What can we do differently?
الجمل بيمشي و الكلب بيمبح….
The camel walks on and the dogs keep barking…
It is one of my father’s favourite Sudanese sayings. He says it to us all the time, whenever we are up against people telling us what we are doing is wrong, or “barking” at us to stop.
Stay on your path and just keep walking, he says to us, because if the camel stops and tries to reason with the dogs, it’s over.
So, we have entered the second week of protests in Sudan.
Things are spreading slowly, but I think I have only just begun to realise what an enormous mission we have embarked on. It doesn’t make it any less worthwhile, on the contrary, it makes me realise how much more seriously it needs to be taken.
We — the generation pushing for this change — haven’t seen a revolution in our lifetimes. The last time anything changed was a good score and three years ago, so we are new to this whole situation. We’ve seen change in our neighbours, and we want that for ourselves as well — I mean, why shouldn’t Sudan be free and fair?
I do think something is desperately wrong in this country, and I do think things have to change. However, I think it is folly not to learn from what is happening around us and what has happened in the past.
Things have been bad before: How did they change and why didn’t the change stick?
I often wonder how and why authorities in places such as Sudan get away with so much, when that doesn’t happen to the same extent elsewhere around the world. It isn’t because the Sudanese people are inherently different? I would ask myself.
No, it isn’t. One of the reasons is because there is zero accountability.
Technically, Sudan is a democracy: There were elections in 2010 where the current government was brought into power. Why! people ask, did the public vote for the status quo?!
Well firstly one must ask, how many voted? Something like only 9 million people registered for the voting, out of the what, 43 million inhabitants? 20% of the population. Which meant that the 73% winning margin amounted to about 14% of the actual population. Not decisive win by a long shot, but hey, Jimmy Carter said it was recognisable.
So, the process was there for people to make change. Why didn’t they take up that opportunity?? Why didn’t more people register? For a variety of reasons, one of which was a despair that their vote would amount for nothing. By not registering and voting, it became a self fulfilling prophecy.
The other main reason though, I personally think, is because there was no alternative…but that is a blog post for another time.
So, people believe their vote would amount to nothing. Why? Perhaps because they thought the votes would be doctored. Why would they let their rulers get away with that?
Well, who would stop them?
When you grow used to an oppressive regime, their omniscience becomes larger than life and the fear itself is enough to keep you from doing anything. That, and of course the actual repercussions that do occur, because the fear isn’t based on fantasy…
Ah, the crux of the issue. There is noone to hold the authority accountable. The international community can’t seem to, it legitimised them! The reason outside governments do things for the people is because they know the people can remove them if they are unhappy; the people hold them accountable! Here, that is not the case…yet.
This has to change if there is to be any lasting progress.
The question is, how do you make that happen?
If I knew, I wouldn’t be here in front of a screen asking you that question.
Yes, it is strange for me to harp on about this idea of the votes and democracy when there are ***things happening on the street!!!*** however I think it is important for some of us to take a step back and see the big picture. People on the street is but one part of a puzzle in rebuilding a community. The rest of the recipe includes a large scoop of organisation, a few dollops of realism, two cups of long term strategy and faith; let that simmer in a pot of experience and lessons from the past and we will see how it turns out.
I knew my grandmother’s cooking lessons would be useful…