By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD
August 16, 2010 (SSNA) — The more things change in the Sudan, the more they remain the same. This is typical of the post CPA era, where policies were supposed to have been changed to accommodate a diversified citizenry for a country already at the verge of collapse and disintegration due to imbalanced policies, marred by racial and cultural prejudices.
Within the Sudan’s socioeconomic and political power house in Khartoum, still exists the mindsets of the 20th century and it continues to dictate the pace of the changes taking place in the country. It will be a sheer naivety should we look at the Sudan only in terms of SPLM, Umma, DUP, NDA, JEM, SLM or NIF/NCP. The country remains polarised to the four geographical directions and nobody knows whether this set up will ever give way to any other module where a better Sudan for all can be envisaged.
Preferring not to talk about how the 5th Population census was intentional manipulated to give the world a false impression of the 21st century Sudan, nor will I waste the readers valuable time in talking about the sham election of April 2010, however there is already a new danger ahead for any peace loving Sudanese, be them from the south or the north. Thanks to the fact that the CPA is never expected to exist forever and as such the people of Sudan must start taking the unfolding events more seriously especially as the peace agreement nears its end.
At this particular juncture president Omer al Bashir himself or his deputy, Ali Osman Taha and the rest of the leadership in the NCP need to cope up with the fact that for them to continue to have a say on south Sudan, they must allow for a timely referendum to take place. It is only when the people of south Sudan have majority so chosen to remain in a united Sudan through that referendum which must be free, fair, transparent and credible then al Bashir and his regime can continue to rule over the south. While they must be reminded that anything else outside this set scenario will only promote secession even if the whole Nile has to run red.
Nevertheless most Sudanese are already aware of the fact that the country can no longer be kept united without risking going back to war, although the minority northern elites who are historically detached from the realities of the Sudan continue to displaying behaviours that only suit those who are hooked up in the world of fantasies away from the facts of life. Nowhere is this malignant mindset well manifested than in the way the northern NCP/NIF has so far gone around putting hurdles in the implantation of the CPA. Foot dragging, intentional delays, lack of urgency to outright reluctance have come to form a typical pattern of NCP’s approach to crucial national issues far from realising that by so doing it has even done more damage to any chance of unity in the Sudan, than if it were to have implemented the agreement to the word and spirit.
To date the referendum to determine the fate of south Sudan is right at the fore front of international politics with dozens of stake-holders absorbed in finding ways on how best the imminent political divorce between the two parts of the country can be achieved and possibly averting any return to war. Unfortunately this same sensitivity in handling this stage of the peace agreement is not in any way shared by the country’s President, Omer al Bashir nor did his hardliners of the Islamic fanatics who continue to dominate the politics of the Khartoum based Islamic regime.
The whole of the international community as represented by the US administration, EU, UN, AU, and the IGAD have all declared their readiness to see that a fair, transparent, timely and credible referendum takes place on the 9th of January 2011. To back up their words, they have all come forwards donating in total 80% of the whole cost for the polling exercise and are still ready to do more should the peace partners request for it. This is totally incomparable to the pathetic situation on the Sudanese side where outstanding issues like the border between the north and the south remain unsolved.
However the failure of the two partners to name a secretary general for the National Referendum Commission (NRC) is one main point that blows the whole drama out of proportions. The NRC is the body entrusted with running the referendum barely four months from now, and for it to remain non functioning up till now signifies a sinister intent especially so from the northern NCP of president Omer al Bashir.
The bizarre position of the dominant Islamist party of Omer Bashir has nothing to do with unity of the Sudan as they would what to mislead the public opinion into believing. The NIF/NCP‘s only interest is to retain their tight grip on power in the centre. The referendum and eventually the secession of the south is bent to deprive them not only of a traditional sphere of influence but may also set a precedent where the volatile Darfur may go to become uncontrollable and possibly opt for a state of its own. Voices are already coming up from the Nuba Mountains and other parts of the country where the people are seriously considering some forms of greater autonomy, if not an outright secession.
