“Take Me To Your Leader!”
I felt very upset and annoyed when I read in a recent New York Times editorial that if a Martian arrived on earth and said, “Take me to your leader” he would immediately be taken to the Kremlin to meet President Mikhail Gorbachev. I am certain that any fair-minded person would find my annoyance and resentment more than justifiable. The editorial was obviously yet another stark example of American ignorance of world affairs and a gross misjudgment of leadership qualities: Even Pravda would never make such a silly claim. Any impartial observer would certainly assert that a visiting Martian would be gravely misled if he was not led at once to see me.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING CREDIBILITY
[This feature first originally appeared in Arabic in al-Ayam daily on 8/4/89 and was translated into English with some modification]
I woke up one morning and discovered that my Credibility was missing. The first inkling I had of something going amiss was when I neatly tied on my turban and looked at myself in the mirror. As my reflection stared back at me I realized with utter bafflement that my Credibility was no longer there. At first I thought I must have misplaced it somewhere. My eyes darted around the room. I looked into all the closets. There were a lot of skeleton but no Credibility. I peered under the bed. There were lots of dirty linen but no sign of Credibility. I flung open all the drawers and emptied their contents on the floor. Nothing! At that moment my wife walked in and looked aghast at the mess in the room. “For Heaven’s sake” she gasped, “what are you doing?”
ON BEING A DOUBLE AGENT
[Again this piece was a response to yet more accusations leveled in National Islamic Front newspapers at myself for being, this time, a ‘member of the CIA fraternity’. Since the newspapers seemed uncertain whether I was a KGB agent or a CIA agent I decided to make things easier for them by confessing to being a ‘double agent’!]
It was about three in the morning when the telephone rang. Perhaps the reason I did not wake up immediately was that I thought I was dreaming. My telephone had been dead for such a long time that I had notified the Telephone Corporation several times to remove it and give it a decent burial. They did not bother even to send me their condolences. My children had ripped off the telephone’s cord and used it as a skipping rope in their games.
[this piece tries to capture the atmosphere of mistrust, back stabbing and political horse-trading that characterized relations during the ‘third democracy’ (1986-89) between Saddiq al-Mahdi of the Umma Party and his junior coalition partner Mohamed Othman al-Merqani’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sadiq’s brother-in-law the wily Hassan al-Turabi leader of National Islamic Front (NIF). At the time of writing Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi was seeking a wider mandate to allow him to govern more effectively]
Something very serious must have happened to my mandate. For no reason at all, it suddenly stopped functioning. I checked the electric wires and all the other connections. But they all seemed to be in perfect order. I still thought it would be no big sweat to fix it. It had malfunctioned twice last year but somehow I managed to patch it up. I could do the same this time. I got the-user’s manual and went through all the complicated circuits. I pressed a button here and a lever there but to no avail. The damned mandate just sat there blankly staring at me with the reels static and the executive lights unblinking. I tried to shift from manual to auto and from auto to manual. Nothing seemed to work.
[the gangster-style atmosphere of this piece seemed appropriate at the time in describing a political scene characterized by gangster-like relations between the three main political protagonists: the Umma Party of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) of Mohamed Osman al-Merqani and the National Islamic Front(NIF) of Hassan al-turabi]
I Don Ossamario il Morgosino, chief of the Catimoro clan and patron of its established Family (the Democratic Unionista Partito), being of sound health (so far) and sane mind (so they tell me), hereby write this testimony to be kept hidden in a safe place so that no one will ever lay eyes on it until someone can make me an offer I can (safely) refuse, or until I go (God forbid) into the deep freeze, whichever happens first.
ON BEING A FIFTH COLUMNIST
[Essentially this piece was a response to articles in the Islamic National Front newspapers accusing me, among others, of being a ‘fifth columnist’ (‘taboor khamis’) for the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) fighting in southern Sudan]
Someone must have falsely denounced me, for without having done anything wrong, I was accused one day of being a ‘fifth columnist’. At first I didn’t take the matter seriously for the simple reason that I didn’t know what being a ‘fifth columnist’ meant, although for some inexplicable reason the term was vaguely associated in my mind with the Olympic Games. I shrugged off the matter as yet another exercise in character assassinations that had recently gained currency in the local tabloids. Besides, I had no undue reasons for concern. A lot of people had been accused of more serious crimes (like being ‘advisers’ to the deposed ‘Rais’) and had either escaped retribution altogether or were given optional residence in Koper prison in conditions that rivaled the best five-star hotels. (Note: many NIF leaders were allies of former ‘President’ Numayri).
[This peace reflects the author’s views on the political situation at the time in a rather reflective mood. Any reader finding that the title rhymes well with the name of a prominent political family can rest assured that the connection is not purely coincidental!]
It’s good of you to come all this way to interview me. Let’s sit out there in the shade. Do you find it too warm for you? You are quite right: there are some parts of your country which are even warmer. Yes, yes I have been to Arizona. May I offer you some tea? You like your tea without sugar? Ah, I see you come well acclimatized to our country. What? You don’t take sugar even back home? That is good, but I did not realize that your country is in trouble with the IMF too. Frankly, I thought you people owned the goddamned thing. The IMF, I mean, not the sugar. What are you saying? So you do not eat meat and bread and have no use for oil, soap, matches, butter, electricity, water and other such luxuries, you can take up residence in our country and live like a king. You won’t be the only king, though.
D E N I A B I L I T Y
The world watched with fascination as Admiral John Poindexter, the former national security adviser to President Reagan, took the role of the fall guy in the Iran-Contra affair. (Why no one thought of tapping Lee Majors for the role is beyond me!). Poindexter testified before the joint congressional committee that it was he who had authorized the diversion of profits from arms sales to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. The Admiral adamantly insisted that he had deliberately kept President Reagan in the dark about the whole affair so that the President should have ‘deniability’ should news of the diversion were to leak out
BETTER BETTERED BETTERMENT
I spent all evenings last week with my eyes glued to the TV set, watching the unfolding fascinating drama of the debate on the government’s policy statement in the Constituent Assembly. In all honesty, it was the most gratifying experience in my life; it filled my heart with pride, my head with education, and my stomach with peanuts!
THE ‘SHATA’ ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME (SHAIDS)
I had been living in a state of chilling trepidation since reading the interview with the Prime Minister published in the weekly magazine AI-Ashiqa in early June 1987. In the interview the Prime Minister ingeniously described his former Minister of Commerce and Supply, Dr. Abu Harira, as a man “with little experience who sniffed some ‘Shata’ (powdered chilies) in the air and never stopped sneezing”.
The phrase ‘friendly forces’ kept cropping up in the media coverage of some of the bloody events in the South and South-West. 1 was very glad to read that these ‘friendly forces’ were helping the regular forces in their military operations. As a political analyst I assumed that these were the forces of a friendly country. Using my considerable political acumen I made a very intelligent and educated guess that these ‘friendly forces’ must be, in reality, units of the Ethiopian Army. The good old Ethiopians: you could trust them to come to our aid in times of need.
Mrs. Margret Thatcher sat in her office at 10 Downing Street reading for the tenth time the dispatch from the British Embassy in Khartoum. She took off her glasses and sighed. “How stupid of me,” she murmured to herself. “Why didn’t I think of that myself”. She pressed a button and said, “Tell Lord Whitelaw to come and see me immediately.” she stood up and paced around the room. There was a knock on the door and Lord Whitelaw’s massive head appeared. “You wanted to see me, Prime Minister?” he asked.
THE SECRET AGREEMENT OF REYKJAVIK
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had done it again;, they fooled the entire world. The international media was reporting that the Reykjavik summit had foundered on the Star Wan issue, thus shattering any hope of a break-through in the arms control talks. But nobody knew that the two leaden had actually reached a secret agreement of historic proportions, the most significant part of it was to pretend that no agreement was reached at all.
THE THOUGHTS AND WORKS OF H.E. THE HIGH COMMISSIONER
THE 100% SOLUTION 
His Excellency the High Commissioner took his usual place in the Operations Room of the Residency, and with a gesture indicated to his assembled senior staff to take their seats. The whole place had, what Lord Acton once described as, the atmosphere of accredited mendacity.
THE THOUGHTS AND WORKS OF H. E. THE HIGH COMMISSIONER
A CASE OF EXCHANGEABLE IDENTITY 
I sat in the Hilton’s lounge sipping a Seven-Up and wishing it were made of stronger stuff. I was about to leave when I saw Ten Percent, my old top aide and the confidential keeper of my private affairs, walking into the lobby of the hotel. For a moment it seemed unreal seeing him there, dressed in the latest fashion Pierre Cardin suit. He was, of course, supposed to be a long-term resident of Kober prison. But I guessed that he was out on one of his frequent forays into town; presumably for another family occasion to celebrate yagu aidin.
THE THOUGHTS AND WORKS OF H.E. THE HIGH COMMISSIONER
THE GREAT VICTORY 
[Author’s note: this is the first installment of a trilogy which has a personal background to it. Shortly after the end of the Transitional Period in 1986, the American University in Cairo renewed an offer for me to teach there (originally made before I joined the Transitional Government). But the then Egyptian Ambassador in Khartoum, who had labeled me as anti-Egyptian during his service as Minister of Culture and Information, warned his government against my sojourn in Cairo as constituting a ‘threat to national security’. The Egyptian authorities then refused the residency permit (which was not even required under treaties in effect at the time between the two countries) declaring me a persona non grata and thus blocking my teaching career at the AUC. This humor article was the first in the trilogy lambasting the activities of the Egyptian Embassy in Khartoum at the time.]