Mohamed Beshir Hamid

H.E.: Exchangeable Identity [2]






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.


“Ten Percent, come over here!” I found myself shouting before I could suppress myself, for I was not supposed to reveal my true identity. He looked in my direction, a shadow of surprise hovering over his normally impassive face. He started walking slowly in his crisp and elegant manner towards me. Standing in front of me he spoke calmly, but with a slight hint of contempt in his voice: “I don’t make deals with penniless university teachers like you.” I looked deeply into his eyes and spoke in my real voice, “Ten Percent, old buddy, don’t you recognize me?”


A glimmer of recognition flickered over his eyes and then his face brightened up and he shouted incredulously, “Is it really you, Rais?” He hugged me with tears streaming down his face, and kept repeating hysterically, “You are back, Rais. You are back, Rais. We all knew you would be coming back.” I tried to calm him down, afraid that my cover would be blown, but he could not contain himself. “Rais, when are we moving back to the Presidential Palace?” he kept asking excitedly.


”Take it easy, Ten Percent,” I said, “this is all part of a grand design. We are following the step-by-step strategy.”


“Is that why you are disguised as the Former Minister of Culture and Information?” he asked.


“Yes, Ten Percent,” I replied. ”The plan was to lure him outside the country with a job offer. Then our friends would refuse to give him a work permit. After that he was subjected to plastic surgery to make him look, walk and talk just like me. I must say, incidentally, that the result has been a great improvement on the kind of performance he used to make during the so-called transitional government. I had to undergo a similar operation, and so here I am looking and speaking just like him. You know, our other friends across the ocean have perfected this art of cosmetic surgery. Now, with this new identity and cover, I can personally organize my Great Comeback as the President-Leader. 1n the meantime, if these usurpers of my power, who un-ashamedly call themselves a democratic government persist on demanding my extradition, our friends can then hand over the former Minister to them. I can hardly wait to see how he can talk himself out of that situation! Everyone will think that he – meaning me – has gone completely crazy. He may even get off with a light sentence as you did, Ten Percent, on the grounds of diminished responsibility”.


“What a great plan, Rais” said Ten Percent, rubbing his hands gleefully, “whose idea was it?”


“It was one of the brilliant brain waves of our friend the High Commissioner here in Khartoum who communicated it to members of his government. These former intelligence people are really very intelligent. I wish I had more of their-type as -Ministers and Ambassadors in ·my government before the Great Setback”.


“It is only a temporary setback, Rais,” said Ten Percent, “we will soon recapture the good old days.”


“You know, Ten Percent,” I said, “When the plan succeeds I will promote you to Twenty Percent”. I knew he was thinking that he had already promoted himself to that position a long time ago. But there was no harm in keeping up appearances. .


“Isthere anything to prevent the plan from succeeding, Rais?” Ten Percent asked


“Well,” I replied, ”it might undermine our plans, should these fanatics here suddenly stop clamouring for my extradition. But what worries me most is the possibility of our friend the High Commissioner, an experienced troubleshooter, having to leave suddenly for a new mission in Islamabad. That is why the plan has to succeed and very quickly. I don’t want to be stuck for ever in that damned University of Khartoum teaching political science. Frankly, I haven’t the least notion about the subject”.


“You can’t say that, Rais” Ten Percent said soothingly, “you are a grand master of the game. You have tried every political system known to man during your glorious sixteen years in power. You even invented some which had never existed before”.


“As usual, you’re always right, Ten Percent,” I said, “but masquerading in this charade is beginning to get a bit on my nerves. I hate my assumed identity.”


“You need to worry too much on that score, Rais,” Ten Percent reassured me, “our friends, with the wise guidance of their High Commissioner here, will see to it that the Restoration takes placein the shortest possible time”. Ten Percent paused and then added, “but, Rais, what has happened so far to the poor formerMinister of Culture and Information?”


“Poor! My foot!” I cried with all the resentment and bitterness in my heart, “the lucky guy is living it up in my villa over there like he never tasted the good life before”


SUDAN TIMES Tuesday November 18, 1986 


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