Monday, 13 June 2011

Ending Sudan's Identity Crisis

Sudanese blogger, Amir Ahmadhad an op-ed on CiF last Friday on Sudan's identity politics and this is an excerpt from a longer and thought-provoking piece.

pic jacked from the internetz
Since a year before its independence in 1956, Sudan has witnessed terrible violence and bloodshed, which continues to this day. The reasons for this are numerous and complex, but one key culprit has always been our Afro-Arab identity crisis, which doesn't seem to have any near end in sight. 
Contrary to what many northern Sudanese may like to believe, the secession and independence of the south is not going to end the identity crisis, and it's certainly not going to magically turn the country into a genuinely Arab Islamic nation-state despite what Omar al-Bashir may want. 
It won't happen, not even by force, due to the simple fact that Sudan always has been and always will be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious melting pot. Multi-ethnic given its minorities and various dominant Arab, Afro-Arab and African tribes, and multi-religious given its diverse population of Muslims, Christians and animists. 
The question is: will we eventually have a democratic government that actually recognises and respects our diversity? Or will we continue to have an Islamist Afro-Arab regime, largely in denial of its "Africanness", which forcefully seeks to impose its self-serving interpretation of Islamic law and confused Arab identity on the rest of us? 
...We're Afro-Arab in three main ways, simplified as follows: 

1. Ethnically as well as culturally Afro-Arab2. Ethnically Afro-Arab but culturally predominantly Arab (the majority)3. Ethnically African but culturally predominantly Arab and hence "Arabised"  
Nevertheless, our attitudes don't really honour this reality. Yes, there are many of us who value our combined Afro-Arab heritage and self-identify, either as Afro-Arabs or just as Sudanese. There are also many who identify primarily as Arab or African for valid reasons that depend on which side of their cultural and ethnic heritage weighs more heavily. 
However, there are too many who reject their "Africanness" or "Arabness", with a few in both camps condescendingly and outspokenly showing disrespect for that aspect of themselves which they reject. Then there are those who don't reject, but rather gently distance themselves from their "Africanness" or "Arabness" – consciously or subconsciously.


TwoCents: I think the discussion extends to other parts of Africa - what does it mean be African, what does it mean to be Arab, and an Arab African or African Arab? And who defines what the dominant meanings of Arabness and Africanness is, what's the political relation and power balance? These are all contested and continually evolving identities and this is something Arab Africans and Africans (in all their diversities and colors), alike, need to have multiple, frank, cross-generational discussions about. 

10 comments:

uglyblackjohn said...

No matter the situation - we always seem to find the differences between ourselves.

KonWomyn said...

And those differences are exploited for the most violent of things, even though we are one people.

Hope you're good Black J.

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Adil Abdalla said...

Thanks for using my composed image.. It tells all about Sudan: History, People and Future..
I really feel contributing with something sustainable..!

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