Referenda: Trap of Freedom, Law and Time

By Deng Riak Khoryoam, South Sudan

“All it takes for evil to prevail is for good persons to remain silent" (Dr Okuk)

October 29, 2010 (SSNA) — The events leading to January 9, the date when Southerners are supposed to vote on whether to remain part of the old Sudan or secede to form an independent newest state in Africa are getting unpalatable now. This is in line with the internationally brokered agreement, famously known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and a benchmark signed on January 9, 2005 in Nairobi Kenya by the two former foes – the National Congress Party (NCP) under the cover of the Sudan Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM) representing the force of Southern Sudan.

However, as we deliberate here now, things are not playing out well in the run up to the referenda on Abyei and in Southern Sudan as the details of political landscape changes every second. The referendum commission (SSRC) is threatening that it needs a miracle from heaven for it to carry on the duty in time and without fund, logistics, staff and amended Referendum Act (2009). The two CPA parties are not agreeing on who should participate in the Abyei referendum and who should not. Obviously, and as a matter of SPLM’s principle of the interpretation of the CPA and the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), Misseriya are not supposed to take part in that plebiscite because it is their castles only that are given rights to graze seasonally in Abyei area. However, the NCP have rejected this interpretation and are yet to reach an agreement over the stalemate, which could go on for unspecified period of time with the current no sign of willing seriousness between the two partners. The SPLM Secretary General, Mr Pagan Amum hinted in a press that they are ready to pay a ransom to make the presidency of the Sudan give a decree authorizing the re-annexing of Abyei to Southern Sudan. This hint was elaborated later by the very prominent son of Abyei, Dr Luka Biong, who said that the SPLM is ready to pay money as ransom though this was denied by the SPLM, the SPLM Secretary for Information and Communications in the Southern Sector, Mr Bol Makueng.

The referenda for the people of South Sudan and Abyei is a matter of life and death since it gives people a rare chance to decide on their destiny. Hence any attempt to push the date forward is not only tantamount to procrastination but it’s like denying these people the right to existence, which they’ll have to defend by any cost. Worse still, coercing people into voting for unity against their conscience or will is like telling them they will be sent to hell as the only place they deserve, an irony indeed!

The right of self-determination for the people of South Sudan and Abyei has nowadays gained momentum more than any other time in the past both nationally and internationally. But the fundamental question remains: Can the advocates of Separation be allowed to campaign freely in Northern Sudan? The answer to this question is ‘No’. Of course the masquerading and recalcitrant NCP members and supporters will say a definite “Yes’ and can even swear to Allah as they always do. But in actual sense they are just blaspheming and cheating themselves; not God whom they always swear to. They are fond of preaching to people to drink water but drinking wine. What they say is never what they do, which clearly explains why they never respected any agreement or honored their promises. It is a proven fact that the separatists or those advocating for independence of South Sudan can’t be allowed to campaign freely in the North, a behavior contrary to the Referendum Act (2009) and the interim National Constitution of the Sudan (2005) that guarantees the right to   freedom of assembly, expression and choice of any of the options granted for the 2011 agreed referenda.

It was a couple of weeks ago when Southerners took to the street in Khartoum in a peaceful procession calling for the independence of South Sudan, when the law enforcement agents, the police beat and arrested them. This attitude in Khartoum contradicts what the Sudanese have claimed in Geneva in front of international community last month that human rights situation has greatly improved in the Sudan, which calls for termination of the mandate of the special international human rights expert in the country. The question is whether those police men/women transgressed and acted outside the law or within the law and whether their actions were justified or not? This is something I leave to the readers to judge.

It would be implausible to force southerners to accept unity which has failed its purpose, without offering or giving strong and convincing reasons as to why they ‘must’ and should choose it as the only option against separation. First, let’s try to put the cart before the horse here. Those advocating for unity must be seen to be putting tremendous efforts to convince the masses why they should vote for unity, and this should be free from any threats and intimidations and or coercion. You can’t just tell us that it’s because the CPA gives unity option a priority and that all parties to the agreement should work to make unity an attractive option for the people of Southern Sudan, or because our forefathers have been maintaining the unity of the Sudan for decades if not centuries. This is a shallow argument that does not make any sense to the gross injustices in the Sudan. This is imprudent and terribly impugning!

