The Viability of an Independent South Sudan

By Paan Luel Wel (Washington DC, USA)

Don’t judge the book according to its cover—English proverbs.

October 2, 2010 (SSNA) — There are two likely scenarios when talking of post referendum era. The first is a possibility of a viable independent nation in the present region of Southern Sudan living side by side in peace with the old Sudan—comprising of the rest of the country minus the South. The other probability is the deadly resumption of a civil war which is highly likely in the event that both parties failed to agree to the full implementation of the CPA or one party felt cheated and resort to violence in the hope of forcing the other to stick to the dictates of the accord. In this paper, I will only restrict myself to the former case scenario hoping to get time to discuss the likelihood of another war in my next article, given time and the continued relevancy of the topic.

It is quite easy to see the possibility of having a new country come January 9th, 2011. An overwhelming majority of Southerners would like to have nothing short of an independent homeland after nearly a century of subjugation—colonization, exploitation, marginalization and deceit characterized by failed promises—by various foreign powers. First, it was the British, then combined forces of Anglo-Egyptian rule till that botched independence of 1956 and now, since the 1950’s, our homegrown oppressors—the successive government of the Awlad Al-balad princes of Khartoum. Considering all the hardships undergone by Southerners under these foreign predators, it is a foregone conclusion that they would, given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to exercise their preferences, pursue separation over unity in the forthcoming plebiscite.

And to crown this vote for secession, many Southerners would be quick to point out that this referendum was not given to them, by anyone else, on a sliver plate: full price was paid in blood, time and resources. Among the prices paid, the voters would insist, was the over 22 years—50 years since the commencement of the first Southern uprising marked by the 1955 Torit mutiny—of struggle that eventually compelled the Awlad Al-balad princes to the negotiation table. Tellingly, the princes who have all along considered Southerners as slaves, were now willing not only to sit down on the same table with their hitherto al-bids but were also ready to cut deal with them—the historic CPA being one among many accords forced on the Islamists against their racial ideology of Arabism.

The CPA was/is historic not least because it guarantee many Southerners’ interest unlike the Addis Ababa agreement—another milestone achievement by the first Southern uprising of the 1970’s. For one, the CPA gave Southerners, for the first time in the history of the Sudan, the post of the vice presidency and many cabinet portfolios in the Government of National Unity (GoNU) and a fully funded autonomous government in the South. Secondly, the 50-50 sharing of Southern-produced wealth was another landmark accomplishment. Thirdly, it also secures the preservation of a fully funded Southern army—the SPLA—with full control over the entire Southern borders. What that mean in a layman language is that, should war break out today, the SPLA won’t be bogged down again in its quest to liberate Southern cities—Juba, Wau, Malakal, Bortown etc—but would rather concentrate its might on either defending the South or a grand march toward Khartoum itself. With the stroke of a pen, the SPLA took all Southern cities!!

However, the most effective dividends of the CPA, a lethal dose to the Islamist agenda, was the greater awareness created and exposure made about the gravest evils of the successive oppressive Khartoum’s regimes against the marginalized people of the Sudan. The over millions Sudanese people who welcomed Dr. Garang back to Khartoum on his first visit there since he left for the bush in 1983; the massive numbers that witnessed his subsequent swearing in ceremony when he took the office of the vice president; the continued deadly uprising in Darfur and the simmering another one in the Eastern part of the country, not to mention Nuba Mountain and Southern Blue Nile regions,   are all the telltales signs of a troubled country in the wake of the CPA’s promulgation. By conceding to Southerners’ demands and in signing the CPA, the once seemingly invincible Awlad al-balad princes opened the box of Pandora that is slowly, but surely, dooming their cherish dreams of an Arabised and Islamised Sudan. This is the true hallmark of the success of the CPA in particular and of the struggle of the marginalized people in the Sudan in general. Indeed, in the word of the late Dr. Garang, “Sudan will never be the same again.”

Besides the wars of liberation waged and the monumental peace accords signed, Southerners going to the voting booth on January 9th would be proud, too, to have successfully conducted their first presidential and parliamentary election, albeit with some notable discrepancies. Those inconsistencies were, however, within the realm of the African standard of exercising electoral processes. This is by no mean to be apologetic to the GoSS or the SPLM Political Bureau conduct of the electoral process, but rather, in comparison to Kenya that went up in smoke and shed blood, or Zimbabweans that were dead all over the street or even Rwanda where opposition leaders were mysteriously murdered on an election eve, South Sudan fared better than expected considering that this was the first ever conducted election on the soil. The fact that there are now relegate rebels—George Athor, David Yau or Gatlauk Gai etc—cannot diminish the astounding positive side of the election which should rightly define the process rather than its inevitable minor downside.

