23 February 2018

What we used to be and what we are now

Gordon College, Khartoum, Sudan 1936 (Photo: G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress)

Like many Sudanese young men, I spent the last 20 years or so listening to the old generations’ fairy tales about the old Sudan. Pardon me for using the term fairy tales, but I wasn’t there and I know they are too good to be true, or are they? These tales were all based on the core belief that Sudan used to be the best at everything.

To be honest, as a kid living abroad, I used to enjoy it, or let’s say showed some interest, when I was told these tales. Maybe it was the attitude and the pride shown by my father that dragged me to such joy or perhaps the sense of nationalism and pride that came along with it. However, it was still confusing why my school mates, who were mostly international students, constantly asked me where Sudan was on the map. I bet all you readers lived or still living abroad went for exactly the same reply, “It’s in Africa, just below Egypt”. Sadly enough, it is indeed. Afterwards, adrenaline pumps into the veins and the bragging begins, it’s Show Time. Did you know that we were the second African country to introduce TVs? Did you know that we used to have the best railways network system in Africa? Did you know that we had the number one university in Africa? Did you know that we used to donate money to the Arabs? Did you know that Sudan is a co-founder of the African Football Association and that we practically introduced football to Africans including Ivory coast and Ghana? Did you? Did you? And so on.

I guess we all believed this nonsense at that time and held on to it firmly to show off. But let me tell you something dad, there are only two possibilities that might have occurred, its either you are a big liar – and I wouldn’t like to think so frankly because you are my father – or your generation have messed up this country so bad that it is no longer recoverable. Or otherwise tell me how is it possible to change Sudan from one of the “leading” countries in Africa and the Middle East to one of the poorest and most corrupted countries in the world? I will not take the current regime policy for an answer. In fact, I will not take all the previous dictatorship regime policies for an

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answer. For my generation, it was your responsibility to keep this country as the leader it used to be. It was your responsibility to revolutionize against dictators when it was easier. It was your responsibility to at least protect your children from being brainwashed and reluctant when it comes to standing up for their rights.

To be fair, it is our generation’s responsibility now to call for change, not theirs any more. But it is a much larger burden for us to bear than it was ever for them – see, I’m brainwashed and reluctant. I believe the majority of the old Sudan tales are probably true and perhaps they are not fairy tales, however, it is the context in which they are presented. Shall we be proud or ashamed of what we used to be?

13 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to Kamal Cancel reply

  • Doa’a Kar
    10 June 2012 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I loved the post, it really struck a cord. I grew up with the same stories of what was and living abroad it is simply tiring to explain where Sudan all the time.

    Great post, looking forward to more. =)

  • Kamal
    10 June 2012 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    I belong to the old generation, or rather to the middle generation if you measure it from independence year. I graduated in 1972. I agree with you 100% that our generation and the generation before us messed it up. Mansour Khalid titled one of his books “The Government They Deserve”. Very true. He is part of the problem because he was politically active with Nimiry and then with Garang. Our only hope that the NEXT generation (if not your generation) will succeed to bring the country out of the collapse.

  • Ahmed Mirghani
    11 June 2012 at 7:17 am - Reply

    I loved the article, the only problem is everywhere we are talking about that Sudan is corrupted and expensive and this and that, all over the internet I always see phrases like these: “its time for us to change” “fight corruption” “time for revolution” etc
    But no one offers a solution, we need to stop talking much and start doing something,
    but I get it :/ in order for us to get the people on their feet we must talk first right? :@

  • mag
    11 June 2012 at 8:36 am - Reply

    tevery where i read sudanese people insulting thier culture histroy and tradition what we should be ashamed of is the ruling that prventing us from living within the normal hunan bieng standers and our inability to change the situation but our culuture and history we should be proud of that cause that is who we are and a nation with no tradition is a nation with no identity i think what our fathers are telling us is true why would they lie and the people who dont know where sudan is are ignorants and mostly racest if they are in the arab world its not important for me to get approval from other to feel proud of who iam and where i come from the main problem of sudan is its youth they have no love no pride no sense of belonging and no identity their gall is to share thier talents and intelgence and hard work in other places of the world if u want to make a change u make it if u loved who u are and the blood runing throu ur vains it will boil and make a change when people tell u where is sudan u should not feel a shamed u shoud feel jolous instate of our youth spending all thier enrgy thinking how to get out why not dream a bout bieng the next presdant the current polcy will not change cause there is no better substitute love your contury like your father be pround of who u are and dream to make a change instate of trying to belong else where bring what u liked out side to ur contry english is not my first langauge and i dont like to use so much but i did just to make my point clear

    • Wael A.Rahim
      12 June 2012 at 8:11 am - Reply

      mag i think you didnt get it. No one is insulting or being ashamed of sudan here and its not about what others think about us. If u read it again its concluding that our fathers arent liars and sudan WAS a leading country. However, the writer believes its their generation to be blamed for deteriorating sudan and wondering shall they be proud of what sudan WAS or ashamed of what sudan has become during their time.

  • Tariq El-shiekh
    11 June 2012 at 8:41 am - Reply

    God have mercy on Sudan.

  • Cordoned
    12 June 2012 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Let’s leave God out of this for a change.

  • Cordoned
    12 June 2012 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    “the main problem of sudan is its youth they have no love no pride no sense of belonging and no identity their gall is to share thier talents and intelgence and hard work in other places of the world if u want to make a change u make it if u loved who u are and the blood runing throu ur vains it will boil and make a change when people tell u where is sudan u should not feel a shamed u shoud feel jolous ”

    Yes English is not your first language clearly. But Militant language Is.
    This is what the NCP has done.

