By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD
November 2, 2010 (SSNA) — Although the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) is claimed to be a creditable non-profit research and training organisation operating in Sudan, the Horn of Africa, East Africa and the Great Lakes, unfortunately it has undoubtedly tarnished its fairness when it claimed in its recent report that the January 2011’s referendum in Sudan’s Oil-rich border region of Abyei may have to be postponed until April due to severe delays to preparations at a time that all the good wishers are doing their best to avoid such a postponement.
Those who read the report will no doubt come to the conclusion that in spite of the seemingly exhaustive arguments presented by its author Aly Verjee, he intentionally went ahead to suggest a new deal – what he called the CPA II, without getting into the root causes of why the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) of Omer Al Bashir has consistently chosen to derail the initial agreement in the first place – a thing very likely to be repeated with any new truce. It’s not true that the best way to avoid the Abyei and southern referenda becoming a ‘national disaster’ – triggering a third north-south civil war lies solely in what the author refers to as a ‘political fix’ in the form a new deal or ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement II’ as he prefers to call it. This is a cheap way for Khartoum to buy time and regain its composure, from which it can only emerge yet another notorious pariah regime.
Hence it is not related to sensible thinking in anyway if the NCP is determined to continue with its favourite game of playing one group against the other while never doing anything genuinely to behave responsibly. This time around only a well coordinated international pressure led by the US, China and the EU can force the Khartoum government to respect its part of the different political settlements that it signs with its many rivals, without which peace and stability can hardly prevail in the region. This is not only necessary, but has become an urgent need should a return to the north and the south war be averted or tangible peace be realised in the troubled region of Darfur.
The RVI report which serves more or less like a preparatory ground for postponing the referenda if not an inlet to introduce a virus that could derail the entire CPA altogether, stands out in favour of the NCP, and it took much interest in portraying the north’s lethal tricks when it claimed that Senior NCP politicians have suggested that Abyei’s vote be delayed in order to resolve north-south boundary demarcation, the appointment of members of the referendum commission, the question of voter eligibility and residency and issues of public security. And it went to conclude that, “For these reasons ‘postponement of the Abyei referendum is undesirable but may be unavoidable”. The report said.
How the Rift Valley Institute chose not to see the obvious ill intentions by the so – called senior NCP politicians when they suggested a delay to the Abyei referendum is a point of interest if it deserves to be called a neutral body. However for the benefit of the readers, no one should be misled into thinking that the NCP is in a way trying to find out a solution to the current stalemate. Is it not true that the CPA was arrived at as a solution to the existing problems that pitted the two parts in the two decades war? So why postpone a referendum which has always been there to take place at the end of the CPA? The problem is not lack of time, but rather a lack of a political will. Whenever that is availed all parts of the agreement can get back to track and move on smoothly. So how comes that the RVI is sure that the NCP will be able to acquire that political will exactly within the time frame they are asking for?
The Rift Valley Institute (RVI) was to some extent justified in concluding that ‘brinkmanship, delay and broken agreements – which it calls old traditions of Sudanese politics – is turning every political and technical challenges of the referenda into a national disaster.’ this is true and there is no coincidence where the Sudan finds itself now. People keep saying that the implementation of the entire CPA has always fallen behind schedule – largely out of design by the NIF/NCP which is finding it difficult to part with the oil revenues that it enjoys from the south.
The south has every right to seek a way outside the referendum should the NCP or the north for that matter decides to use delaying tactics in order to frustrate the southerners from excising their right to self determination as enshrined both in the CPA and the country’s constitution. But for organisations like the Rift Valley Institute to portray a picture as if the northern politicians have a birth right to enjoy a free hand in violating the timely implementation of all the provisions in the agreement, from the border demarcation, the census, and now the referenda while making it appear as illegal any move by the south to rid itself of what is overwhelmingly considered as a colonial domination over the black African people of south Sudan by the northern Arab Muslims – for fairness sake, this deserves every criticism.
A unilateral referendum or still unilateral declarations of Independence are all possible options regardless of the RVI’s opinion that it would contravene some articles of the CPA, as well as unlikely to gain full international recognition or promote national consensus. However the south Sudanese aren’t that naive even to beg for recognition from the north. In reality it would be both an economic and a security suicide should the north refuse to recognise the choice of the people of the south as it can all come at the expense of the natural resources including Oil and Water that it is eyeing to have from the south.
