By: Alsir Sidahmed
A decision by President Omar Al-Bashir that the governor of Northern Kordofan State Ahmed Haroun will, in effect, keep his position for ever, seems to be addressing two paradoxical points at the same time: on one hand it is a recognition of what Haroun has managed to achieve in his tenure so far. And on the other it shows the vulnerability of that achievement as it is being seen as closely tied to Haroun to the extent that question marks are usually raised about the future of the state if Haroun is to be moved to another portfolio.
For more than four years since he was appointed governor for Northern Kordofan State, Haroun embarked on a new path to tackle the state’s problems. His message was simple to base his program on what the people want, get their consent and enable them to own it. Accordingly he tapped on the human capital of the state be it inside or outside Sudan to help in devising an agreed upon program for projects to be implemented to make the initial overhaul of the state’s economy. But most significant in all this is the spark of enthusiasm that engulfed various parts and inhabitants of the state to provide contributions and donations for the nafeer, or the collective effort being deployed for the sake of the community.
That enthusiasm was expressed and carried out by even young school children and ladies selling tea emboldened Haroun to ask the central government to top whatever amount of money collected by the state by three to four times matching.
And the record speaks for itself starting with the change of the face of El-Obeid, now having a refurbished and expanded mosque, stadium, roads, theatre to the water network, and the new 341 km Bara-Omdurman road that reduces the land trip to the capital by half. Besides, it passes through several states and it could be a pass way to carry out whatever products for exports. And that is why it is also called the Exports Highway.
The new spirit was strong enough to push for the second stage of production that will make the real difference in people’s life. It managed to attract Sudanese and foreign investors to come to the state. The first project was to revitalize Khor Abu Habil as an agricultural scheme and utilize the ginning factory after being neglected for almost three decades. The task was handled by the Sudanese businessman Wagdi Mirghani, who started by planting 5,000 feddans of cotton last year, where it achieved high production of eight quntars on average and being of good quality, that area was doubled this year and the more expansions are in the offing as well as agro-industries. Also the state managed to attract the Saudi company NADEC that introduced for the first time in the state production of wheat and planting dates trees. NADEC, in fact, went step further and contributed in financing 32 km of the Bara-Omdurman highway.
What has been achieved shows clearly that the possibility is there to tap the country’s rich natural resources for the benefit of the local community and the country at large. And that a leadership able to engage the people and make them own the drive for development is a key to success.
However, what is happening in Northern Kordofan state shows clearly the central role played by a leader and automatically raises the question mark about the future of such experience if Haroun is to leave the state.
The issue is both political and institutional and that is the approach to adopt in handling it. It is political in the sense that there is a need for transparency, accountability and above all ownership at grassroots level. As for the institutional aspect the issue is how to transfer the task, de-personalize it so that it acquires a life of its own, not dependent on certain figures. In both cases popular committees can be one of suitable vehicles for such approach, but it needs other political forces be it in the bank of opposition or the government to join hands and be part of this new political set up. After all any political activity worthy of the name needs to have addressing people and their concerns as its main target.
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