By Peter Lokarlo Marsu, Australia
October 13, 2010 (SSNA) — The chief anxiety stems from the fact that Southern Sudanese outside the boundaries of their territory are allowed to cast their votes at the South Sudan Referendum in January 2011. This increases the risk of manipulation by the National Congress Party (NCP) at all stages of the exercise, from registration to the actual counting of the votes. However, a meticulously-crafted strategy for the South Sudan and Abyei Referenda are all what is needed to ensure a triumph for secession. This would undoubtedly, yield the desired outcome for the would-be Republic of South Sudan in 2011, but a haphazardly-conducted work would definitely lead to a total fiasco and consequently, a creation of doomsday scenario in South Sudan. What is at stake at the moment is that, the Chairman of the South Sudan Referendum Commission is visibly determined to pursue the northern government’s strategy of dishonesty and guile, with the aim to veer the South Sudan Referendum result in favour of the north and the Egyptian-influenced Arab League organisation. All Arab leaders would favour a united Arab and Islamic Sudan, regardless of any opposition view from South Sudan.
At the last week Afro-Arab summit held at Sirte in Libya, which was actually an Arab League conspiratorial summit, particularly organised to discuss the possible secession of South Sudan at the aftermath of the January 2011 Referendum vote, the Arab Leaders all in unison promised to continue extending their boundless support to the ICC-indicted Sudanese leader in a bid to asphyxiate the aspiration of the people of South Sudan for secession. The Saudi foreign minister (MENAFN Arab News of Oct. 10, 2010), had boldly made the following remarks: “Sudan, a member of the Arab League, is facing the threat of division. No Arab League member can justify its neutral stand on the issue”, he went on to conclude, “We have to support Sudan to overcome these dangers.”
The Libyan leader, Colonel Muamar Al-Gaddafi who hosted the one-day summit had similarly stated that the secession of South Sudan would be, as he put it, a “contagious disease” that could spread to other African states. This is certainly a typical Arab misinformation campaign, designed to mislead the international community principally the African states to believe that indeed a domino-like setting of break-up of the continent into multiple states would ensue following a declaration of independence in South Sudan. Sometime ago, the same Gaddafi had prescribed a controversial road map for the perennial religious sectarian violence in Nigeria between the Muslims and Christians in that country. As a style guru or a self-imposed arbiter, the Libyan colonel called for the creation of enclaves for the two antagonistic religious groups, modelled on Pakistan’s experience at independence in 1947, a proposition that drew ire from the Nigerian government. If the Libyan strongman had briefly paused to carefully weigh the content of his ill-fated remarks, he would have discovered that there is widespread violence even within Muslim states like Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan; hence his prescription is deeply rooted in utopian philosophy rather than pragmatism that would never have a counterpart in real life.
Like any aspiring Arab leader, Gaddafi wants Sudan to adopt an Arab framework under the north that could be applied in the whole country, whether compatible or not. The north must understand that whatever level of conspiracy they may contemplate with the Arab League and other parties against South Sudan would emphatically be doomed to failure.
Amr Musa who heads the Arab League does not differ whatsoever from the official Arab stance regarding the political status of Sudan. Mussa raised concerns at the summit about what he stated in his own words, "the Referendum’s impact on security and stability on a large region of Africa and the Middle East". As insalubrious as it sounds, the statement is a gross hyperbole expressing Egypt’s persistent trepidation that the secession of South Sudan could have an adverse impact on the use of the Nile water by the emerging state. Albeit pretending that it would accept the outcome of the Referenda vote, Cairo is in fact working along other parties behind the scene to derail the plebiscite and prevent South Sudan from achieving a statehood. The Egyptian government that had on numerous occasion expressed their displeasure at the thought of South Sudan’s independence could have openly stepped out in the open and threaten military action against South Sudan had it not been for the $1 billion American economic aid package transferred to cairo annually as well as Washington’s enormous military clout on the international arena. Another restraining influence could be that Egyptian leaders are weary about picking up a quarrel with African states, particularly at this ticklish moment when the raw over the use of the Nile water is still current. The calculating Pharaohs are aware that they could never afford a military confrontation against the African Nile basin countries.
In 1953, with the promulgation of the Self-Government Statute in the Sudan by the British colonial government, which was the dominant party in the Condominium administration of Sudan (Great Britain and Egypt had jointly ruled Sudan in an governmental structure known as the Condominium), Egyptian rulers were enraged, as it dawned to them that Britain was going to hand over independence to Sudan, contrary to Egypt’s wish of wanting to keep Sudan as an Egyptian territory. Amr Musa is now trying out the same political gamble, but it appears that times have changed and it very unlikely that applying an anachronistic strategy would work in the 21th century.
Egypt’s leaders must bear in mind that they are running the risk of sealing the fate of their interests in South Sudan. No amount of coercion or military force could push Southern Sudan to abandon its quest for secession.
While in Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir has become as contradictory as the Libyan strongman in his public utterances to the media in the country. The Sudanese leader told the country’s Parliament in Khartoum that he would not accept an alternative to unity despite his commitment to a peace deal with the south that provides for an independence referendum (Arabiya News, Tuesday 12 October 2010). "Despite our commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, we will not accept an alternative to unity," Now, there is hardly reason to doubt northern “genuine intention” as to the outcome of the South Sudan Referenda. South Sudanese must get prepared to meet these challenges, albeit the north is considered a paper tiger, as demonstrated by the poor performances of its army in Darfur. Al-Bashir is using scare campaigns as well as a policy of brinkmanship. by deploying his troops along the north-south border, he intends to scare and blackmail the south to accept his terms of settling the Abyei and the other post-Referendum issues, but the reality is that Al-Bashir has no will to go to war against the south. I’m quite sure and bet that in the next meeting of the Presidency, Al-Bashir and Taha would use the language of blackmailing on President Kiir, threatening that the north would go to war against the south unless Kiir and the SPLM made significant concessions to northern unreasonable demands. This is just claptrap that SPLM should not attach importance to it. However SPLA army should get prepared to discharge its obligation of defending the people and territory of South Sudan from any northern aggression.
In the epic days of the World War II, on 15 February 1942, around 15,000 British troops, 14,972 Australian and 37,000 Indian soldiers in addition to Malaya volunteers under the command of General Percival surrendered to a Japanese force in Singapore, This was because the resourceful Japanese commander, General Yamashita had earlier sent a note through an emissary to the British commander of the garrison warning him of total distraction unless he surrendered to the Japanese forces that had already surrounded them. As was expected, the entire British garrison surrendered without firing a single shot, only to discover afterwards that the force that threatened them with total destruction was far less in size than anticipated by General Percival, about 3,000 Japanese soldiers.
The deployment of the SAF battalions on the north-south borders is definitely an act of sabre-rattling. Intended to intimidate the government of South Sudan in order to bow down to NCP diktat. Al-Bashir knows that khartoum cannot start and sustain a war against the south.
Arab Double standard policy
While lambasting the West for lack of even-handedness and double standards in dealing with the Middle East question, the Arab league and individual leaders have turned out to be violators of human rights. More than three million south Sudanese perished under successive Sudanese regimes in the two north-south civil wars, but no single Arab leader raised an eyebrow and questioned Khartoum’s criminal practices. Another estimated 300,000 were systematically massacred in Sudan’s western state of Darfur and millions displaced, yet Arab leaders have been silent. The cause for the silence could be attributed to Arab racism, as those killed were Sudanese of African origin. Today, Israel is held accountable by the Arabs for the incident at Sabra and Shatila of September 1982 in Lebanon. The killings have remained legendary and indelibly etched in the annals of not only Lebanese, but Arab history as an evidence of Jewish insanity, albeit the massacres were committed by Lebanese militiamen. An Israeli air raid on Gaza could attract swift world-wide condemnation mostly from Arab quarters while the scorched earth policy conducted in South Sudan including the carpet bombardment and strafing of schools, markets, health centres and IDPs camps by Sudan’s government troops in the 1990s, had remained largely unknown in the Arab world. Those crimes passed as if nothing had happened, and no alarm raised by any single Arab leader.
The Juba (White House) horrendous massacres of 1992 are being denied today by some northern politicians that it ever happened. Sadly, most African leaders have also remained taciturn, probably for fear of sacrificing their diplomatic stance and interests on the alter of politics. The African Union (AU) has been all along as lethargic and moribund as its predecessor, the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU). It had always remained watching on the sidelines when the brutal regime in the Sudan went on conducting mass killings and rape spree in South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile and Darfur.
Whether northerners and the Arab League approve it or not, South Sudan is bound to secede, as the people of the region can’t continue to remain second class citizens in a country which is their own.
