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No anniversaries in Sudan

Every year, when a Seed-Ahmed memorial event happened in Khartoum or other cities, it would be prohibited or raided by the police.

Reem Abbas
21 January 2013

Yesterday, in the afternoon, an email circulated about the path to be taken by  the envoy carrying the body of Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz, a popular Sudanese musician and activist. Before 6 pm, thousands were blocking the traffic on Airport road and inside the airport, even reaching onto the airport runway.

The route outlined was from the airport to the Musicians Union across the bridge in Omdurman, before another bridge would take people across to Khartoum North, where the singer lived and would be buried. 

The authorities had a different plan, The security forces picked up the box and rushed to the cemetery. The fans who were waiting to accompany the body from the airport and the others waiting for him at his family's house and the Musician's Union were left confused and angry. Clashed ensued, tear-gas was fired to disperse the fans who accordingly became protestors. 

On the same day, but 17 years ago, a Sudanese musician and social icon died in exile. Mustafa Seed-Ahmed was one of the most known and loved Sudanese musicians. His fight against dictatorship and his songs about the poor, the war and injustice gave him a Mandela-like status in Sudan. 

Every year, when a Seed-Ahmed memorial event happened in Khartoum or other cities, it would be prohibited or raided by the police. A lawyer told me that she used to bail out attendees of Seed-Ahmed's memorials on a regular basis.

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the execution of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, a scholar and religious leader, by the dictatorship of Jafar Nimeri for sedition and apostasy.

Taha had a following and his execution, which was public, triggered mass protests and as some claim, was a factor behind the 1985 revolution that took place a few months after his execution, toppling the Nimeri regime.

Taha's family organized lectures and a series of events today and tomorrow at his house to commemorate the anniversary of his execution: the house has become a cultural centre. My family and I were getting ourselves ready to attend those evening lectures. 

Before Sudan had recovered from the events at the airport yesterday, it found out that police forces were blocking all the roads leading to Taha's Cultural Centre and that security forces were reported to be surrounding the centre.

All these events have caused confusion in the public who don't understand why the authorities would not want them to celebrate the anniversaries of individuals regarded as public figures.

A year ago, Sudan's most famous singer, Mohamed Wardi, passed away. I arrived with my father who is his relative to the cemetery, only to find out that the police forces were surrounding the place with government officials at the forefront, cayrring his body down to the grave. 

My dad, who was his friend, said loudly, "all his life, Wardi fought dictatorships only to be buried by dictators".

The government, because it does not enjoy the same popularity as those artists and public figures, dislikes the attention they receive and tries to stop commemoration events from happening. This always backfires and causes even more dissent from people who are not politically active, people who just wanted to celebrate the anniversaries of their beloved musicians.

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