SPLM/A Must Change its Official Name to duly Reflect the Name of the New Country

By PaanLuel Wël, Washington DC, USA

February 19, 2011 (SSNA) — As reported by Sudan Tribune, February 13th, 2011, Pagan Amum, the SPLM SG and GoSS minister for Peace and CPA Implementation, announced that “the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south has officially adopted South Sudan as a name for the New State” which would be declared on July 9th, 2011. This proposal and adoption, awaiting formal approval by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA), was arrived at “from the meeting of the SPLM’s Politburo headed by the SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir.”

Technically speaking, this tentative espousal of the new official name, The Republic of South Sudan, for the new country to-be has created new realities on the ground. These latest developments, the realization of liberation and the official acceptance of the new name, have indisputably rendered the name “SPLM/A” inappropriate and irrelevant in and for the new geopolitical environment. Consequently, SPLM/A must change its official name in line with the new realities on the ground.

I base my argument on two main premises. One, we are in a new country whose official name, unlike the old one in which the name SPLM/A was based on, is South Sudan. Yet, the existing ruling party in this new country continues to be formally known as the Sudan People Liberation Movement. There is no logical rationale in retaining the old country name in SPLM/A—the ruling party in the new country. Therefore, SPLM/A must discard of its current name and assume new one that would be pertinent to and duly reflect the new country that it is presently governing.

The second explanation why I think SPLM/A ought to alter its official name has everything to do with the second part of its name: Sudan People Liberation Movement. With the pronouncement of independence in July, 2011, it is palpable that the liberation struggle, the prominent goal of the movement, has been objectified. Therefore, the SPLM/A, as the present ruling party in the Republic of South Sudan (RSS), must have to reevaluate itself and take up not only new different official name but it must also endeavor to seek new different objectives for running the new nation. These new objectives will have nothing to do with liberation movement but everything to do with the acceleration of development and institutionalization of democracy in the new country.

To start with, it is important to point out that parties, all over the world, are named according to the ideologies (objectives) with which to bring about new developmental transformations in the countries in which they are based. Hence, in the United Kingdom, for instance, you have such names as Labor Party (mainly catering for the working class’ interest); Liberal Democratic Party (advocating for social liberties and civil rights); and Conservative Party (a guardian of core traditional values and norms).

The same nature of party formation and naming according to the policies and objective they pursue is replicated in the USA (Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party etc); Japan (Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Japan etc); China (The Communist Party—the only cock in town); South Africa (African National Congress, United Democratic Movement, Pan African Congress etc) to mention but just a few.

Thus, it would be highly impertinent for the SPLM/A, whose current purpose should be about economic development, to persistently calling itself a liberation movement when there is no more armed struggle to be waged. Therefore, SPLM/A must pick a new name which have got to delete the word Sudan and replaces it with South Sudan. Secondly, SPLM/A must have to drop the words Liberation Movement from its official and take on a name that would have something to do with either development or democracy or both: two urgent areas where its future energies ought to be spent on.

SPLM/A is not longer a liberation movement nor is it still a party in the old country call Sudan. Consequently, there is an urgent necessity to rename, too, the army—the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) as it is currently known. Dissimilarly to the SPLM which is a political party, the SPLA can obviously hang on to the words Liberation Army. Therefore, something like South Sudan People Liberation Army (SSPLA), South Sudan National Army (SSNA) or Simply South Sudan Army (SSA) would be befitting and relevant.

But if new realities on the ground will have to compel and necessitate the SPLM to change its official name, what then will its new name be? Secondly, what should we then do with the name “SPLM” considering that it was the SPLM/A that bravely, and single handedly, fought for and delivered unto us this New Shining Country and unprecedented freedom we achieved? Should we just dumped and flushed this historic and sacrosanct name down the dustbin of history and forget it forever?

As I have already stated above, the new official name(s) that SPLM will have to adopt and use in the New State will have to be country-ly applicable and policy-objectively sound. Thus, adopting South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) will still not work, at least in my opinion, because it will be ideologically misplaced and flawed. Having a new name such as South Sudan Democratic Party (SSDP), however, would perfectly fit and satisfy the two criteria laid down above. It could also be called Democratic Party of South Sudan (DPSS) just to avoid the pain of confusing it, from the voters’ perspective, with South Sudan United Democratic Party, a currently registered opposition party in the Republic of South Sudan. Still, it is up to the SPLM as a party to adopt and use those names it see fit so long as the name (s) chosen is relevant to the new country.

