South Sudan set to go leaving the North to settle its National Identity Crisis

By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD

December 22, 2010 (SSNA) — The people of south Sudan following their long struggles for nationhood where they fought deadly wars with the successive Arab and Muslim dominated governments of Khartoum are now only a few days away from casting their votes in the most awaited polls that will see them having their own independent state. But of course the way ahead is not all roses as the dominant northern National Congress Party [NCP] of president Omer al Bashir continues   to litter all the negotiation avenues with hurdles. This is a typical Arab way to never openly acknowledge defeat.

Yet little by little we are beginning to hear resigning statements from some senior Islamist figures who used to be known as hard liners. If anything, it shows that the NCP is finally softening up to the huge external pressures by the international community to implement the south Sudan referendum in a timely, free, fair and transparent way.

It wasn’t long ago when the NCP’s Deputy Chairman Nafie Ali Nafie,   a senior party member who ostensibly campaigned to maintain the Arab Islamic north’s domination of South Sudan with the existing status quo, admitted openly that the South is bound to secede. Nafie who was addressing a gathering of party supporters told them that all ongoing efforts to retain Sudan’s unity had failed, and the secession of the South is a possibility.

"No matter what we do we will reach this conclusion which will be recognized by the entire world… we must not deceive ourselves or cling to wishful thinking, we must resign to facts and realities," Nafie said.

It took Nafie ages to openly say what he probably knew years before the two warring sides ever signed the Naivasha peace agreement in 2006. Whatever efforts he and his colleagues in the NCP did to maintain the Sudan as a united country went in vain simply because the type of unity they wanted for  the country is the very unity that led to the two civil wars in the south. It was the same unity that made the people in the Nuba Mountains, the Darfur Region, the Blue Nile and the Eastern to take up arms. It was and still is the wrong unity even after the south is long gone.

But al-Bashir who probably due the massive stress of the ICC warrant has recently issued statements that lack any tinge of common sense. Was it not utterly childish when he suggested that the North would be willing to give up its share of oil revenues if the South voted for unity in the referendum? This was a proposal made by the Sudanese president in a meeting with a delegation from the African Peace and Security Council in Khartoum. This funny proposal was immediately dismissed by the South. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which governs the semiautonomous South, was also quick to reject the offer as too late and went on to stress that unity cannot be "achieved through oil."

"You cannot offer the people their own oil,"" said Atem Garang, a senior SPLM leader and deputy-chair of the Sudanese National Assembly.

"There can only be unity when there is a democratic transformation in the country … and there is equality and justice," Garang added.

In yet another weird development the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) went on and announced that its members from the South of the country will keep their citizenship in the North should the January referendum result in a new country.

“Those who stayed with us and fought with us will enjoy the privilege of Sudanese nationality because they believed in the cause of Sudan’s unity and the common fate between the north and the south. The north will be very generous with them,” said Mandoor Al-Mahdi who is the deputy NCP chairman in Khartoum state. This is too late too little though. Al-Mahdi seems to be behind the news that most of those southerners who fought besides them have long realised that they fought on the wrong side and he should have the names of those big shots – politicians and army generals who have since defected to the SPLM and the SPLA.

However Al Mahdi will have to revise his offer because Al-Bashir who appears to have at last resigned to the secession of the south is already preparing to do away with key provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA} that recognises Sudan’s ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity. This is al Bashir’s recent declarations, I quote:

‘If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity,’ President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters at a rally in the eastern city of Gedaref.

‘Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language,’ he said.

For the people of South Sudan, Bashir’s ‘Talibanic’ statements came as no surprise at all. They know him for what he stands for …………the ugly face of religious bigotry. The group of the northern riparian elites that brought him to power and continue to defend his regime are but people with identity crisis and to the best they are just arabized Africans. By taking refuge in Arabism and political Islam to replace for their lost identity these confused people intend to dehumanised and enslave the indigenous black Africans – denying them equal roles in the country.

For those ‘special southerners’, who would have benefited from Mandoor’s offer, it would be too much a price to pay if they are to compromise their ethnicities and languages in return for so-called ‘Citizenship in the North’ and the ‘Sharia generosity’. Maybe not the southerners we all know. However it is everybody’s knowledge that southern unionists continue to enjoy better and special treatments from the north for spying on their fellow southerners. But in the event of secession anyone who continues to engage in such acts will definitely be committing a punishable act of treason through espionage against the new state.

These opportunists who survived by the continuous betrayal of their own fellow kinsmen must take this as a food for thought before they gamble any further with their future and the future of their off springs to come. In fact one wonders as to what use to the northern ‘Taliban state’ these so-called southern unionist will be when the South finally secedes.

On the other hand one can further argue that the CPA signed between the NCP and the SPLM/A in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005 wasn’t confined to the North-South relationship as such. This internationally recognised  agreement included the two other areas of the north which are largely inhabited by non-Arab black African people of southern Kordofan [Nuba mountains] and Blue Nile states with recognisable portions of non Muslims [Christians and followers of African religions].  As such the irresponsible ‘Talibanic type’ declarations uttered by president al Bashir will obviously be taken into consideration by those non- Arab revolutionaries of Darfur who are currently negotiating a peaceful settlement in Doha.

Some may argue that Al Bashir’s comments reflect his anger at the strong likelihood that the south will vote overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the mainly Arab and Muslim north. But for him to deny the realities of the cultural and ethnic diversities within the political north will not go well with the indigenous black African people of the western province of Darfur, the Nuba mountains, the southern Blue Nile {Ingasana Hills] and the Beja of the East who maintain their rights to be what they are.

As South Sudan is expected to overwhelmingly vote in favour of an independent state, we can see that the indifferent regime in Khartoum has failed to learn any lessons from this inevitable event. And when the other non-Arab African populations in the north react by choosing the same path as the South in a way to avoid any further marginalisation as suggested by al Bashir’s ‘Talibanic’  rhetoric , then the north will only have itself to blame.

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, MD. Secretary General – United South Sudan Party [USSP]. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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