Is There An Aim behind The Two Ideas ? 

By: Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim

Arabic version published in Al-Fajr Newspaper 
Issue Number: 79, Sunday, January 3, 1999

Years ago, a certain call came about in the political arena, and especially on the part of the leftist movement, to exclude the old leaderships from political activity. The movement was vehemently pursued with ungratefulness and unappreciation to degrade the contributions made with the gravest sacrifices by these old leaders to establish their party and organizations and the great achievements they accomplished for the masses
of people, parties and organizations. This was such a strange act against our popular values which always motivate us to appreciate achievements of the old ones and praise the role played by the nationalist persons who sacrificed so dearly for the homeland and the Sudanese people.

The argument of the call in question was raised to open the way to the young ones to take up leadership positions. This was not a bright idea for a simple reason which is that, the political and social arena is already occupied with many young leaders. It is a normal occurrence of life and "evolution" as the existing old leaders were once young people who worked side-by-side with the elder ones before they succeeded them, and so forth.

I remember that I had written under this column an essay on "Youth and the leadership position," in which I spoke about this issue. I am now returning to it because of the discussions of the symposium organized by Darb Alintifada through a Sudanese internet from America. Many graduate women and men participated in the symposium on women's issues, women's representation in the NDA and other public problems, and performance of the NDA
in general. On top of the participants was professor Sondra Hale (an American) who had spent a long time in Sudan and obtained a doctorate on her thesis regarding the political struggles and women's movement in the Sudan.

What drew my attention was the strong call that professor Sondra flatly made to the young generations to "sweep up" the old leaders ! There is no doubt that she meant me with that call for reasons quite known to me. She assured them that they are able to do that job because they are a strong force. She then sympathetically added," let us keep them (i.e., the old leaders) in our hearts !"

Here, I laughed as I imagined myself and the members of my generation steeply swept up by an American electric sweeping machine into the trash by groups of the Sudanese men and women graduates who would be chosen for this task. This enthusiasm by Sondra takes us to two important points:

First: Is Sondra Hale the source of these ideas which have been adopted by a number of male and female graduates since her presence in the Sudan?

Second: Why is it that Sondra avoided any mentioning of the experiences of these leaders and the significance of these experiences, negative or positive, to the young generations so that they can take advantage of them in a continuous process of change and construction. Why did she made of these only a memory to be kept in hearts?

Does all this aim to cut off these successful experiences from the political and social arenas as they allowed the Sudanese women's active participation in political struggle, as well as an equality that is not yet accomplished by the American women's movement?

These unique experiences enabled the People of Sudan to foil
the western plots launched against them, including the overthrow of two military regimes that were mainly established by the CIA (as later admitted by Philip in his book from inside the CIA).

What makes me return to the issue is the observations I have previously mentioned on the political situation of Sudanese people in the United Kingdom, namely the curtailment made to prevent the new generations from having access to experiences and contributions of the old leaders for training on leadership problems. This curtailment, led to a series of confusion and failures in many activities. It led to an exchange of insults and accusations amongst parties and organizations.

All this ascertains that the aim behind the call to exclude the old leaders from political activity is not only meant to
facilitate the succession of young ones to leadership positions. The aim is to destroy the experiences of the old leaders that enabled the People of Sudan to frustrate plots of the west, restore democracy, and allow the Sudanese women to achieve what all western women defaulted to accomplish. This inference, is further ascertained with the fact that the young ones in the universities and high institutes, in the communist party and
the other parties, and in the Sudanese Women's Union continued to work with the old leaders to lead the struggle and to make revolutions.

What drew my attention is this simplistic call to "sweep up the old leaders." This is a prejudiced call which fails to see that these old leaders occupied the positions of leadership by the will of the people who respect and trust them for the sacrifices and achievements they made in actual reality.

I assure my friend Hale, that the groups she had prepared for the process of sweeping up the old leaders will not be able to do that because these groups have not offered women or the country anything in real terms. They only thing they do is to criticize and theorize. Notwithstanding, the young women now struggling inside the Sudan and in the SWU's branch in Cairo have taken up the flag to continue the march and we stand by their side.

I would be looking for the day when I shall have some rest as I have not tasted any rest since I devoted myself for struggle
in my youth without any personal gain or reward. Not only that, I have always been subjected to conspiracies from many sources. Despite that, I would like to assure at this point that I will never withdraw from political activity until the last moment
of my life. As long as I continue to live, so long as there is injustice against women and children of our great People, I will pursue political activity until victory. If I live to that day, I will announce my retirement.

The other idea which aroused questions is a comment by a graduate woman, who is member of a party's leadership, in a discussion group on women's issues. She said, "The southerner woman is not backward" This comment overlapped with another one by professor Sondra Hale years ago on a lecture I gave on the situation of Sudanese women at the University of California in Los Angeles. Some might think that this was spontaneous or unworthy of notice. But in my opinion, it reflected the western concept on the liberation of women.

Professor Hale and this young party member know very well that the proportion of education between southern women is much less than that of northern women, the participation of southern women in the modern production sector and political activity is almost none, polygamy is practiced by Christians without limits, and a widow is inherited by a deceased husband's brother, etc.

Both of them know that the backwardness of women or peoples is not pertinent to any default in them. It is solely caused by the colonialism and the local regimes that ruled without changing the realities of people or status of women. Why did they ignore these facts? This proves that the aim is to apply the western concept of women's emancipation: As long as a southerner woman is naked and non-Muslim, she is not considered backward. The purpose is mainly to deflect attention from the causes of her backwardness so that the struggle will not be directed to the removal of her illiteracy and backwardness from her counterparts in the north, woman and man. This specific struggle is the real liberation of women and societies.

Didn't they know that American and western women are still far away from equality in rights and decision making, according to the United Nations statistics, despite all the nakedness, sex permissiveness, smoking and wine drinking ? Professor Hale is hanging, inspite of all these facts, three huge pictures on the entrance of her office at the University of California in Los Angeles. In one picture, there is a woman kissing a woman. In another picture, there is a man kissing a man and in the third picture, there is a man kissing a woman. Hence the repetition of Professor Hale's view by the Sudanese young party member, whether consciously or not, is extremely dangerous. We have to face it out, right now.

Finally, after this discussion, I would like to caution that we should not trust without reservations whatever comes to us from western experts. We should take from their experiences the positive side, the one appropriate to us. We should depend on ourselves to infer what is useful and appropriate to the masses of our people, according to our experiences and those of others. Assuredly, the others are not cleverer than us. And whoever walks in the right path will certainly arrive.

Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim