By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD
July 25, 2010 (SSNA) — To put it, in its lightest form, I must say that it has been the most weird news to hear this Sunday, 25th July 2010, when the Miraya FM news reporter read out the piece that, “the Chairman of the Sudan African National Union (SANU), Toby Madut Parek, has urged Southern Sudanese to vote for unity in the 2011 referendum process”. “Speaking to Radio Miraya, Madut said political parties and marginalized people who would not like Southern Sudan to be divided into small states should work for unity and diversity of the country”, the news went to read.
“However, Madut said that some religious leaders have already taken sides instead of being neutral”, the reporter added.
Veteran Dr. Madut sounds surely worried about a possible fragmentation of South Sudan into minute ungovernable units should it be allowed to secede. This only confirms that many South Sudanese are already put off by the poor performance of the SPLM led GoSS under the leadership of Salva Kiir Mayardit. I do not intend to put words into the mouth of a person who is both a senior to me in the medical field as well as in politics. But having said this, I am quite sure that uncle Toby shares the pessimism once aired by Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin about the possible Somaliasation of South Sudan any time following the referendum. South Sudan is not the SPLM led GoSS who are messing up today in Juba, and their failure is theirs alone and not the failure of the South. It is a system that will come to pass.
Ali Osman Taha called it a leap into the darkness and others expect thunderstorms, earth quakes, pestilence, famine, floods and all kinds of calamities to happen in an independent south Sudan. The SANU party and its leadership has today come out openly to remind us about these dreadful scenarios all over again. As we didn’t accept it from Dr. Lam Akol, Ali Osman Taha, Xavier Solana, Ban Ki Moon, Jean Ping, Idris Deby, Isaias Afewerki and the list can go forever……..we also see that what had been said by Uncle Toby is misleading. And for him to join the enemy camp and declare that the south cannot govern itself and can only survive under a united Sudan doesn’t go well with the millions of south Sudanese who see salvation only in separation.
It is interesting that over the last five decades politics have not changed much in the Sudan, and although many of its traditional political parties continue to be classified as southern or northern parties, this broad classification should not in any way misled an outsider into assuming that parties which have been predominantly either southerners or northerners have not gone to claim Sudanese national identities.
Looking at the two Naivasha partners the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), main stream or its SPLM-DC splinter group, the names clearly suggest their national identities, hence their unionist ideology which have however several times been brushed aside by intentional opportunists and regional sentimentalists, whenever the needs arise. This on the whole goes to include other parties like the Sudan Communist Party (SCP), the Sudan African National Union (SANU), Sudan National Party (SNP) only to mention a few.
This brief introduction is meant to serve the reader with some of the psychological issues that come into play when the founders of the Sudanese political parties come to name these parties. In southern Sudan there has been a real difficulty in establishing a party on an ideology that remains binding to its members through its existence. This is not to say that the Southerners never formed their parties on well defined ideologies, but rather that the members of many of these parties tend to out-live their core ideologies when personal survival and job opportunities take over from the initial so-called ‘national Interest’.
Going back to the political history of Southern Sudan in the 1960s, it can be seen that it had been largely polarised as SANU or Southern Front. But not too long that the SANU which went to establish the Anya Nya military wing, broke into two camps where late William Deng Nhial defected from the armed struggle and returned to Khartoum only to be assassinated by agents of the Khartoum government on the Southern soil.
On the other hand those SANU members who held to the military struggle were later joined by others from different political back grounds and continued the liberation struggle until South Sudan achieved the right to self rule under a regional autonomy status in 1972. Of interest is the lack of any specific southern political group that has gone to consistently demand for secession of South Sudan. This was evident following the signing of the Addis Ababa peace agreement with former president Jaafar Nimeiri as represented by one of the regime’s prominent figures non but the Justice Abel Alier. A southerner a former member of the Southern Front political party, Alier like the other south Sudanese politicians abandoned their parties and accepted humiliating roles under Nimeiri’s dictatorship which operated in a weird totalitarian set-up governed by an equally ill managed political organ of the one party state – the Sudanese Socialist Union (SSU).
The main aim of writing this article is to furnish our young leadership especially those born during the second civil war about the fact that they should not be easily misled into assuming that all those who talk about the rights of Southern Sudan are necessarily southern nationalist or pro-secessionists for that matter. Such conclusions are often difficult to arrive at as long as we remain prejudiced in the way we judge our traditional political leadership. But today the SANU party formerly considered the political wing of the Anya Nya fighters has declared its support for a united Sudan. This is a practical example for those who needed one.
The issue of unity and separation in the Southern Sudanese politics has ever been a difficult one to handle. Some people like me who would want it to be straight forward science, always end up being disappointed when they meet a close relative, a neighbour, a former school mate, or any other supposed to be concerned south Sudanese citizen who openly confess their strong believe in a united Sudan. As long as we continue to follow political parties based on mob reaction which tend to adopt multiple stands on clear issues like unity or separation, we will always risk being stabbed from the back.
