Archive: english

Raising the Phoenix

The Rise and Decline of Student Political Activism in the Sudan

 Paper presented to the National Conference on Fostering Positive Political Participation of University Students and Youth in Development

12-13 December 2009 Khartoum, Sudan

Download the full paper PDF [43 pages]

 

Introduction

 

The basic theme of this study is that the political activism of the Sudanese student movement is, at present, in a state of decline and that any remedial effort first requires an examination of the reasons and processes of regression. The focus is mainly on the University of Khartoum as the institution with a history and legacy of a once vibrant student movement. Perceptions of decline usually stem from images of extraordinary past activism that are projected and contrasted with the present. The study offers the cautiously-optimistic proposition that the present itself may yet hold some possibilities for renewal. Read more

Happy Hour 4

UN Civil Affairs, Bihac Region 

HAPPY HOUR (4)

Double Occupant Cows

 

“We’ve a crisis on our hands”, Baron Radoukov said tersely on the phone.

 

Now the Baron has this annoying habit of calling me, just as I am about to take the first sip of my first morning coffee, to report one crisis or another in Canton 10, thus spoiling my taste for coffee and ruining the rest of my day.

 

“Before you say anything,” I replied, “are you on a secure line?” Read more

Happy Hour 3

UN Civil Affairs, Region Bihac

 

HAPPY HOUR (3)

Judgement at UN House

 

Deep in my heart I always knew that my preoccupation with Happy Hour would lead to my ultimate undoing. But I never thought the end would be so self-inflicted and come so soon and so drastically. I should have become cautious when malicious rumours (no doubt hatched in Janet’s office) began to spread in the RHQ that I managed to do all those Happy Hours because I had nothing else to do. My demise became unmistakably imminent the day I made the fatal mistake of telling Janet how to “doctor the reports”. Stupidly enough, I thought I was cleverly showing her the UN ropes. “You mean you’ve been making up all those DSRs, Weekly Assessment and Special Reports?” she slyly asked. I grinned like an idiot as I confided that the whole Regional Implementation Plan was the brainchild of my imagination. The “I see” with which Janet commented jolted me into realizing the magnitude of my blunder. I implored her, actually going down on my knees, not to disclose my little secret. “Sure”, she responded evasively and I immediately knew that my goose was cooked for sure. Serves me right for being such a trusting blithering fool.

  Read more

Happy Hour 2

UN Civil Affairs, Region Bihac

 

HAPPY HOUR (2)

 

Those of you who have been wondering what happened to Civil Affairs Happy Hour are probably unaware of the troubles visited on me during my short-lived leave. I had hardly disembarked at Washington D.C. Dulles airport when a consortium of lawyers descended on the terminal, falling over each other to slap me with subpoenas (boy! was I glad John wasn’t among them!). One said he represented a Baron Radoukov who alleged that I had threatened to give him a haircut (I wasn’t even aware of the restoration of the Monarchy in Bulgaria).   Another said he represented the Canadian Defense Ministry suing me for slanderous remarks I reportedly made about a Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson’s cuisine (truth be told, the BBQ at SFOR TSG was the only sustenance to help me endure all those Principals meetings). A third said she represented a Ms. Mulic who was accusing me of ‘palatable’ harassment of her coffee. This case was the first I deftly defended in court. I pleaded that I actually liked Ms. Mulic’s coffee so much that I actually dreaded going back to Bihac and so I actually started dreading going to Livno because after savoring the coffee there I actually dreaded going back to Bihac! The judge bought it hook, line and stopper. (Which made me wonder if I had chosen the wrong vocation but then I thought of John and decided I hadn’t). Read more

Happy Hour 1

UN Civil Affairs, Region Bihac

 

HAPPY HOUR (1) 

R&W

 

