Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Tribal backwaters

Tribal backwaters
Tribal backwaters
Al-Ahram Weekly

Sadig Al-Mahdi, the former Sudanese prime minister and leader of the opposition Umma Party, believes that the regime of President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir is crumbling, but the Sudanese daily Akher Lahza begs to differ. Moussa Hilal, leader of the Arabised Mahameed tribe, noted that there is no rebellion among the Arab tribes of Darfur.

“We are very grateful to Qatar because it is mediating in the Darfur conflict,” Hilal told Akher Lahza. “Unfortunately, South Sudan now plays the role formerly performed by the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and neighbouring Chad in fomenting trouble in Darfur. Juba embraces the opposition,” Hilal warned.

Each side in the Sudanese political establishment has its own narrative. Politicians are asking tough questions about sensitive issues. The Sudanese daily Al-Sahafa noted that parliamentarians of the ruling National Congress Party in Sudan are discussing the sidelining of Ghazi Salaheddin, its official parliamentarian representative, and appointing Mahdi Ibrahim in his place.

“Parliamentarians must decide who represents them,” noted Alwiya Mokhtar in Al-Sahafa. “MPs discussed the matter with Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie. The MPs stressed the importance of the democratic process within the party,” Mokhtar observed. And, the Sudanese daily Al-Rai Al-Aam concurred.

“Ghazi is a responsible politician and will do his utmost to avoid dissension within the ruling party,” the paper declared in its front-page headline. “The leading parliamentarian of the National Congress Party Mohamed Al-Hassan, and head of security and foreign relations of the parliamentary group of the ruling party, announced that Ghazi Salaheddin was sacked and that his departure does not constitute a threat to the position of the parliamentary group of the ruling party,” the paper stressed.

The Sudanese papers highlighted Sudan’s President Al-Bashir’s visit to Juba, the first by the Sudanese leader since South Sudan proclaimed its independence from the north. The visit was hailed as a triumph of intra-Sudanese relations.

The Syrian crisis and the 10th anniversary of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq hit the headlines, but news from Arab Spring countries predominated. In the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat scrutinised the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi democracy. “Today we are better off than under the monstrous dictatorship.” This was stated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki who could not celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s toppling. Indeed, Baghdad remained silent on this occasion, as the government, which is less unjust than Saddam’s regime, was preoccupied with an executions campaign whose justness is the object of doubt.

“Between a dictatorship and a less dictatorial tyranny that will last for a while, the Arabs’ situation during their spring and the Iraqis’ situation a decade after Saddam’s fall reveals that a hefty price was paid to launch a transitional phase, setting the foundations for the recognition of the rights of the other oppositionists as the only way to ensure stability and end the killing. Between this and that scenario, the revolution has become the hostage of anarchy.”

“Sheikh Sadik Al-Ahmar is the head of Yemen’s powerful Hashid tribe. He rose to prominence during Yemen’s revolution when he backed the revolutionary youth against the Saleh regime. He resigned from his position in Yemen’s General People’s Congress in solidarity with the protest movement, and his revolutionary role culminated in the infamous Battle of Sanaa in the summer of 2011. This saw opposition and tribal forces, led by Al-Ahmar, physically confront the forces loyal to Saleh throughout the Yemeni capital. These clashes included an attack on the Yemeni presidential palace which left President Saleh injured; he was later taken to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Following the Yemeni revolution, Al-Ahmar played an increasingly prominent role on the political scene, most recently in the National Dialogue Conference presently taking place in Sanaa,” wrote the pan-Arab London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Yemen’s tribes are not like the Amazonian tribes. Yemeni tribalism built the Marib dam. The Yemeni tribes trace their roots back to Sheba and Dhu Raidan. It was the Yemeni tribes that built Mecca at the time of Prophet Ibrahim, and they formed the Aws and Khazrag tribes during the early days of Islam. Yemen’s tribes promoted this new religion, taking part in the conquests and spread of Islam, spreading this religion across East Asia,” Sheikh Al-Ahmar pointed out in Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The customs and traditions of Yemeni tribalism do not clash with the modern civil state, rule of law and Islamic Sharia law. However, if what we mean by the civil state is the renunciation of Islamic Sharia law, then this is something else. Yemen’s tribes want a modern civil state, modernity and development. Our tribal members today include engineers, pilots, doctors, computer programmers, accountants, administrators and officers. There is no conflict between the customs and traditions of Yemen’s tribes — which emanate from Islamic Sharia law — and development, progress and modernisation,” Al-Ahmar trumpeted.

Sanaa apart, the politics of militant Islamists in the Sahara Desert of Africa, the world’s largest, received some attention in the Arab press. “The international envoy to the Sahara, Christopher Ross, launched his mission in light of the relevant Security Council resolutions. He ended up seeking regional mediation mainly between Morocco and Algeria,” Mohamed Al-Ashab declared in Al-Hayat.

“For the first time ever, the United Nation’s secretary-general announced that a regional solution for the Sahara conflict is a must and that there is a need to contain the repercussions of the security threats in the Sahel and to activate the Maghreb Union, as this will allow for responding to the challenges. This approach represents a positive development in dealing with the ongoing conflict,” Al-Ashab extrapolated.

And, there was much deliberation in the Arab media about Syria. The part played by Russia received particular attention. “Russian President Vladimir Putin is now charting this precise course, expressing anger at the bloody violence taking place in Syria and calling on all sides to stop the violence. This represents something of a retreat after the Russian narrative had previously been based completely on adopting the discourse put forward by the Assad regime,” noted Mshari Al-Zaydi, a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, in Asharq Al-Awsat. “This absurd situation is the result of regional and international inability to curb the Syrian crisis. This has led everybody to switch to the rhetoric of hope rather than working on the ground to change the reality of the situation,” Al-Zaydi concluded. Jihad Al-Khazen in Al-Hayat penned a poignant obituary about the late British premier Margaret Thatcher. “I cannot give the readers information about Mrs Thatcher that the British media is not aware of. Yet I will recount something that the reader will not find anywhere else other than in this column,” Al-Khazen conceded.

“After Thatcher’s resignation on 22 November 1990, John Major headed the British government. I interviewed him as well, on the back of the invasion of Kuwait. I sat waiting for him in the same room at 10 Downing Street where I interviewed Mrs Thatcher. I noticed that the window in the room was broken, and the curtain torn, so I asked the photographer to snap a shot of it in that condition,” Al-Khazen confessed.

“When Major entered the room, the first thing he told us was not to photograph the window. The latter, he said, broke when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) fired a mortar round on 2 February 1991 from the street in front of the prime minister’s residence, and landed in the garden behind it. The government, he stressed, did not want the terrorists to know where the shell had fallen.

Al-Khazen compared the IRA with militant Islamist groups in the Arab world and internationally. “I did not tell John Major that we had photographed the window. I did not publish the picture either, and did not mention this until today, more than 20 years later. All I want to add in the end is that I have always appreciated Mrs Thatcher’s role in the liberation of Kuwait,” Al-Khazen summed u

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