The Specter Haunting Sudan and the Drawers of Oblivion

Jamal Al-Keshky


The war in Sudan broke out nearly fifty days ago. Considerations and figures have been changing by the day. Fatalities and casualties increase, the humanitarian crises exacerbate, hope is pinned on Arab and international mediations, and the level of fear rises. In mirrors into the future, we see apprehensions regarding the number of refugees fleeing this hell, a resurgence of terrorism, and the reinvigoration of illegal immigration and illicit trade.

Whenever I reflect on what the future holds for this brotherly nation, I am overwhelmed with fear about the fate of a pivotal Arab country that is among dearest to me personally.

Sudan does not deserve all this. Indeed, it is not only the fact that this war broke out that should worry us. The real fear is that it continues as the world looks the other way. Wars that go into oblivion are the most dangerous, and I worry that this could happen in Sudan and that violent scenes from the war underway in this brotherly nation will become familiar and normalized - that we will adapt to and coexist with scenes of blood, chaos and destruction.

The moment that happens, a hefty price will be paid by Sudan and its civilized and educated people, whose qualities reflect the kindness of the people of the Nile.

Some may ask: Why do you worry that the Sudanese war could be forgotten?

It makes sense to pose this question, and my answer also makes sense. Contemporary history and the events currently unfolding remind us of similar cases seen in the past. Indeed, we can point to several wars that were perpetuated for years until they were eventually forgotten. However, their scars can still be seen on the maps of these countries.

Lebanon, for example, is no longer the country we had known before the outbreak of its civil war in 1975, which went on for 15 years and took the lives of over 120,000 victims. With time, we became accustomed to seeing violent scenes in Lebanon on a daily basis. We learned to live with them after it became apparent that the belligerents had no intention of building peace and social cohesion. The outcome was disastrous, and no attempts were made to fix the problems plaguing this country that we used to call the “Switzerland of the East” and whose capital we called the “Paris of the East” and “the queen of the coast.”

Beirut was sick with this disease. It became home to a forgotten war, whose perpetuation was a scourge on the country, making it increasingly fragile, weakening its economy, and opening the door to foreign actors seeking to intervene in the country’s domestic affairs and to undermine the country’s sovereignty.

Israel dared to attack Lebanon several times, both during and after this war. Lebanon was invaded and occupied, and we see attempts to erase its identity. This country was and continues to be a lung for the Arab world, as well as a hub for Arab thought and creativity. If its political parties had prioritized the interests of the country, and put an end to the bloodshed and the queues at funerals, it would not have remained forgotten, and it would not be facing the threats it is currently exposed to.

The pain of Beirut remains forgotten. It is stacked away in the same drawer of oblivion as the pain of Damascus, which continued to bleed for an entire dark decade. The West and the East raced to drain the country of everything, igniting a civil war that left scorched earth, devastated institutions, and a broken nation-state in its wake. Its squares lost the aroma of Damascene jasmines and now reek of blood. As time went on, the destruction and violence accumulated, and its people left their homes to escape its hell.

Now recovering from this war, Syria has returned to the Arab fold by unanimous approval. However, the memories linger: Syria is not the same country it had been before the war, as the world watched on while it burned.

Algeria’s “Black Decade” is another example. Libya and Yemen have yet to rid themselves of this scourge, and before them all, Iraq sipped from this bitter cup over “black decades” of wars with neighbors, occupation, and civil wars.

When faced with civil strife, we must look into and learn from the profound lessons of others. We must ring the alarm bells before Sudan becomes another painful memory. Sudan has already undergone civil wars, and it paid for them with the lives of its citizens, its stability, and its wealth.

Now, with this war, there is no time for complacency. The moment to be decisive has come. If left unchecked, this conflict will branch out into labyrinths. We must prevent it from snowballing until it is forgotten.

If we reach a point at which it is forgotten, Sudan might cease to be a single entity. This certainly is not the wish of the Sudanese people or any segment of Sudanese society. No Arab wishes fragmentation on this country rich in civilization, culture and humanity.

Given these fears and the tragic experiences we have undergone, I will be frank and ask that all the parties in Sudan overcome their intellectual, ideological, ethnic, and political differences, to save this important African and Arab country. This is the only way to prevent Sudan from becoming an arena in which foreign actors vie for influence.

It might be the moment to quote some lines by Ahamd Shwaki, the prince of poets.

Even if thoughts of immortality distract me from it

The eternity within me draws me to my homeland