Yesterday I drove to the office minding my own business and nursing a slight hangover (the morning-after of a BarBQ party that started on Sunday afternoon and ended in the wee hours of Monday). As I was getting out of my car whom do I see waiting for me but my old friend Brendan. Now, Brendan is a jolly good fellow but under normal circumstances I have difficulty understanding more than 10% of what he is saying in his heavy Ukrainian accent. With a slight hangover (his or mine) that percentage drops to zero. So I may be forgiven for assuming that he was inviting me for a drink at 15:30 hrs in the conference room (why at that time and location was beyond my comprehension, but from past experience I’ve learnt never to question an Irishman’s drinking habits). So I walked into the conference room at the anointed time, expecting to assuage my dry tongue with an ice cold Guinness, only to discover that a meeting of the R&W was about to start. Now my understanding of abbreviations is at best lousy so I listened and nodded my approval to everything being said (my usual practice when the proceedings are over my head – a bad habit I’ve picked from my student days).  Janet apparently understood what was going on for she, foolishly in my view, volunteered IPTF organization of a Happy Hour (whatever that means) on Friday. I could not help thinking “there but for the grace of God goes our RIP”. I failed to warn IPTF not to count on Civil Affairs advice on the political implications of this Happy Hour (it’s not in the mandate, see?); but then neither did I commit Civil Affairs support for it.

 

Read more

The Federal Option

Democratization and State-Building in Africa:
The Federal Option in the Sudanese Experience

 

Mohamed Beshir Hamid

 

An Arabic translation of this study was presented to the conference on Problems of Democratization in the Arab World (اشكاليات التحول الديمقراطى فى الوطن العربى) Cairo, Egypt, 2-3 March 1996. The writer is currently updating and expanding the Arabic version to cover the period from 1995 to the present as a book project.

Download the full paper PDF [29 pages]


As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again to-day.
I wish, I wish he’d stay away.

Hughes Mearns, The Psychoed

 

 

Introduction

 

Democratization in Africa is a concern that dates back to, and was implicit in, the nationalist struggle for independence. But the parliamentary system inherited from the colonial period failed to live up to the democratic ideals. The failure was due partly to the colonial legacy and partly to the unresolved contradictions between the imperatives of democracy and the exigencies of development. “What emerged from the debris of the parliamentary model were varied forms of personal rule that achieved degrees of success, with varied degrees of coercion. Where there was success, however, it was precarious, temporary and crippled by its class and ethnic limitations; where there was failure, it was egregious, massive and tragic”.

 

Read more

Critical Dialogue versus Sanctions

Instruments of International Politics – Critical Dialogue versus Sanctions:

The Role of the United Nations Reconsidered

Mohamed Beshir Hamid

 

Paper presented to the Bertelsman Foundation and Munich University Workshop Project on Critical Dialogue and Economic Sanctions, Munich, Germany, 1996

[DOWNLOAD PDF]

 

Abstract

 

The post-Cold War period has seen the emergence of a number of approaches that seek to reexamine some of the strategies for international security and organization in the light of the transformation taking place in the international system. The renewed focus on a dialogue approach can be seen as a reaction to the increased multilateral and unilateral recourse to the sanctions regime. But while sanctions raise difficult questions in terms of practical application as well as of tensions with humanitarian concerns, the European critical dialogue is conceptually vague to the point of abstraction. The experience of economic sanctions demonstrates the need, first, to balance the humanitarian implications of sanctions with their expected political gains and, second, to avoid obscuring their explicit political goals with implicit agenda. Since there is no consensus on an alternative to economic sanctions, the challenge is how to refine them to reduce their negative impacts. In this context, the dialogue approach can come into play as a complement of, rather than a counterpoint to, the sanctions approach. The goal should be not to inflict collective punishment but to signal international censure in a process of gradual and limited application that places more premium on incentives than on coercion. Such a combined sanctions-and-dialogue approach might more readily bring about the desired changes of behavior by reinforcing recognition of mutual interests in observing international norms and in reintegrating the sanctioned state. This international reintegration, in turn, might encourage a similar process of internal reintegration. But just as the sanctions approach needs to be precisely clear in determining its target and goals, a dialogue policy should be unambiguous in defining its means and objectives. The focus of this dual process must be on its multilateral and not unilateral application. The United Nations constitutes a comprehensive forum that facilitates both dialogue and sanctions and provides the legitimating authority to endow the combined approach with political and moral force. But the tensions arising from new power realities and relations can no longer be effectively contained by Cold War security arrangements. For the international community to meet these challenges, the United Nations has to be reformed to make it more democratic and representative and more effective in transmitting its constitutive norms. The process of restructuring the emergent power relations of the new international order would likely be less disruptive if it is placed within the context of reforming the UN system.