For the last five years we have seen the contradictions on the topic of unity and separation across all the known political parties operating within South Sudan, even those who clearly stand out as South Sudanese political parties. The SPLM, SANU and SPLM-DC are classical examples of these mass movements which chose to play politics by standing on the political fence, thus gaining the trust of the north which is predominantly unionists at the same time undeservedly enjoying grass-root sympathies amongst the southern masses. It is sad to see that our poor people are still erroneously made to look at these political chameleons for guidance and the realizations of their historical aspiration for an independent state, only to be disappointed at the last minute like what uncle Toby Madut did today.
Sometimes it is safer to deal with members of the NCP as their stands are very clear and consistent and as they are determined to impose unity on the south even if it means buying peoples political conscience. Fair enough and as such I have decided to keep my distance and maintain nothing in common with them, whether they are southerners or northerners. An area of great risk now is how the determined southern separatists find it safe or even convenient to reach political deals with today’s GoSS leaders of southern Sudan when they predominantly come from the ambiguous SPLM party, where the party’s official position on issues of unity or independence remain equivocal.
It does bother me a great deal and I think it could be the same with other people on how we relate to one another as fellow southerners that at this particular moment in our history. These moments clearly demands of us a unified stand as South Sudanese in order to defend our rights from the greediness of the northern riveran Arabs. This mission is not an easy one while some southerners still believe in the unity of the Sudan despite its ugly face.
It is the ill defined positions of some southern politicians and largely driven by political opportunism, the hunger for power and “bloody money”, that has literally instilled in them this vague stand as to where the future of the South should lie. Playing it as if being wise not to stir the waters, the many opportunists have chosen to move quietly with the southern masses while maintaining a pseudo-professional neutrality allowing them a timely leap to claim ownership of any gains brought about by the struggle, sweat and blood of the millions of unknown peasants who unfortunately will be condemned to the eternity of unmarked graves.
Insisting that we treat and react to each other in a civilized way, equally respecting people’s rights to express their opinions and believes, I confess that, that I hold no any grudges against any unionists in South Sudan. I also appeal to all fellow Southerners and the GoSS’s leadership to view uncle Toby Madut’s call for unity and his condemnations of the religious leaders as his democratic rights. However I would strongly press that such respect shouldn’t only be restricted to SANU or their leader for what he is, but democracy, freedom of speech and opinion must be extended to include all the other south Sudanese politicians and their political parties.
There are already many southern politicians in the unionist camp of the so-called “Kenana Group”. We all know them, if not all of them, some of them. And if I were responsible I won’t put any restrictions on any of their members be they Bona Malwal Madut, Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, Gen. (R) Gismalla Rasas and the rest. At least for certain when they talk freely we can also be able to see their hidden agents who are hidden even within the SPLM’s Political Bureau.
Dr. Toby Madut’s accusation that the religious leaders are already taking sides comes a bit as a misplaced statement when we take into context the central role that religion has so far played in pitting the south against the north or vice versa. Uncle Toby was there when the ex-president, late Jaafar Nimeiri promoted himself to a Muslim Imam in 1983 and then declared the Sudan an Islamic state ruled by the Sharia. Was it not a politician like himself that went on to become a fanatic religious leader and eventually plunged the country into yet another war following a complete decade of relative peace and progress?
Now for all practical purposes Sudan is already a religious state. Furthermore the other marginalised people in northern Sudan are predominantly muslin and even more fanatics than those in the centre and the extreme north which had to undergo re-Islamisation under the current regime in order to cope up with the “Musrua al Hadari” ……or the ‘Islamic Project’. No way can the majority northern Muslims come out to scrap the Sharia laws for the sake of what they commonly refer to as a handful of ‘uncircumcised Southern infidels’.
Which religious leader is the SANU chairman talking about? As for our Southern Sudanese Christian religious leaders, the only way to protect their congregations from the Arab and northern Islamists’ hostile advances is to vigorously propagate for the South’s independence. Our churches have been part of our struggle especially so among the IDPs in the north, the refugees in the over-crowded camps in the neighbouring countries and even amongst the Diaspora.
It is should be clear to any southern separatist that the future dignity of the people of south Sudan following the five decades of struggle only lies with independence. The impact will be hugely negative should we miss this strategic opportunity that has availed itself for us now to walk away as a free and independent people. If you consider yourself a supporter of an independent south Sudan, then you must understand that your responsibility to make that dream come true never comes cheap. Party memberships are no guarantee especially when it comes to parties that can easily accommodate contradictions. The Judas and the Peters are just too many and unfortunately are legally allowed to exist.
I hereby call upon all the people of South Sudan to take the speech of uncle Toby Madut with utmost cautiousness and seriousness. It is coming from an intellectual, a veteran southern Sudanese and an elder. The old man is clearly a unionist and would want to spend the rest of his life living under the Arabs and nobody can tell me that this one is another tricky version of the illusive ‘New Sudan Vision’. However it is a clear warning that our defences are quite leaky. More work needs to be done before we are surprised by another.
What we need now is a more and sustained involvement from the CHURCHES, the YOUTH for SEPARATION, the Civil Societies and from almost everybody. We are not just talking about referendum here, but rather our declared goal is a referendum that leads to Independence. Once we are independent we can install in place a government that can perform, unless of course we think that we don’t deserve a good country.