we will have if for any hypothetical reason Al-Qaida triumphs over U.S. power and its allies? And what about Chinese power: is this better for the global South than U.S. power?
Those who define their role in such a negative way end up supporting the dictators of the South, like Saddam, Gaddafi and Bashir, who are more backward and brutal than U.S. power. And I think this is one of the fatal mistakes of the so called post-colonial theorists. In this respect I hope you think about the fact that Prof Mahmood Mamdani has been invited and highly welcomed by the regime in Khartoum, is in itself is sufficient signal of significance of his challenge to U.S. power in the Sudanese context!
(3) I can see clearly that you are very angry with Enough, to the extent that you have deviated from your recognized objectivity. An example is your critique of Hollywood actors. Is this a problem? Isn’t it a commonly-accepted practice by all civic organizations, based on psycho-sociological findings that celebrities can influence more effectively public opinion? You know all that better than me but I believe you are excessively angry.
The Hollywood actor whom you are talking about—George Clooney—visited the camps of Sudanese displaced before us as Sudanese democrats, and highlighted the tragedy much better than we did. Yes he focused on the ethnic dimension describing the conflict as between Arabs and non-Arabs, while the conflict is in reality multidimensional: it has political, socio-economic, and religious dimensions, but the simplification of Clooney’s definition is justified by two reasons. First, there is the fact that the ethnic dimension is one of the main aspects to the conflict, whether we like it or not. Second is the reality that victims, who are mainly non-Arabs, actually attribute more importance to the ethnic dimension than to the others. For sure, this analysis needs fine-tuning, but is it the role of Clooney to do that?
And me as a Sudanese democrat, I believe that Enough represents me much better than any other western organization. It is not fair to argue that Enough is not challenging U.S. power. The Obama Administration is, I believe, confused and confusing in its policy on Sudan. Thanks to the American open democratic system with its lobbies and actors such as Enough, there is a hope for challenging the policies and changing them for the better.
(4) I still remember our first discussion in London years ago, and as a result I still embrace the conviction in your deep knowledge and humbleness. But I also remember your rejection of my argument that if the Abuja Agreement for Darfur was going to achieve anything it must break the majority of NCP at least in the legislative. You rejected that on the basis that the ceiling of representation was enshrined in the CPA, although it was clear at that time that the problem of CPA was exactly that it gave the NCP a majority and that this continued to block democratization. Also I still remember the workshop organized by UN before the referendum in which you played a key role. At that meeting, I and many other Sudanese democrats kept saying that the western policy of trying to avoid democracy in Khartoum will not lead to a soft separation, but you along with all other western scholars were not ready to listen to us . And I still remember our discussion in the office of Yasir Arman in Khartoum, when you were trying to convince him not to boycott the elections of 2010, in a situation where there was no freedom of expression, no independent judiciary and no independent electoral commission. In fact your position at that time was typical to all western actors who want to avoid democracy so as to facilitate the so called soft separation! All that proved to me that the thesis of John Young is more correct than yours.
We all–Sudanese and internationals—committed mistakes. I personally admit that I supported the CPA for many years in a naive and mechanical way. But unfortunately most of the western scholars and actors are still suffering from the syndrome of continuing along the same path even when it is demonstrably mistaken, for fear of going back. After the outbreak of war in Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and between North and South still the majority of western actors are not ready to conclude that democracy is the only way to stability in a huge multiethnic and religious country like Sudan. They are not ready to conclude that fascist regimes are aggressive by nature.
(5) As a Sudanese democrat I have the feeling that the West is still trying to consolidate the NCP in power, within a wrong
policy based on a mechanical and unthinking approach, for example the assumption that the choice is between either collaboration in counter-terrorism or supporting democracy! If we believe NCP is genuinely collaborating in counter-terrorism, which is doubtful, in the long run you cannot combat terrorism without democracy. The west should learn from recent developments in the region, including the experience of Egypt and Tunisia: did avoiding democracy result in stability or combating terrorism? And in Sudan actually the situation is less complicated, because terrorists are in power, and the country is in a position where it must choose between democracy or disintegration and chaos.
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