What to do with the name ‘SPLM?’ Well, a lot, depending on your positive or negative view of the party and its historic link to our noble struggle. Evidently, with the recent announced official separation of SPLM/A into Northern and Southern parties that would be virtually separate and exclusively independent of each other, it would be possible and plausible to argue that, as the Southern sector search for and adopt a new name for itself in line with the name of the New country, the name SPLM/A should remain with the Northern sector as its official name. After all, those brothers and sisters in arms are still in a country called Sudan and are, by all accounts, still fighting for liberation—the New Sudan Vision.

However, it would be hard to foretell how South Sudanese, who formed, and still does, the backbone of and spearheaded the Liberation Movement, would react to such suggestion. The SPLM, to most South Sudanese is more than a political party. It is the embodiment of the liberation struggle, the symbol of the blood shed for freedom, the crystallization of their freedom and independence, and the hope for the brighter tomorrow. Thus, it would be a heresy to many veterans of the Movement to leave the SPLM in the old Sudan, the very country that typifies their oppression and enslavement.

If it would be unthinkable for the SPLM in the South to relinquish and bequeath the name to the SPLM/A in the North, then we have to find a second appropriate alternative. That alternative would be found in a noble cause or a place to name after SPLM/A. Among the suggestions would be a busy high way, a learning institutions, a landmark building, a new capital city in the making, a national park, a name of a new state to be created, or the State/presidential house (our white House or Downing Street No. 10.).

But most importantly, we can greatly honor the SPLM by naming the official name of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly as SPLM. Having a distinct and clear name for the law-making body is a prevalent tradition around the world. It is called Congress in the USA, Parliament in the UK, Duma in Russia, Diet in Japan, Knesset in Israel, Bundestag in Germany, National Congress in Argentina, or National People Congress in China. Of course, owing to colonization by the European powers, most people in Africa know the national assembly only as parliament, an adoption of the UK’s one.Thus, having a distinct and unique name for our national assembly would be both an appropriate honor for the SPLM name as well as a noted mark of socio-political maturation for our war veteran politicians. It would be a true mark of real independence not only from the Arabs but also from the long arm and crushing yoke of neo-colonialism. What a great way it would be to kill three birds with one stone! We would canonize and preserve the SPLM’s name forever in the living memory of our dead and wounded heroes/heroines. We would rebuff both Arabism and Islamism, and moreover, still-borne the encroachments of neo-colonization on to the door step of our inchoate nation.

In calling for the SPLM to change its official names, I have all along presupposed that there would be no much qualm about it, and for good reasons. Surely, this won’t be the first time that unanticipated circumstances will be forcing the veteran liberation party hands against its will and purposes. The 1991 Nasir Rebellion shook SPLM/A to its core. Confronted with a combined forces of a resurgent Jihadistic party of NCP and the Nasir Group, SPLM/A, in the 1994 Chukudum Convention had to change its core strategy of the war and added Southerners Self-determination besides its traditional stand of New Sudan Vision which “advocates pluralism and respect for diversity in all of Sudan.”

Forward those scenarios to the CPA era and the referendum period, you would have noticed that the SPLM/A gracefully and humbly settled for the (unintended) moon instead of the (targeted) star. Certainly, ideological flexibility, contextual interpretation and timely respond to the rapidly unfolding events ensure survivability in the rough waters of unforgiving political scene. Rigidity, on the other hand, spells dooms. As the splintering of the Movement in the 1990s, the untimely death of Dr. John Garang in 2005, and thus, the apparent unattainability of the New Sudan had compelled SPLM/A in the past to change its course and actions, I also expect the current new developments, as illustrated above, to help convince the SPLM/A to study and respond, appropriately, to the calling of history as it currently unfold.

That calling as elucidated above is for the SPLM/A to adopt a new different name for itself in the wake of the new geopolitical realities it has find itself in today. That new name must be relevant to the country in which we are in and must be connected to either development or democracy or both. Secondly, the best way to dispose of the name SPLM/A, after the current party has adopted a new different names, would be to rename our national assembly after it. That would, ever-long-lastingly, enshrine the names and memory of our Liberation Movement, and of the sons/daughters of South Sudan who gave up their precious lives for our freedom, into our past, present and future collective national consciousness.

Mr PaanLuel Wël can be reached at [email protected] or through his blog: http://paanluel2011.blogspot.com/

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