In a previous development many observers were indeed surprised by the attack on the US President by Sudan’s second vice president Ali Osman Taha, when President Obama warned against a possible bloodshed if the referendum on independence for south Sudan doesn’t take place as planned in January. Taha went on to describe the US President as someone who depends on reports from entities who don’t know what is happening in the Sudan and is being misled by a Jewish lobby.
"This is not the first time he speaks as such of Sudan, and it will not be the last. He makes those remarks based on what he hears from pressure groups." Taha added.
The truth of the matter is that the senior Sudanese politician’s (Taha) reaction is a reflection of the state of uncertainty that has lately dominated the mood within the northern ruling elites. The regime is terrified to hear such a blunt statement coming directly from the US’s top official, for it may entail a possible military intervention by the US at any time if it deems necessary to prevent the anticipated bloodshed. However to conclude that President Obama’s statement was a mere work of a pressure group or some kind of anti-Arab lobby, sincerely confirms the state of paranoia where the NIF/NCP leadership finds itself after having completely lost the needed political will to walk the final step in the CPA.
But as if to remind the people of the Sudan, rulers and citizens alike that the US administration is determined not to back down on its position of having the two referenda simultaneously on the 9th of January 2011, the special envoy was quick to dispute a recent rumours about a possible postponement of the polls which was marked by an infamous statement by the Chairman for the referendum where he simulated the timely holding of the referenda a ‘miracle’.
"We have no proposal to delay the referendum. In fact we would like to see the referendum that happens on time, that is peaceful and allows the people of southern Sudan to express their will," Gration told reporters in Khartoum.
"That is what we are pushing for, so we are looking for 9 January having people fill out the voting cards to be able to express their will. That is what we are pushing for and there is absolutely no talk about a delay," he added.
While the people of south Sudan continue to look confidently towards the Obama administration for a full, timely and fair implementation of the crux of the CPA – the referenda, yet there are times marked by certain disturbing suggestions which are attributed to the US administration that do not go well with the basic aspirations of the majority pro independence south Sudanese. Of late there is the stalemate created by the NCP in order to undermine the proper demarcation of the north – south borders and the conduct of the Abyei referendum by intentionally using the Misserya nomads as a disruption tool.
The Misserya were present during the CPA where their case was discussed in details and addressed in the Abyei Protocol only to be over turned later by a joint NCP-Messairiya spoilers. This took the entire Abyei border issue to the court of arbitration at The Hague where a new verdict was again issued re-defining the Dinka Ngok territory to which the NCP-Misserya on one side and SPLM-Ngok Dinka on the other put their initials. However what happened after that is a clear evidence for the whole world to see that the NCP-Messairiya union is primarily meant to promote instability and lawlessness by undermining subsequent agreements. This should be clear by now to all, and hopefully including the US administration.
Dr. Luka Biong a senior SPLM politician and a native of the Oil- rich Abyei region was quoted in the media where he confirmed that Washington had put forward a proposal for a political settlement, in an attempt to avoid the region (Abyei) from triggering a renewed conflict between the north and the south. According to the proposal, Dr. Biong was reported to have said:
"They put this proposal … having a presidential decree to return Abyei back to the south and the Messairiya to have dual citizenship — we accepted it," Biong said.
“Under this US proposal, in the event that the referendum does not go ahead the SPLM would grant the Messairiya citizenship rights so they could continue to use the region to find pasture for their cattle. The south would also use some of Abyei’s oil revenues to set up a development fund for the Messairiya, Biong said.
The US administration is entitled to its opinion; however it is doubtful whether there is any relevance of this so-called US proposal and the realities on the ground. Besides the fact that the proposal is openly calling for a renegotiation of the CPA protocols, especially on incorporating a very notorious Arab tribe(Misserya) that has traditionally been used by the northern Riverans as a war fodder in their five decades war against the people of the south. In short one can ask the obvious question that, “ If the Arab nomads – and in particular these extremely hostile Messairiya Tribesmen are to become citizens of the independent south Sudan nation – then what point is it there for the entire so-called independence struggle?
For obvious reasons, I couldn’t agree more with Dr. P.A Nyaba that the Postponement of the referendum will be more dangerous than war. We are all aware of the underlying ill- intentions of the northern Sudanese in as far as the right of the south to self determination are concerned in spite of the fact that it was arrived at through a national consensus. To say the least no one in south Sudan would like to share the fate of the Saharawi’s [Polisario – Western Sahara]. But for those adventurers amongst the NCP and the Messairiya warlords who prefer brinkmanship to sober politics must not forget that they are playing with catastrophe and the bloodbath they are about to plunge the region into is a reality.