By Zechariah Manyok Biar
February 8, 2010 (SSNA) — The struggle for freedom is a complicated thing. Oppressed people who struggle for freedom can sometimes turn oppressors if they are not careful in the process of acquiring their freedom. This is the complication we are now falling into as South Sudanese as we campaign passionately for our independence in the year 2011. Some of us do not take time today to think whether what we are fighting for is to purify the South of Arabs or our struggle for freedom is to liberate the oppressed from the oppressors.
My concern here may seem irrelevant because many Southerners may think that we all understand that we are struggling for freedom of oppressed from the oppressors. But if one goes back and read all the articles written after the nomination of Yassir Arman as Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) candidate for president of the Government of National Unity (GoNU) in the upcoming elections, one will understand why I am writing this article. Some people just oppose Arman’s candidacy simply because he is Arab and unionist. These two positions are problematic when we describe ourselves as freedom fighters.
The idea that South Sudanese cannot support a unionist for president during the interim period is not supported by any law at this time. The interim period is the time that the North and the South will have one government. That means there is no problem with the unionist in the South, or associated with the South like Arman, governing the whole country. The idea about freedom will also prove us wrong if we oppose people simply because they like something that we don’t like. The only person we can oppose, as freedom fighters, is the one who says that we should not exercise our freedom to decide without any interference whether the South should secede or remain as part of the united Sudan in 2011.
If I believe that we are justified to oppose those who may interfere with our freedom to choose in the year 2011 whether to secede or remain part of Sudan, then are we not justified to oppose unionists like Arman from becoming presidents in the upcoming elections? The answer would be yes if Arman was saying that he would abolish the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) when elected as president of Sudan. But the evidence of Arman’s belief in freedom of choice for Southerners proves us wrong in believing that he may abolish the CPA when elected as president. Arman together with Pagan Amum were imprisoned last year for leading the demonstration against those who delayed the passing of Referendum Bill. Arman was even beaten up in prison. If we do not believe his love for freedom based on the fact that he was in the bush with us during the North-South war, then what can we say about his willingness to endanger his life to make sure that the Referendum Bill was passed and signed into law?
We do not seem to have a powerful position to oppose Arman’s candidacy simply because he is a unionist. So the remaining reason for opposing him would be that he is an Arab. But the question is: Are Arabs evil simply because they are Arabs? The answer will depend on who answers the question. But my belief is that we are not fighting Arabs in Sudan, we are fighting oppressors who might even be Africans in the oppressive government in the North.
The inability to differentiate between the people and the system sometimes is based on bitterness or on racial hatred. Bitterness would be justified to a limited extent because it takes time for people to recover from anger. But bitterness that can be justified would be directed toward the group that mistreats you, not against those who are mistreated with you. Arman and many other Northerners were mistreated with Southerners for long time by the government in Khartoum. Why should we put them in the basket that they hate to live in, the oppressive regime? Would it not be part of liberation to put the government in the North into the hands of those who treasure freedom, like Arman, so that Northerners are free even in the absence of Southerners? Many people would agree that Northerners would be better off under Arman than they are under Bashir. And the South and the North can live in peace after 2011’s secession of the South.
The only reason that we can put forward for calling Arman Arab is racial hatred. Racial hatred would be justified if we do not claim to be freedom fighters. Freedom fighters do not hate people based on their race; they liberate the oppressed from the oppressors. The definition of oppressed in Sudan would be trivial if we limit it to Southerners. We know that Nubians shed their blood in their thousands during the North-South war, siding with the South against the North because they are oppressed by the system in the North. If we were fighting against Arabs and not the oppressive system in Khartoum, then what is our plan for Africans living in the North when we secede from the North in 2011?
Am I not begging a question by asking the above question because my articles show that I favor the secession of the South from the North? It is true I favor the secession of Southerners, but I often say that the reason for the secession would be to have a free part of the country where oppressed people in the North could run to for asylum. If I join those who think that we should have nothing to do with Arabs, then I will have hard time justifying our claims as freedom fighters because there are oppressed Arabs in the North who should be liberated too.
Racial hatred to me has no end in the same way that tribal hatred has no end. Racial and tribal hatred can be narrowed down to the level of family. When I was in the university in Uganda, I used to argue against those who held President Mugabe of Zimbabwe as African hero simply because he made White people cry in Zimbabwe by taking their lands and giving it to Africans in Zimbabwe. I argued that President Mugabe would never be my hero because he was going to narrow his hatred down to Africans when the Whites were gone.
A hero, as far as I know, is a person who is admired by many people for doing something brave or good. If President Mugabe was doing something good, then to what extent was he doing it? Those who see him as a hero will say that Mugabe was reclaiming the land from the Whites and giving it back to black people. I believe that Mugabe has a point but the way he is carrying it out is faulty. Let us examine how faulty Mugabe’s handling of the situation is and see if we can learn something from it.
Mugabe’s actions against White occupiers of the land in Zimbabwe are motivated by racial hatred than driven by desire for justice. Actions motivated by racial hatred are not heroic actions because we know that whoever hates other races will one-day hate and mistreat those who are not related to him in his own race. They say in Dinka that a thief who fails to steal always dislodges a stone from the hearth and carries it away in order not to go back to his place empty-handed. In the same way, hatred never go empty-handed. If the Whites are not there, Mugabe can hate other black people, if other black people from other countries are not there, Mugabe can hate Zimbabweans who are not related to him; if other Zimbabweans who are not related to him are not there, Mugabe can hate his uncles and aunts, if his uncles and aunts are not there, he can hate his father, mother, brothers and sisters, if they are not there, he can hate his wife and children and then he lives a miserable life. Some of the people like Mugabe sometimes commit suicide because they even hate themselves.
Because hatred can never go empty-handed, whoever says that a man who hates other races and other people is a hero is innocently slowly boiling himself to death. For example, Zimbabweans slowly boiled themselves to death when they hailed Mugabe’s mistreatment of the Whites as heroic. Later on, when the Whites remained few, Mugabe’s hatred for others could not go empty-handed. He sent thousands of black Zimbabweans homeless when he ordered the demolition of their homes in what he termed “Operation to Clean the City of Trash.” How can a hero call his people trashes and treat them as so?
Can South Sudan be any difference if our campaign is against the Arabs simply because they are Arabs? Are we not going to use the same hatred against other Southerners when the Arabs are gone in 2011? Is it not wise for us to differentiate oppressors from their race?
Of course, the answer to the above questions would still depend on the beholder. But I will challenge those who think that Southerners should not support Arman simply because he is a unionist and Arab to tell us what freedom means to them and what they will do with Africans living in the North if our struggle is to free Africans from Arabs.
Zechariah Manyok Biar is a graduate student at Abilene Christian University, Texas, USA. He just graduated with a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and he is still pursuing a Master of Science in Social Work, specializing in Administration and Planning. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org