The reason why unity of the Sudan is not being made attractive is because no roads were constructed, no hospitals built, no water systems established, amongst many other basic tangible things for living a stable human life on this earth planet. This is what many Southerners, including the Southern politicians, talk about everyday when they debate on unity versus separation. I don’t I agree with them on this materialistic view of desire for independence of South Sudan. I know human beings have that tendency of looking for tangible things to meet their basic needs. But this is not the whole story. I wouldn’t mind if i live in South Sudan and I don’t get these tangible things but instead get the freedom of all sorts where every person in the society makes a worthwhile contribution in society and receives fairly what he/she deserves as a right.

The non-tangible things I am talking about here include dignity, self-esteem and recognition. It has been argued consistently by various scholars, especially those in the field of development arena that although people tend to focus on the physical needs as more important than the abstract needs, still what gives human being significance is the metaphysical needs. One of the scholars had this to say. “Distressing or incomprehensible as it may be to many elites, there are things more fulfilling than great political power or material wealth, that many people cannot see beyond these relatively infantile needs that suggests widespread and common blockages to human development” (Gran, 1983:156). This means that anyone giving you the physical needs or fulfilling these needs while ignoring the abstract needs is not doing enough since these are considered as false satisfiers. The point am driving home is simple: Even if southerners were to be provided with these physical needs (roads, hospitals, water dams and etc) but are denied the abstract needs, still nothing would prevent them from demanding total independence state of their own where their sense of dignity, self-respect and sense of recognition would be guaranteed and preserved.

Also be informed that the breakdown and falls of societies has been likened to the following reasons:-

a) Repressive laws; a good example of which is the Sharia being imposed on non-Muslims in the Sudan.

b) Abusive behavior by institutions such as the recent government crackdown on those peaceful demonstrations by separatists in Khartoum.

c) Harassment and threats to the people’s advocates lives; this is self-evident and self-explanatory.

d) Harassment of the public by the state apparatus; the police and intelligence/security personnel.

e) People being subjected to status of second class citizenship with patterns of exclusion and discrimination that deny them their full political, economic, social and cultural rights by keeping them submissive.

These are all typical and reminiscence of NCP’s regime in the Sudan, which has kept the country united while maintaining repressive laws and other abusive behaviors for its citizens, especially the non-Muslims in the North. I think they will have to pay for their errant behavior now that the going away of the South seems to be a bitter reality for them, which is unstoppable. Can the unity of the Sudan be salvaged after it has failed miserably? The answer is a BIG NO.

In conclusion, I think the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) deserves applause for trying its best to grant both the advocates of unity and separation conducive environment to carry out their campaign activities. Nonetheless, with NCP coming with trucks full of sugar and lentils sacks to lure some hungry and ignorant Southerners to trust them at eleven rushed hour, I am afraid the 60% quorum needed to declare the 50 +1 vote for the secession of South Sudan could get seriously spoiled in favour of the fake unity of the Sudan those Islamists have been thriving on. Allowing Khartoum to continue with its evil activities of robbing Southern people of their right to choose separation while in the North but getting free access to people’s hearts in Southern Sudan is the unfairest thing that shouldn’t be tolerated even if it means declaring war of independence against Khartoum. This ensnaring NCP trap should be broken immediately so that it does not catch the SPLM leadership and Southerners unaware.

I also want to thank the Church in Southern Sudan and North for their unswerving stand on letting the people choose their desired destiny freely, fairly and transparently. I am not even forgetting our heroes and nationalists in the person of Alfred Taban, the Editor in chief of Khartoum monitor newspaper and Nhial Bol, the editor in chief for the citizen newspaper; both of whom have gone into the record for not hiding facts out of fear or due to censorship. Thank you for your braveness and straightforwardness to advocate for the separation of the South. You have been subjected to arrests and threats but you have maintained your dignified courageous stance. History will not forget what you’ve done for our country in-the-making.

Aluta contiua and viva to South Sudan inevitable independence!!!!

Deng Riak Khoryoam lives in Southern Sudan and can be reached at [email protected]

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