23 June 2017

A psychological war: Who’s the alternative?

Sadig Al Mahdi, leader of the opposition’s National Umma Party.

Ever since the protests began, the question ‘who’s the alternative?’ has been asked more times than the song ‘Call Me Maybe’ has been broadcast on the radio. In fact, it is a question that dominates the minds of many Sudanese people. Whenever the word ‘change’ is mentioned, the argument ‘who’s the alternative?’ is often thrown in your face.

Sudan is a country that has witnessed years of war, armed conflicts, military coupes and several revolutions that have turned into ashes. Unfortunately, as a result of the immense disappointments and unresolved issues over the decades, an overwhelming negativity has taken over our society. It is a difficult thing that I had to deal with first-hand when I came to Khartoum. Many objected to the things I had to offer; in terms of ideas and thoughts. It was as though they had locked their minds, and tossed the key into the Nile.

When you’re negative, the game stops in the tracks. Your fear of going backwards prevents you from moving forward. You stop caring, and you don’t even bother trying.

Last year, we organized a debate at the University of Khartoum addressing the importance of change, and the obstacles standing in the way of it. My friend was one of the speakers. “The NCP must fall,” he said, and naturally, they all cheered. But as the discussion rolled on, his criticism of the opposition seemed to have caused an inconvenience, and many attacked him. Ironically, one of the students accused him of supporting NCP.

My friend is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, and he doesn’t agree with the party’s recent actions or its leadership. I’ve learned a lot from the student movements. The fact that you belong to a party doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with every single move they make.

Alliances are built on common grounds, not demanding everyone toe the line. If you want change, take action, keep an open mind and never go back.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with an Amjaad driver. “University of Khartoum,” I muttered. He started praising the students endlessly. “You’re a hero. You all are,” he said. I shook my head immediately. “No.” However, he insisted, noting that “University of Khartoum students make history. They always have.” I argued with him, asking, “Do you support the protests?” The driver nodded enthusiastically. “Then why aren’t you protesting too?” I asked curiously. “I participated in two previous revolutions,” he told me. “I took a bullet right here,” he smiled proudly as he pointed to his chest. “It’s still your country. You should join,” I urged him. “Oh no. I’m old now, one smack and it’s over,” he replied, chuckling.

“Don’t let them steal your revolution.” He remarked, referring to the ‘alternative’ planted in his mind.

“We have great young leaders, and that negative mentality needs to be broken,” I quietly thought to myself.

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