By Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba
“The people of South are already ruling their own region with a substantial presence in the federal government, with opportunities not even available for Northerners”, said Dr. Lual Deng, the first Sudanese Oil Minister in Al Bashir’s cabinet to come from the South – in an interview with the London based Arabic Daily – the Al Sharq Al Awsat.
"What do we [Southerners] want more than that?" Deng asked.
August 31, 2010 (SSNA) — Shocking! Could have been the word if I didn’t know the background of this Economics guru who obtained his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Iowa, the same time as his kinsman Dr. Garang de Mabior, the founder of the SPLM/SPLA that fought a civil war against the successive Khartoum based regimes for over twenty years only to be ended by the US brokered Peace agreement signed between the two sides in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005.
It is a common knowledge that al Bashir and his NIF/NCP are of recent putting much pressure on the SPLM party and its leadership, requesting them to come out openly on their positions in as far as the referendum in the South is concerned. The North which is adamant to use everything in order to influence the out-come of the 2011 referendum has done much to recruit collaborators from within the South Sudanese ranks – not only the infamous Kenana group – or the much demonised Southern-led parties like the SPLM DC of Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, but we can now see with our own eyes that even key SPLM figures like Dr. Lual Deng are already hooked up in the Khartoum Dependency Syndrome (KDS).
In the damaging interview that Dr. Lual Deng had with the London based Arabic Daily – the Al Sharq Al Awsat…Sunday 29th August 2010, Edition: 11597 can be considered as a continuum of contradictions within the SPLM’s inner circles. The very long (over seven pages) interview, which the Sudan Tribune 30/08/2010 only managed to publish a summary- clearly confirms that the SPLM was and is not uniformly indoctrinated in any one ideology or even a common vision for that matter.
Lual in the most an unequivocal terms was able to distanced himself from Pagan Amum’s statements on the issues of Independence versus unity, where the SPLM Secretary General had made it abundantly clear that so far the chances for making the unity of the Sudan attractive to the Southern voters is long gone. Lual called it a personal view of the SG and not even shared by the party’s Chairman, Salva Kiir Mayardit who strongly continues to believe in a united Sudan as the only option and has so far given directives to all the party apparatus to work hard to achieve it.
What we are hearing here from Dr. Lual Achuil concerning President Salva Kiir’s position on the issue of Unity Vs Independence needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. It was not too long when Sudan’s first vice president declared in the media that he wasn’t going to campaign for unity and those who want to do so can go ahead.
The SPLM chairman went to say that he would be taking a back seat. However whether Dr. Lual Deng is now talking on behalf of Salva Kiir in his capacity as a party member or the president’s official spokesman on this type of issues remains to be found out.
But who am I to dispute this SPLM insider? The Oil Minister no doubt has proved himself more courageous than his colleagues to come out openly and declare his support for unity. He sincerely deserves a public applause for that, and I will continue to respect him for it, while we wait for verification from the SPLM chairman about his latest directives in support of united Sudan.
The South Sudanese Economist who is right now sitting on top of 6 billion barrels of Oil never hesitated and went to make it straightforward for the readers when he said and I quote:
"I’m a unionist in the footsteps of a unitary leader [late SPLM leader] John Garang de Mabior. We studied for PhD together at the University of Iowa. But I consider myself his disciple. The reason for this was that I was, initially, a separatist. But Garang convinced me on the virtues of one Sudan," Deng said in an interview with the London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper during his private visit to Washington.
Again here I cannot dispute Dr. Lual Achuil Deng’s closeness to late Dr. De Mabior, and not surprised to hear that he is also the late leader’s disciple……… and I guess that it has to do with the New Sudan Vision. However as I can remember well the late Garang did formulate some five realistic solution modalities or scenarios on the future of the Sudan, and the secession of South Sudan is one of them in case the anticipated democratic transformation fails to be realised in the immediate post CPA Sudan.
Having him, Dr. Lual Achuil Deng as the head in the 6 billion barrels Oil Ministry of the Sudan, cannot be mistaken for the much needed democratic transformation in the country. Call it Wealth and Power sharing, but never democratic transformation. This very Minister was the first to voice out that neither Wealth nor Power sharing can keep the Sudan united, because as he rightly put it, the real problem is all to do with the huge lack of trust between the North and the South. So how comes that he confesses lack of trust yet he is willing to go along, living side by side with the people he so much distrusts?
“I used to be a separatist, but I grew up and learned and I am convinced that unity is better than separation for the North, and for the South. I hope the same thing [change in views] for young Southerners in America who want to secede. I tell them do not sit here [in America], and issue verdicts from over there. I tell them, please, do not open doors to a new war. I ask them, are you going to Sudan to fight, if war broke out again or sit here under air conditioners in America?" Dr. Lual Deng asked.
Whether it was out of a sense of humour or whatever, that bit which the Minister referred to in the interview and I quote:
“The North also has got plenty of Oil and other resources and that is why I have always told my fellow southerners not to become too much intoxicated about their Oil”, he said.