In addition to that success too, the other important realization Southerners won’t forget would be the sustained efforts by various then opposing parties to see the need of conducting and adhering to the terms of the South-South dialogue. That process, initiated by the late SPLM chairperson, Dr Garang, has been continued by the current SPLM leader, Salva Kiir. Without that peace processes that have ensured the inclusion of the former prominent Southern leaders who had been working alongside the North, and against the SPLM /A during the war, South Sudan would have been a different place today. Take for instance; what kind of a place would Southern Sudan be today if people like Paulino Matip, Dr Machar, governor Clement Wani etc were not in the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), courtesy of the South-South dialogue? This is why it is imperative to bring on board other relegate elements for the sake of the attainment of the greater good over the smaller evil and in full appreciation of the plain fact that no single party, all by itself, could achieve anything for the people of the South.

Economically, an independent future South Sudan is endowed with many valuable natural and human resources. It has deep reserve of oil, proven gold and other precious minerals, virgin forest, fresh waters from rivers and lakes, towering mountains, span of vast fertile valleys and raised grown for farming and rearing cattle, and sizable young energetic population ready to support every industry set up to further the development of the country. Socially, it would be composed of almost all black Africans which would stem out racial supremacy tendencies and foster unity based on equality. English, mainly spoken in the South will facilitate national integration and instill a sense of national identity unlike Arabic which is majorly associated with Islamism and Arabism. Along with these are the traditional virtues of African hospitality and social cohesion which have been keeping Southerners together for years against all odds in the face of long oppression. Southern Sudan also has largely unpolluted environment to support her economy, and politically wise, intricate of traditional African socio-political practices which can be harnessed to supplement democratic institutions for the desired success of the country and the envisaged betterment of its people.

Therefore, on this positive side of the post referendum era, an independent South Sudan—reconciled to itself, proud of its roots and fully cognizance of many sacrifices made to bring her forth—is a reality to be reckon with by all concern parties within, regionally and/or internationally. Of course, many commentators would or have been arguing that such a country conceived of as South Sudan is now is undoubtedly predestined to disintegrate and crumble on itself not least because Southerners cannot rule themselves or that it would be plagued, from day one, by numerous internal contradictions—tribal supremacy warfare, corruptions, mismanagements, ill-conceived vision for the country or lack of it thereof, war with the north over border or oil etc—that would either spell its dooms or turn it into another Somalia.

Admittedly, those commentators have legitimate points to make. What they don’t tell Southerners, however, is the country with which they are comparing future South Sudan with its apparent irreconcilable problems.   Is it old Sudan, sub-Saharan African countries, Arabian world or Western or Asian countries? This is where it gets interesting for if the comparison made is between future South Sudan and old Sudan, it would be laughable if not an outright falsehood driven by nothing less than hidden agenda. If on the other hand the comparison is between the future South Sudan and Western democratic countries that took centuries developing to arrive at their present enviable statehood, then it would be a misplaced, unwarranted comparison that is best left for intellectual debate with no real application to the actual contextual world. If still the comparison is made between sub-Saharan African countries and the future South Sudan, then it would be painstaking enough for such people to identify one African nation which has no its own internal contradictions that South Sudan will inherit on coming into being on January 9th 2010.

In reality, all the imperfections that South Sudan has—tribalism, nepotism, cronyism, mismanagement of the national resources, cattle rustling, tribal wars, civil wars, visionary-less leaders to mention but just a few—are all the trademarks of each and every country on Africa continent. Hence, the allegation of Southerners being unable to rule themselves or that future South Sudan would be on the verge of genocidal wars and Somalia-likeness is a baseless utterance. Even if someone were to double the current problems beleaguering South Sudan, it won’t yet stand out among the nation of Africa for its notoriety: it would just be like the rest, old Sudan included. What the fuss then?

Lastly but not least, even in the event that future South Sudan were to collapse into tribal anarchy akin to Somalia or DRC Congo or that the tribal wars degenerate into genocide, it would still be no sufficient ground to regret secession from the North. Was the American civil war a cause for denigrating their war for independence? Did the Rwandans demand their former colonizing master—France, to recolonize them just because they were killing themselves instead of amicably reconciling their tribal differences? Are Somalis currently in the process of welcoming back Italians to their land to sort out their differences? Of course not, and such is the hypocrisy, the hollowness and the nonsensicality of the sound of alarm raised by those purporting to be saving Southerners from themselves. An independent South Sudan is a viable entity worthy of hoping to, and working for, its both uncontroversial birth and healthy growth among nation of the world among which it will assume it rightful long-denied place.

Mr Paan Luel Wel, a concerned Sudanese student studying in the United States, can be reached at: [email protected] or through his blog:

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