    ‘Nahnu Jund Allah! Allahou Akhbar!’

  • Cordoned
    12 June 2012 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    mag represents the kind of mass psychosis holding the country down. Comments like his/hers are the norm in Sudan: the usual mainstream kickdown “hush now” losers, not even willing to lend a word or two of support or constructive criticism. Psychologists call this Neuroticism. It’s extremely typical in Sudan. Most of these types are wounded by society’s failures and succumb to Stockholm syndrome.

    (1) It takes sacrifice: A tough pill to swallow. But I’m no political scientist. I’m no lawyer. Those who are, are more fit to produce the vision and common language we require. So there’s a shortage of politically committed and non-aligned Sudanese academics focused on Sudan, and at that, dedicated enough to produce the grassroots leadership (even by way of anonymity). We are living in an internet age, and we can’t seem to connect technology, anonymity, organization, and academic clarity. I’m an amateur. We need Magdi Gizoulis in the public.

    (2) It takes simple organization, forming networks with the diaspora who develop and maintain connections with international media. Pressure groups that bother the State Department or Downing Street.

    (3) It takes agreement on a simple manifesto.

    (4) It takes formal ceremonies and symbolic speeches with loose political connotations. We don’t need to speak of the details in Sudan (the NCP or Nafie Ali Nafie), but create a language of ideals and aspirations. Unity, Diversity, Democracy, Right to Assembly, Freedom of Speech. There are so many examples of this in history.

    (5) It takes unity so that when the regime is destroyed and elections do come, we aren’t divided like Egypt is between another Muslim Brotherhood Fossil of a party and the incumbent Salvation Fossil of a Party.

    (6) This whole thing about “studying symptoms” and all that jazz is unnecessary. We have the books. We don’t need to “research” any more. We do need to be informed. Enough people have done that. It’s plainly simple. What we need is leadership. Clear, high, decisive, bilingual, and connected.

    (7) Study other projects:
    The Palestinians in the United States,
    the American Zionist lobbies (yes get over it, even them)
    The National Rifle Association
    The Republican Party of the United States

    Committed, informed, decisive, and clear minded.

    Lastly education. Read read read read read. We don’t all have the same level of education. We’ve all started in different places and have been brought up in different ways. That’s okay. But reading is for everyone.

    On a personal note, I believe Sudanese need to learn how and when to yield to professional judgement or reasonable arguments; Don’t be arrogant or proud about this or that foreign-speaking Sudanese. It’s something I’ve encountered a lot of and in the past it has dampened vocalization of my observations, when in fact we have experiences and judgements that can very well improve Sudan’s situation.

  • Hisham Elzubeir
    14 June 2012 at 8:41 am - Reply

    I disagree to some extent. First, I think saying that so and so dictator messed it up is no excuse is an over-simplification of the factors that played role in this demise.

    However, my disagreement comes from a different viewpoint entirely. I don’t think its a generation thing. I think its a ‘Sudanese’ thing. You come and say that your generation (which is mine as well) is with a greater burden. Perhaps that is true… and?

    Well, I’ll tell you what’s ‘and’….and this new generation is doing exactly the same thing the ‘old’ generation was doing, which is seeking self-interest. Most of the enlightened ones of this new generation flee the country seeking better life and career opportunities. So when we blame the older generation, that’s all fine, but only when we DO take care of our responsibilities, which are aren’t either. This is a Sudanese thing…pure laziness, pure self-interest. I can’t fathom why it has become so, but again its not a generational thing in my viewpoint.

  • Yasir Elkhider
    15 July 2012 at 6:36 pm - Reply


    i live in china and the most thing made me laugh is “its Africa.. just below egypt”

    .. Everyday wallai!! nice one 😉

  • Julie
    18 July 2012 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Dear Wael El Khidir,
    unfortunatly for the new generation 1978 onwards, your dad’s and all the other older Sudanese Peoples’ words, on how Sudan used to be, are VERY VERY TRUE!!!
    I am not Sudanese but I lived most of my life in Sudan. My grandpa was a contractor, working with a Sudanese Gentleman, and many of the constructions (still existing even if in very deteriorating conditions) like Coliseum, Watania and Blue Nile Cinemas, the Grand Hotel, the Red Sea Hotel in Port Sudan, the Halfaya Cinema etc etc were built by them.
    So Sudan was PARADISE then. Roads were clean, railways were the best, food was available for everybody, water, electricity etc, Khartoum hospital, private clinics all all was functioning like a swiss watch!!!
    Friends of my parents, who worked in foreign companies, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Recchi co. still talk about Sudan with tears in their eyes, because their memories are of the BEST ones in their whole life time, and most of them MISS the love, generosity, kindness and honesty of the Sudanese Population.
    Back in the late 70′ a (trying to find the correct word in English) statistic study (maybe I am not sure of the word) of United Nation had declared that Sudan in the future was to be “the full rich basket” that would have fed all Africa.
    The question is: what went wrong???
    Let’s hope that soon things will change and all the People of Sudan may see better and happier days.

  • Altayeb
    20 July 2012 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Indeed, it is the generation whom were telling us the “story of their history”, and we didn’t find anything of this history.
    So. let’s stop listening to this stories and BUILD the FUTURE for us and for the next generations,

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