Regrettably, all the procrastinations that have occurred pertaining to the Referenda are part of the Khartoum regime’s calculated perfidy with the Arab League to create a matrix of eleventh hour political stampede at the Referenda time, in the conviction that this would lead to an added lack of clear groundwork and confusion on the part of South Sudanese in getting prepared for the vote that would lead to the triumph of the unpalatable unity in the Sudan. The insistence by the north to occupy the positions of both the Chairman and Secretary General of South Sudan Referenda Commission (thanks to Mr. Gration’s treachery conduct) was specifically designed with the hindsight of putting a moratorium on the Referenda process in order to buy more time to wreck the secession of South Sudan through combinations multiple plots and strategies, ranging from bribery using third parties such as the monitors to assist Khartoum manipulate the votes especially in North Sudan and the Diasporas to sabotaging the 60% turnout requirement. Such northern duplicity must be countered by all Southern Sudanese through sober and painstaking analysis of the situation in order to produce effective counter strategies to contain the Arab threat.
At this juncture, I would perhaps begin by posing the following question: What are the mechanisms so far put in place by the SPLM and the government of South Sudan to ensure that the upcoming Referendum outcome is free from manipulation, particularly by the government of Sudan, and the unscrupulous Arab league?
I feel sanguine to state that Cairo is clandestinely playing the political euchre, while the regime in Khartoum takes the stage alongside the Arab League member countries. Even though in the doldrums and refusing to admit that they are flogging a dead horse, the Arab League members are intensely inclined toward enforcing a unitary state in the Sudan in a brazen disregard of the stipulations of the 2005 Sudan’s Peace Agreement. This point is underscored by a statement stressed at the Sirte summit in Libya that called for the League members to stand by the government of Sudan including respecting its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, supporting the efforts for achieving peace in Sudan and completely rejecting all the attempts targeting its unity, security and stability. This appears to be an unadulterated insinuation that South Sudan must accept unity of Sudan, whether it is to their taste or not.
In an attempt to camouflage and dress up their predisposed stance and to make it look more accommodating to the African leaders, Arab leaders stressed at the Sirte summit that they would continue to cooperate with the African Union and the United Nations to help the Sudanese in setting up the necessary arrangements for conducting the referendum in a “peaceful and free atmosphere marked by credibility and transparency in a way that reflects the will of the people of South Sudan and Abyei region away from any pressures of anticipating the results”. This is precisely the language normally employed by the Khartoum regime, the regime that does not respect the rule of law or human value. What does the NCP know about credibility and transparency, while it rigged and stole the result of the last presidential elections, and keeping on giving GoSS less than fifty percent (50%) of the oil revenues sourced from South Sudan?
The authoritarian Arab governments from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Africa to the Persian Gulf (they have re-named it Arabian Gulf) possess no moral ground to lecture anyone about transparency or credibility.
IOM, not neutral to secure credible referendum overseas
Arguably, the South Sudan Referenda exercise, unlike any other plebiscite ever conducted in any part of the world is bizarrely snowed under by Arab conspiracies. Unless the people of South Sudan and their government step up effort do something right now that could thwart the joint-Arab conspiratorial scheme against South Sudan’s secession, the Arab League would via all available means at their disposal, force Sudan to become a unitary Arab and Islamic state, a scenario which would steadfastly be resisted by the people of South Sudan, leading to another round of the interlocking war in the country. I must state that the choice of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) by the South Sudan’s Referendum Commission to hold the Plebiscite out of the country is seemingly a deliberate strategy by the Khartoum regime and its backers across the Middle East to accomplish their end.
According to the South Sudan Referendum Commission Act 2009, the following eight countries in addition to north Sudan have been named to conduct the Referendum: Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Australia, Britain, USA and Canada. My second question is: how would the people of South Sudan entrust their destiny to and be perfectly certain that the IOM would deliver credible results that would genuinely be free from manipulation by the Arab League and Khartoum, when the Arab leaders at the Sirte Afro-Arab summit have clearly stated that they would work with Sudan to remove the “danger”?
Egypt is one of the countries in which a sizable number of South Sudanese live, having fled their country in consequence of the war in Sudan. Placing the IOM to register, conduct and count the votes at next year’s Referendum in a country like Egypt, there is great chance for Cairo to manipulate the IOM, which is nonetheless packed by unscrupulous Egyptian staff to carry out a two-pronged conspiracy, such as:
Registering an extraordinarily big number of voters, say 500,000 to secure all their votes for unity, or register 1,000,000 “Southern Sudanese” (God Knows), and Keep them away from reaching the polling centre(s), or prevent half of them from voting, in order to record and report a low turnout (this could also happen in Sudan), thanks to professor Eric Reeves who did alert the people of South Sudan to this catastrophic trend and likelihood.
