Why Dr. Biong Deng was right

By Zechariah Manyok Biar

March 17, 2010 (SSNA) — Elections in Sudan are less than 30 days away, but Southerners are more interested in the year 2011 referendum than they are interested in April, 2010 elections. What is interesting about 2011 referendum is that Southerners want to secede from Northern Sudan. However, many people in South Sudan do not want to talk about how independent South Sudan will look like after 2011. Some Southerners think that what is important about the independent South Sudan is that South Sudanese will have the opportunity to administer their affairs for the first time since the independence of Sudan from Britain on January 1, 1956. Other South Sudanese think that they want South Sudan to be independent so that Southerners can no longer share oil’s money with Northerners. These beliefs have their advantages and disadvantages. It is important for Southerners to start serious discussions on these views because the year 2011 is not far away.

On February 9, 2010, the Sudan Tribune reported the Minister of Presidential Affairs in the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), Dr. Luka Biong Deng, as saying that the North and the South “may agree to extend the wealth sharing beyond the creation of the new state.” According to Dr. Biong, “It is in the interest of the south not to see the northern economy collapsing.”

Even though Dr. Biong’s idea is very important to look into, some people in the South may think that it is a crazy idea even before weighing its pros and cons. Dr. Biong acknowledged the difficulty of such a decision when he said, “Some people will say, ‘we have been sharing with these people for a long time; the moment we decide to secede, that’s it: we cannot share anything with them.’”

Dr. Biong seems right in his pessimism. I have been checking on Sudanese news since Dr. Biong uttered his words in February to see if anybody in GoSS recognizes that something has ever been said, but I have not seen or heard anybody talking about what Dr. Biong’s idea may mean to Southerners after the secession of the South in 2011. Because of this silence, I have decided to revive Dr. Biong’s idea even though I know that some people will dismiss it right at the door of their minds.

I agree with Dr. Biong that the collapse of Northern economy will be negative on the independent South Sudan. Dr. Biong was right when he said, “Our concern is the economic viability … and the unity of the north, which, I think, will make us even see whether we can continue with the same arrangement that we have.”

In the global economy of today, the collapse of one economy is often the collapse of other economies that have connection with it. We have seen this reality in the current global economic crisis that started here in the USA and spread quickly to the rest of the world. Now that the U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery, the rest of the world is economically getting back on its feet.

The complicated ways that one economy affects the other may not be easy for us in South Sudan to understand at this time. However, what we can clearly understand is that the stability of a neighboring country is far more important than wealth. Wealth can be destroyed by instability and can be built by stability. The example is our neighbor Uganda. When South Sudan became peaceful in 2005, the war in northern Uganda stopped and the business boomed between South Sudan and Uganda. Ugandans are not exploiting any oil in their country right now, but the stability of South Sudan has resulted in the improved GDP in Uganda.

Many developed countries today understand that any instability somewhere is for their disadvantage. So, they pour out their money to make sure that there is stability in places where their interests are high, even when they are in debt back at home.

South Sudan may find itself dealing with the influx of people from the North in the near future if they allow the economy in the North to collapse. Our interest in North Sudan is obvious. People who fought on our side during the North-South war will be outside the borders of South Sudan when South Sudan seceded in 2011, and we can never ignore them when they are in financial difficulties in the North.

We also know that financial difficulties breed violence. People who are hungry do not fear death because they have nothing to lose. If we allow the economy in the North to collapse, then the violence in the North can easily spill into South Sudan and crash our young government.

Developed nations who understand the importance of globalization today consider it their responsibility to promote and protect the rights of their neighbors or friends. Mary Robinson puts it this way in her article, published in The Globalization Reader: “With globalization has come the growing sense that we are all responsible in some way for helping promote and protect the rights of our neighbours whether they live on the next street or on the next continent.”

Whether we understand it or not, we in the South have the responsibility to make sure that the North is stable when we seceded from the North in 2011. The notion that we would be happy if we stop sharing our oil with the North might be true, but the consequences of the collapse of Northern economy would be difficult for the South to deal with. For this reason, I support Dr. Biong’s idea that we “may agree to extend the wealth sharing beyond the creation of the new state” of South Sudan in 2011. The fact that the Torit Mutiny of 1955 and the Anya nya 1 war that ended in 1972 started before the discovery of oil in South Sudan shows that we were fighting for the freedom of the marginalized people in Sudan or South Sudan, not over oil’s money.

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: [email protected]

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