Nevertheless, nobody in their right minds have ever thought that the Southerners are becoming intoxicated about the Oil in the South, except maybe the Minister himself. However it must be understood that it is the lack of trust and absence of transparency in the NIF/NCP-dominated Oil industry that made the South go mad, eventually giving way for the appointment of a Federal n Oil Minister from the South in the person of Dr. Lual Achuil Deng himself. As such I don’t really see any point to the Minister’s sarcasm.
I also believe that, the people Dr. Lual Achuil Deng chose to refer to as Young Southerners in America who want to secede, still reserve their rights to respond to him even though he has already outlived his usefulness for the Southern cause. Yet the Oil Minister needs to acknowledge that not all those who are championing the call for the secession of South Sudan in America are young people. There are a good number of elderly and matured South Sudanese and equally PhD holders like Dr. Lual Deng himself, who continue to call for an independent South Sudan from not only the USA, but across the globe. I beg to disagree with the Minister when he considers himself to be the only respectable elder and educated South Sudanese, as if all those in the Diaspora are all kids and under learned for that matter.
Asking the South Sudanese Diaspora not to open doors to a new war while accusing them of sitting under air conditions in the US, clearly shows how the Oil Man has been won-over by the Islamist propaganda. Does he not know that he himself and his late colleague Dr. Garang De Mabior were portrayed by this very NIF/NCP regime as Air Condition and Hotel politicians prior to the signing of the CPA? Now he is speaking just the same language…funny enough!
War and destabilisation of the South cannot be brought about by the South Sudanese in the US. The minister cannot pretend that he is not aware of the destabilising campaign within his backyard of the Southern state of Jonglei – where his party mates are already advanced in establishing a foul play being masterminded by his northern counterparts in the Federal Government and the Sudanese State security organs. Not the Diaspora please, Mr. Minister.
Dr. Lual Achuil Deng preferred to protect his job by referring to an independent South Sudan State as a source for instability in the Sudan, the horn of Africa, the whole of central Africa and the Great Lake regions. The truth is that these areas are already in some sorts of insecurity of their own and the so-called International community was there when these independent nation went bananas, yet no one stood up to rectify the situation. What is currently happening in these volatile areas of Africa is currently being replicated in the united Sudan under Lual Deng”s boss, Omer al Bashir. Does he not see that? Is he so blindfolded to realise that South Sudan is now suffering insecurities which are the makings of the government of Al Bashir which he enjoys identifying himself with?
The SPLM figure also pointed out that that he is a believer of the Pan- African Movement as preached by Ghana ’s first President, the Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the Negritude Movement of the Senegal politician, philosopher, thinker and poet, Leopold Senghor.
But did Dr. Lual Achuil Deng ask himself the immediate question why the Northern Sudanese who claim to be both Pan African as well Pan Arab chose not vote for unity with Egypt despite the common language, culture and religion? I hope he doesn’t intend to disguise his interest driven dependency on Khartoum as a practise of his Pan African beliefs – unless of course he is also ready to fulfil the Pan Arab – Islamic bit.
Anyway, whether the Minister intends to speak as an individual or an SPLM senior member, he has done much to damage his political image amongst the South Sudanese. Referring to mere speculations that the US administration is not interested in a secessionist movement in Africa says much on how our economist who chose to invest his private trip to the US as an opportunity to stage a negative anti-South Sudan Independence campaign. How private is his trip, is now even becoming questionable given the huge budget put forwards by the NIF/NCP in what it considers as the National Crusade against the callers of South Sudan secession worldwide. How the Minister remains optimistic as if a miracle has been set to happen within the coming four months before the referendum – with the hope of shifting the Southerners to vote for unity is an issue that all South Sudanese nationalists of various backgrounds must exercise vigilance. The Economist harbours dangerous unionist beliefs and needs to be kept under watch.
I have been lately critical of professor David De Chand of the South Sudan Democratic Front (SSDF), but now I can see that Dr. Lual Achuil Deng is no less dangerous that the former. I respect plurality and diversity, however becoming a unionist or a separatist is not the same as being a Muslim, a Christian or an animist. While the latter can share citizenship in one country, the formers can’t realistically form citizens of the same nation and still function in harmony. The obvious is that unionists are natural antagonists to secessionist and vice versa.
On the other hand, the SPLM party may or may not want to take this as a piece of advice, but although I would like to believe that the party’s members are currently enjoying a wider range of freedom of expression, however the party needs to have a unified stand on crucial policies. What we are seeing now is a ghost of once an ideology oriented party which has become a talking club where all kinds of ideas are aired without a clear party line. Some say no more hope for unity, other say that unity is still possible while others prefer not even to utter a word. This is neither good nor expected of a leading political organisation of SPLM’s calibre.
However, when we finally cross over to the Promised Land, Dr. Lual Achuil Deng and his types will only have themselves to blame. In other words their memberships in the ugly side of our history will be sad and permanent. But for now those who are for an Independent South Sudan Nation must continue to practice extra vigilance.
N.B: For the in depth knowledge and first hand information about the infamous interview I advise you to visit the al Sharq al Awsat website and please read the Arabic version , which is original and authentic.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com