The optimal panacea to address and frustrate Arab Duplicity
Overseas Voting Arrangement:
SPLM, the South Sudan Referendum Bureau and the people of South Sudan must ensure that the following parties be involved in all stages of the Plebiscite in the overseas countries.
1. South Sudanese organised communities in their various associations in their respective countries of domicile. It would be far easier to engage those communities to identify their individual members, who would then be registered. IOM staff would not tell who is a Southern Sudanese and who is not. This move could diminish or minimise attempts to inflate figure in order to manipulate the outcome of the exercise.
2. It would be more accommodating to involve the host countries in the registration, voting and counting stages. When Iraq went for their voting at the last elections, the Iraqi community residing in Australia was assisted by the Australia government, and it was well handled right from start to finish. This could be applied to the South Sudanese living in the Diaspora. The intention here is that security would be handy, should there develop some tumultuous setting. It would likewise be credible to have the Carter Foundation as observers to prevent any attempts by the north to skew the outcome of the vote in its favour.
3. Members from the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau should be mandated to supervise the voting and be present at the counting as well, while Representatives from the government of Southern Bureaux and selected SPLM Chapter members in those countries should be present to attend. This is a “do or die” exercise and must warrant the collaboration of all South Sudanese stakeholders to determine their destiny.
Who would vote at the Abyei Referendum?
When agreements are concluded, the broad understanding is that the parties to the accord, in the presence of their witnesses, have attested to the fact that they have fully and consciously committed themselves to ensuring absolute compliance with the instrument of the agreement. This is the general perception on Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on Abyei. This territory was clearly mapped out by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in July 2009 and what remains to be done is actually marking out the boundary lines on the ground, but this has not been possible to accomplish for more than one year. Seemingly, this is an apparent deliberate plot of circumventing the Court ruling by the dishonest northern government of president Omar al-Bashir.
By and large, the above question may seem hackneyed to require a thoughtful or contemplative response, but a deeper examination reveals an intricate and clandestine pattern of Arab perfidy calculated to affix a claim on oil-rich Abyei region, in case South Sudan secedes from the turbulent country. At the meeting devoted to Sudan and held on the sideline of UN gathering, Arab league members had expressed the need for Sudan’s unity, brazenly ignoring the reality on the ground that unity has never thrived well in the Sudan for the last half a century, due to official policy of deliberate marginalisation of south Sudan and other regions of the country by the supremacist reactionary regimes in the country and their backers in the Arab world. As to who would be allowed to vote at the Abyei Referendum, the response is simple, only “Dinka Ngok” would be permitted to cast their votes and to determine the future of their region. The other group, the Missiriya Arabs have been excluded from the territory by the PCA ruling, and hence would not be allowed to register and vote at the Referendum exercise. Having realised the vulnerable position of the Missiriya Arab ethnic group in context of the Abyei settlement, the north has now come up to defy the PCA ruling by calling for a different framework to “resolve the problem”. Here is the regime that has never learned and appreciated the basic principles of fair play, the regime that only believes in wielding the sword to silence opponents in a bid to remain in power.
Examining the content of the CPA – Sudan’s major Roadmap that peacefully ended the two-decade long gruelling war in Africa’s largest country, the two former warring parties, namely the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement had agreed that as the ownership of Abyei territory was being contested by the two parties, the people of the region alongside South Sudan would be allowed to decide in a Referendum scheduled for January 9, 2011, but prior to that date, an independent Commission of expert would be constituted to determine whether Abyei territory belonged to South Sudan or to the North. Prior to the start of work by the Commission, the National Congress Party had reiterated its position clearly that it would accept the outcome of the Commission’s report, but Khartoum later refused to abide by the outcome of the Commission’s work. Again when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled on the case submitted to it by the CPA partners, the Khartoum regime had stated earlier that it would be bound by the Court’s decision, but now the NCP government has again reneged its previous position and commitment while expecting South Sudan to make further concessions at the on-going talks in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. While giving in does not necessarily amount to weakness, in this particular scenario of Abyei, it does. Conceding and relinquishing Abyei to the north by any one in South Sudan would constitute gross negligence and a betrayal of colossal proportions of the entire people of South Sudan. There is nothing more to negotiate on at this time other than to fully comply with the both PCA ruling and the CPA requirements.
The Author is an Academic Researcher, and can be reached at: [email protected]