It will also be a gross mistake to think that it is only the northerners or even the Islamists for that matter who are seriously concerned with maintaining the Sudan as a united country. The naked fact is that it is the racially Arab oriented and Islamic galvanised policies being vertically imposed by the northern riveran elites throughout the decades following the so-called independence of the Sudan that has directly trigger waves of discontent and disunity the nationwide.
The Southern dominated SPLM was initially a unionist movement, per the confessions of its founders and senior leaders. However their view of a united Sudan is never shared by the northern and to some extend the other parts of the country. While SPLM continues to stand by its vision of a secular united Sudan, the NIF/NCP and the other religiously oriented political groups in the northern parts of the country are not only keen to maintain the currently Islamic structure, but are ready to use State apparatus to promote Arabism and Islamism, leaving the dream of a secular Sudan impossible to achieve.
It is indeed quite unfortunate for those who stand by the unity of the Sudan that the version of unity to be contested in January 9th referendum is the unity existing today in the country. it is the unity under Omer al Bashir and his Islamic NCP which obviously leaves a non Arab , non Muslim south Sudanese not only totally disadvantaged, but in an extremely inferior position within his/her own country. Anybody in their right state of mind will never miss an opportunity to liberate themselves from this type of a setting whenever an opportunity avails itself. It is an answer to many struggles, prayers and dreams and it will be extremely stupid for people of south Sudan to squander such an opportunity.
On the other hand the ruling NCP is aware that the unity that it is offering to the southerners is a unity that is not attractive in any way and that the momentum picked up by the call for Independence of south Sudan has reached an unstoppable stage. But as one of the party’s senior figure, Speaker at the National Assembly in Omdurman once put it, they (NCP), are going to make it extremely difficult for the south to secede. This is different from making unity attractive, and it is a point I would like Professor Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the chairperson for the National Referendum Commission (NRC), to understand. He has to know that the ill intentions of his fellow northerners are already made abundantly clear to the people of the South. This already makes his duty extremely difficult if he is to find even a single southerner to fool so that the north gets both the chair position as well as the secretary general on the referendum commission.
Professor Khalil is quick to blame the southern members of the NCR for the fact that they are bent to vote as a block. This begs me to have reservations on the way the Professor intends to tackle the referendum issues. He talks of lack of trust between the southern and northern members of his commission which to him is unhealthy because it would deny a northerner from becoming the secretary general of the commission. Is this the Professor’s main concern? A point well made and Mr. Chairman wants his secretary general to be a fellow northerner, which unfortunately is not going to happen. And as he threatens to quit, I think with his kind of mindset, he better does so. How do we rate a Professor who doesn’t see “lack of trust” being the actually reason that the South is insisting to go to the referendum?
The SPLM secretary general on his side has already declared to the media that unless the deadlock in the NRC is settled within two weeks and a secretary general in named, there is a fear that the referendum will face demise. This is also a point well made and must be taken seriously by the members of the international community. More pressure need to be exerted on the Sudanese Presidency to approve of a southerner for the post of the NRC secretary general, otherwise it wouldn’t go well in the south where a commission to determine their political fate is unfairly dominated by the northerners. Whether it is the Professor’s personal assessment or it is what the President requests of him, the trust between the north and the south can only work both ways. A northerner as the NRC chairperson and southerner as its secretary general is a good compromise.
We will continue to engage the North through the CPA until the agreement finally runs out. What we are not ready for is the renegotiation of the truce. How short a time we are left with, still efforts can be doubled to secure that the referendum is carried out as scheduled and on time. It is understandable that confrontations with our traditional foes in the North will never stop and the possibility of going back to war is all rife; however we will not be dragged into a premature venture. But when we will finally fight, we will do so solely to protect our declared Independent and sovereign state.
Our word to the international community should be clear, brief and to the point. We are not warmongers, but we believe that our Independence and sovereignty are our utmost goals. Although negotiating with the fanatic NIF/NCP Islamists and the North in general can be a nightmare, but as long as we have the International community on our side together with a viable CPA, we will continue to pursue peaceful settlements for the benefit of all. However should we be forced to fight again, we will do so as a people with pride and dignity.