Read more

Perspectives on Democratization


This chapter was published in Population and Economic Growth: Perspectives from the Global South: (Reports and Papers No 7), Center for the Study of the Global South, School of International Service, The American University in Washington D.C. (March 30. 1994)


 

Some African Perspectives on Democratization and Development:
The Implications of Adjustment and Conditionality

 

Mohamed Beshir Hamid

 

 Download the full paper PDF [14 pages]

 

 

I. Introduction

 

The end of the Cold War, and subsequent transformations in the global order, has given rise to new external pressures on African states to democratize. These pressures have taken the form of political conditionality – the linkage of bilateral and multilateral aid to political and economic liberalization. The rationalization of this new approach – the so-called “democratization carrot” – is that political reform is necessary for economic development. This reform is usually envisaged in the form of multiparty liberal democracy with the emphasis on cultivating a political culture anchored in Western democratic values. Read more

Lecture: U.S. Intervention in Somalia

The U.S. Intervention in Somalia:

Revisiting the ‘White Man’s Burden’?

 

 

Public Lecture given to the Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars in March 1993

 

The U.S. military intervention in Somalia was unique in many as aspects. It was an action invoked and justified as a moral imperative. According to Newsweek, President Bush told the American troops departing for Somalia they were doing “God’s work”. An article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Bring Back Lord Kitchener?” commented that “what Desert storm did for America’s military credibility, Somalia may do for America’s moral credibility”. An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor equates the national interest of the United States with the moral imperative to move “the international community towards a policy of responding to humanitarian and human-rights crises before they breed larger conflicts.” An essay in Time magazine entitled “sometimes Right Makes Might” observes that “what makes America’s intervention into Somalia seem so inspiring and also so dangerously slippery is that this might be the first time since the Crusades that an invasion has been launched for a purely moral rationale”.

 

These and other similar sentiment reflect perhaps the American tendency—some will say obsession—to ascribe morality to American actions, a morality that is always “self-defined” and often “self-righteous”. There is obviously nothing new in this. The best examples go back not exactly to the Crusades, but to the Wilsonian idealistic notion of “making the world safe for democracy”. The Cold War was always described by the United States in moral terms from Kennedy’s call to “pay any price and bear any burden” to Reagan’s uncharitable reference to the “Evil Empire”. But the real motivation was not morality but self-interest.

Read more

“Take Me to Your Leader!”

SUDAN TIMES

“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.

Read more

THE CASE OF THE MISSING CREDIBILITY

SUDAN TIMES

creditability

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?”

Read more

ON BEING A DOUBLE AGENT

SUDAN TIMES

doubleagent

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.

Read more

THE MANDATE

SUDAN TIMES

mandate

THE MANDATE

 

 

[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.

Read more

DUPed!

SUDAN TIMES

DUPed!

 

 

[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.

Read more

1987-1988: The Never-Ending Crisis

AFRICA
CONTEMPORARY
RECORD

Volume 12
1987-1988

Annual Survey and Documents
Sudan Chapter
Mohamed Beshir Hamid

Download the FULL 1987-1988record as PDF

The Never-Ending Crisis

Events in Sudan during 1987-88 were like a slow motion replay not only of the political scene in 1986-87 but, more ominously, of the situation that had prevailed more than 20 years earlier between 1965 and 1969.1 The similarities were indeed striking, even to the prevailing feeling of frustration over the ongoing crises and the constant sense of impending disaster. The unfolding events were almost identical: the strained relationship of the Coalition Governments of the Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP); the ineffectiveness of the Constituent Assembly as a national forum; the constant political Pickering between Government and Opposition; the lack of direction and purpose in foreign policy; and the economic malaise that had practically crippled the country. In the background of these daunting problems and, indeed, overshadowing them all, is the running sore in the south that seems to be inexorably seeping to the north, as though it is enacting a bizarre self-fulfilling nightmare.

In this almost surrealistic atmosphere ‘the long-running, downward spiral of politics threatens to do permanent damage to political life and institutions in the country’2.
Read more

ON BEING A FIFTH COLUMNIST

SUDAN TIMES

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).

Read more

THE MADDIES

SUDAN TIMES

THE MADDIES

 

[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.

Read more

D E N I A B I L I T Y

SUDAN TIMES

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

Read more

BETTER BETTERED BETTERMENT

SUDAN TIMES

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!

Read more

THE ‘SHATA’ ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME (SHAIDS)

SUDAN TIMES

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”.

Read more

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: