Too Many Panoramas Surrounding the South Sudan Referendum

By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD

August 28, 2010 (SSNA) — Considering the terms of the 2005 CPA signed in Naivasha, it can be said that the International community which was more interested in ending the two decades North/South conflict chose intentionally to broker an agreement that is much biased towards the maintenance of the Sudan as a united country in a bid to have the ruling NIF/NCP on board. Paradoxically, both the Wealth and Power sharing Protocols as well as the Democratic Transformation Protocol became areas of continuous nagging between the two peace partners. Thanks to the deeply rooted mistrust that exists between the North and the South, it didn’t take the CPA too long to hatch what is rightly now the government of National Disunity. As such, although Wealth and Power sharing remain to be the true pillars of this historical truce, they have failed the test of narrowing the gaps between the two parts of the country.

With disunity long adopted as a theme of governance right at the level of the Presidency, whatever pro-unity rhetoric displayed by the NIF/NCP in its futile attempt to influence the secession of the South, can only serve the purpose of PR given the huge irreversible damages already inflicted.  Why is it only now that the very idea of making unity attractive is being taken seriously when the whole interim period realistically operated in a spirit otherwise dominated by hand twisting, mischievousness and outright antagonism? Is it not a bit strange for President Al-Bashir to announce that the government’s campaign for the promotion of Sudan’s unity will be launched in the semi-autonomous region of South Sudan before the citizens finally go to the polls in January 2011 to decide whether to remain united with the north or secede to form the world’s newest nation? Where was this campaign since the 9th January 2005?

Southerners should not be carried away when they see the NCP and some of its Southern Unionist stooges maintaining up public images primarily meant to mislead public opinion into believing that they are doing all that it takes to maintain the unity of the Sudan.  The truth is that they haven’t changed an iota and their old worn-out, empty slogans of – “No South without the North and no North without the South” is meant to sugar coat their true intentions, which is “No Slaves without Masters and no Masters without Slaves”. So whether al Bashir or his deputy Ali Osman Taha are to relocate to the South to shout the above slogans, Southerners must be ready to tell them in their faces that come January 2011 and they(Al Bashir-Taha) must be prepared to recognise the Independent State of South Sudan as they have promised several times in the press.

In another attempt to impress the Coptic Community in Khartoum during the annual Ramadan breakfast, Al-Bashir referred to the existence of a certain impotent Commission for the Protection of the Rights of non-Muslims in the North with which he hoped to blind fold his audiences while portraying this good for nothing commission as a proof against claims of religious discrimination in Sudan.  The Coptic Christians with their origins in Egypt are Christians who have for over centuries now lived under Islamic domination and given their dwindling numbers; they are in no way prepared to put on any resistance to the Islamisation of the Sudanese State. However the situation is different with Southern non-Muslims, Christians and Animists alike, who already fought two liberation wars with the Muslim North in their struggle against the prevailing socio-political marginalization and religious prejudice.

By continuing arrogantly to ignore the South’s historical call for a secular Sudanese state and citing these impotent commissions which were primarily meant to consolidate the status of non-Muslims as a minority that only exists at the mercy of the so-called Islamic majority,   the North is no doubt working to establish an apartheid system of rule in the country. Instead of coming up with radical decisions e.g. the abolition of the Sharia laws that could win the minds and hearts of the Southern voters, the North is bent to maintain the two class citizenship system. This Northern version of Sudan’s Unity may be good for the North; unfortunately it is this type of unity which polarises the citizens into first class Muslims, and second class non Muslims. This is exactly the type of Sudan which no Southerner can vote to live under.  And unless the northerners concede to unite on terms acceptable to the South, I believe that we are all better off as separate countries.

But how did an internationally brokered deal of the CPA’s calibre possibly came about to be derailed even before its first birth-day and continue to remain vulnerable up till today? Although I don’t have all the answers to this important question, however it is likely that those who offered to observe the implementation of the peace agreement like the US administration, the EU, AU, and the IGAD were unfortunately quick to be hypnotised by the tricky Arabs, when they offered to co-operate with the West in the War against Terror. Sooner than ever expected the very people who worked day and night to midwife this historical peace truce, chose to go into a long trance immediately following the signing events, eventually leaving the newly born deal at the mercy of the NIF/NCP wolves and their allies worldwide.

Now it cannot be denied that some attentions are coming back to the agreement while many of the foreign previous stakeholders continue to struggle with what to do if a possible return to war is to be avoided.  The African Union members, who are yet to face another test on how to maintain peace in the continent, are unfortunately looking now more like a bunch of exhausted marathoners, unable to react promptly while whole pages of the agreement are being savagely tempered with by the NIF/NCP dominated regime of Khartoum.

In one typical stereotype statement, a Sudanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Hassan was reported by the Chinese People’s Daily Online, that following a meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul- Gheit in Cairo, Hassan voiced out a threatening statement, and I quote:

“It (Referendum), must be fair and transparent and express the desires of the people there. Peace and security is a top priority for the Sudanese government, and if the result of the referendum is war rather than peace, "we will not recognize it," he said.

With a similar tone the Minister went on to reaffirmed that all disagreements and conflicts that could trigger a war must be resolved between Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) before the referendum and the most important issue is the demarcation of the North and South Sudan border. Whom does the Minister expect to come and resolve the issues he has raised, if not his government? Or is he making an indirect call for an out-side intervention which Khartoum had always stood against, knowing that it is on the wrong and losing side of the battle?

Anyway before even the NCP minister talks about the out-come of the referendum, there is an urgent need for his party to name a Secretary General for the Referendum Commission. Now that the SPLM has conceded to having a northerner and an NCP for the matter as a SG, the North and especially so Prof. Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the Commission Chairman should be celebrating victory. He can now bringing an SG of his taste. Ex – POLISARIO MINURSO saboteur or not we need an SG and quick and no need going back to the delaying tactics and feet dragging which we are all aware of.

Maybe it is important at this point to refresh the minds of those who would like to shift the blames of any delays on the people of the South. However while Minister Kamal Hassan preoccupies himself with his new assignment of making anti-referendum propaganda, he must understand that it is his party (NCP) which lacks the political will to draw and demarcate the borders. A government that was fighting fiercest battles in the jungles of the South, cannot turn around and say that it is difficult to have the borders demarcate given a whole of a six years’ period, unless of course it lacks the political will. The truth is that war will only break-out in an event that the north invades the South, otherwise no southerner is interested in anything (land, people, ….name it)  that is Northern, Islamic or Arab.

Nevertheless the latest US move in appointing Ambassador Princeton Lyman to augment and complement the efforts of its diplomatic mission in the Sudan as well as  coming in time to join their  Special Envoy Gration in Sudan for meetings with the Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP), the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan Haile Menkerios, Chairman of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel Thabo Mbeki and representatives of the Sudan Troika (United Kingdom and Norway), will be viewed as a positive step that can promise a new dawn in the post referendum arrangements, hopefully guaranteeing a timely plebiscite.

Of a very special note is the US administration’s optimism as expressed by the State Department’s spokesman Mark Toner:

"Ambassador Lyman will provide a senior-level presence in Sudan dedicated specifically to working with the CPA parties to reach consensus on outstanding CPA implementation issues, such as citizenship, border demarcation and resource sharing," said Mark Toner. (ST)

For the people of South Sudan the only light at the end of the CPA tunnel, was and is still their Right to Self Determination through an internationally monitored referendum as clearly spelt in the deal. However it is extremely disturbing that the NIF/NCP at the watch of the whole international community is freely allowed to temper with this only hope that brought our people to rally and embrace the agreement. The many hopes for peace in the region is thus being pushed into a state of limbo simply because a handful of some fanatic Islamist are trying to blackmail the whole of the African continent.

In light of the current political panorama in the country, the South Sudanese unionists who are traditionally in the minority are still a force to be reckoned with, as their conspiring influence on the Sudanese politics has several times affected the outcomes of the countless agreements reached between the two naturally warring parts of the country. Khartoum prides itself with confidence for having repeatedly succeeded in down-playing the South’s desire for Self-Determination over the last five decades or so, through its Southern collaborators and agents who were always quick and ready to compromise the Southern position and rush to hijack power in favour of unity. This luxury is about to be over-turned by the forth-coming referendum. The pro-independence majority are now more confident than ever before and working very hard to create the ideal environment where the secessionist majority votes can possibly lead the territory towards what has become commonly known as the Promised Land.

I have no much to say than to conclude with: “seek thou first thy sovereignty (Independence) and the rest will be added unto thee”. Amen.

The author of this article: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, MB BCh DRH MD is a concerned South Sudanese citizen residing in the United Kingdom. He can be reached at: [email protected] or [email protected]

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