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.
The more I thought about this ‘friendly’ gesture, the more I became fascinated with it. Indeed my fascination was such that I decided to apply it on a personal level. I must confess that I am basically a very insecure person, and the notion of having some helping ‘friendly force’ on my side had an irresistible appeal to my paranoia and ‘red-seeing’ nature. The first person I approached was Mohammed Ahmed Senior, my long-time friend. “Mohammed Ahmed,” I said, “how would you like to be my ‘friendly force’?”
“Sorry, old mate ” he replied impassively, “you must have got things mixed up in your mind.”
“How is that?” 1 asked indignantly.
“Look,” he explained with an apparently enforced patience, “you are a Northerner and I am a Northerner, too. Therefore I can’t be your ‘friendly force’. You have to look for a Southerner or, failing that, a westerner.” He paused for a moment and then added, “The ideal situation is, obviously, a combination of the two.”
I couldn’t see the logic of his reasoning. “That is discrimination against us northerners!” I protested. Mohammed Ahmed Sr. shrugged his shoulders and murmured something about the rules of the game, particularly where armed militias were concerned.
What armed militias had to do with ‘friendly forces’ was beyond my comprehension. I thought my friend Mohammed Ahmed was the one who had got things mixed up in his mind. I told him so in no uncertain terms and that was the end of our friendship. But that is another story.
1 wasn’t going to let thattemporary setback weakenmy resolve to form my’friendly force’. So I went tosee one of my Southernfriends by the name of AnyWanya Junior.
“Any Wanya Jr.,” I said, “How would you like to be my ‘friendly force’?”
He looked at me suspiciously and asked, “whomare you fighting?”
The question took me by surprise. 1 never really thought about it. But I had to come with an answer, so I generalized the issue. “Whoever is threatening my security,” I replied.
“What is in it for me?” Any Wanya Jr. asked with a gleam of anticipation in his eyes.
“It is all for a good cause,” 1 began philosophically, “after all…”
Any Wanya Jr. cut me short. “Look,” he said, “there must be a mutuality of interests. 1 mean whoever is threateningyour security must also be threatening mine.”
That seemed fair enough. After some reflection I decided to put the matter in a more explicit way: “We do have some common enemies, don’t we Any Wanya Jr.?”
“That is true,” he replied, “There are those fellows in the new School of Administrative Sciences Movement (SASM) who have been trying to muscle your Faculty out of business in a bid to take over the whole University. If they succeed they will turn against us.”
Any Wanya Jr. paused to pull a piece of paper from his pocket and continued: “You know, they receive external support and sanctuary from their mentors and instigators in the University of Gezira and the University of Juba. If you want to know my advice you should declare an all-out open war against them instead of talking about dialogue, the prospects of a peaceful solution and meaningless declarations.” Any Wanya, Jr. put the piece of paper back in his pocket and added: “Needless to say you will need all the help you can get.”
I knew, of course, that he was right. But I did not tell him that I had already decided to patch up the unnecessary quarrels I had picked with my counterparts in the lslamic University of Omdurman and Cairo University, Khartoum’s branch. But that was another story.
I smiled and said: “Those peace initiatives with the SASM are just politics, Any Wanya Jr. Leave that to me.”
He nodded a grudging agreement. “All right,” he said. “I agree to be your ‘friendly force’. I will send you a short list of my immediate requirements tomorrow.”
The next day I received from Any Wanya Jr. an extensive and very expensive list that included among other things: One M16 assault rifle, one Uzi Submachine-gun, packs of TNT and other explosive materials, and 10,000 in US dollars to be deposited in a secret bank account. (The words ‘Sudanese currency is not acceptable’ · were heavily underlined.) I thought Any Wanya Jr. was being a bit overzealous and very demanding. But a deal was a deal and I had to comply. Besides, I could always pin the blame on him if things were to go out of hand.
The next week a bomb exploded in the offices of the Dean of the SASM. I made an impassioned speech at the Academic Staff Club justifying the attack as a appropriate retaliation to the terrorist and irresponsible provocations of the SASM and drawing attention to the fresh, uncontested evidence of the movement’s suspicious connections with other unfriendly Universities.
I praised the efforts of Any Wanya Jr as part of the continuing struggle to preserve the territorial integrity of our University.
The SASM was apparently getting scared. Predictably, their violent reactions gave substance and credibility to my accusations of the subversive, intransigent and externally-controlled nature of their movement. The escalating cycle of violence was inevitable but was readily explicable in terms of the need to “get rid of some bad blood every now and then”. (I got that phrase from the Godfather better known as the Imam in the Arabic translation.)
In public I sometimes took a conciliatory attitude for public-relations purposes but the relentless fight against the SASM continued. I had some trouble with colleagues, some of whom were more troublesome than the SASM. But that is another story.
Eventually, victory was at hand. The SASM was more or less (in reality, less than more) forced out of the University. I held a victory celebration m the Staff Glub. In the midst of my speech my estranged friend Mohammed Ahmed, came rushing and told me that Any Wanya Jr was looking for me. I smiled and proudly told him that Any Wanya Jr was one of ‘friendly forces’.
“Not any more, old mate,” Ahmed said. “he is carrying a loaded M16, proclaiming that he intends to form his own university and is threatening to blow your brains out.”
The sad turn of events was devastating. I was back to worse than square one. My heart sank as I pondered the fact that 1 would have to start all over again trying to recruit some new ‘friendly forces’. It was a measure of my desperation that I began to wonder if the SASM would be interested.
The only consolation was the sickening feeling that by the time Any Wanya Jr caught up with me I wouldn’t have any brains left for him to blow out. But that is another story.
SUDAN TIMES 8 June 1987