By Elhag Paul
October 27, 2011 (SSNA) — From 1st January 1956 to 9th July 2011, that is 55 years of nightmare living with the Arabs in the Sudan. We were called all sorts of names ranging from ‘Abid’ meaning slave to infidels. South Sudanese were the punching bag for Arabs to release their collective stress. Being mainly non Muslims, the Arabs sought to feel good by embarking on a process of civilising us along Arab and Muslim cultures. Bigoted and unwilling to accept us as indigenous Africans with our own cultures different to theirs, they wanted to mould us into their liking as they saw fit. This is the worst part of ‘Sudanese Arab’ thinking. Understandably, this has to do with the insecurity of identity that the people of north Sudan face. Although they call themselves Arabs, in the Arab world they are the laughing stock; looked down upon and ridiculed for their supposed Arabness.
Our refusal to espouse Arabism and to become ‘Arabs’ and Muslims made us subject of gruesome persecution for over half a century. During this period we fought back to ascertain our identity and culture in the face of horrific discrimination and oppression. South Sudanese were massacred en masse in towns. For instance, in Juba in 1965, the entire civilian population of the town was cordoned off and attacked at night by the Sudanese armed forces. Women, men and children were shot indiscriminately; in Wau and Malakal in the same year similar acts were carried out by the Sudanese army. To date nobody has been held to account over these carnages. The world looked the other way. No one paid attention to our plight. No one stood with us. Few individuals and foreign powers sympathised with us. A lone German national, Mr Rolf Steiner personally joined our struggle and he paid dearly when he was caught by the Sudanese authority. Rolf was detained for a long time before he was freed. Israel provided some support, but this did not last.
The abuses we received from the Arabs were relentless. It was only when the hard work of the Diaspora convinced the churches in America and Europe of our plight that the world finally woke up to the horror in the Sudan. This awakening got translated into substantial political pressure which yielded the crucial CPA in 2005. Without the combined efforts of the Diaspora, the Sudan churches, the internal front (South Sudanese within the country) and the various South Sudanese armed groups, it might have been difficult to raise the consciousness of the world and South Sudan perhaps would still be struggling against Khartoum today.
With this kind of background, one would expect that sensible people in the SPLM machine both in South Sudan and the Sudan would be sensitive to think or even talk about re-uniting the two Sudans. The pains and wounds of the liberation struggle are still fresh. But also the fact that 98.83 percent of South Sudanese voted to secede from the Sudan is a loud and clear message that we in South Sudan do not want to live together with the Arabs in the north. That the unionist project of ‘New Sudan’ is a none starter. The reason is clear. Our identities do not match. Our cultures do not match. Our views of the world do not match and so on. The best arrangement is the current one from 9th July 2011. Two independent countries living side by side as good neighbours and respecting each other. We in South Sudan as evidenced by the outcome of the referendum do not want this nonsense called ‘New Sudan’ now or in future. After all, we only attained our independence 3 months ago and there is nothing to suggest we should go back to the old nightmarish arrangement.
However, SPLM is obsessed with the ideology of the ‘New Sudan’ because it was coined by the formidable late Dr John Garang. He taught them well to parrot it. In his absence, SPLM knows nothing but to stick to the nonsense. They are at a loss due to lack of thinkers and alternative ideas to sell. If you ask any SPLM member: what is their philosophy now? You would be surprised to hear the waffle. It will run something like this: ‘you know the chairman’s vision is to realise New Sudan ……….’ And if you follow the questioning further, say for example, that is now history since South Sudan has separated. What next? The answer would be ‘ummmmmmm but the vision has given us freedom and we must pursue it.’ You will not get any coherently reasoned response.
The ingredients in the ideology of ‘New Sudan’ originate from communist thinking associated with the concept of nationalities. The former Soviet Union was made up of various nationalities and cultures co-existing within one country under a strict communist law. Although it appeared that the Soviet system was working, underneath it was creaking with problems of nationalism among the various nationalities which at the end burst out in the early 1990s fragmenting the country leading into the birth of several independent countries based on national identities.
Dr Garang seemed to have coined his vision of ‘New Sudan’ from the Soviet version as a panacea for the Sudan . But the problem of the Sudan is more complex given that the people who live in the north are a mixture of Africans and Arabs with others being purely Africans but confused about their identity. So, the unionist vision of ‘New Sudan’ as in Soviet Union will not work in the Sudan. At best this vision is just an academic exercise divorced from the reality in the Sudan, and at worst it is outright importation of more problems to South Sudan. Even in the Sudan now, the people of African origin in Darfur and the other areas in the south of that country do not want Sharia to be scrapped. The most surprising thing is that although these groups are African ethnically, they espouse Arab culture comfortably. So how implementable is this vision with us being in it in order to create a secular state? The only way feasible is to enforce it violently, but then this would not be democracy in any way and it would not last. People should be free to choose how they are governed.
To our disappointment, SPLM has begun to give out signals raising hopes of people in the Sudan for reunification. This is irresponsible. SPLM has to understand that it can not go against the wishes and feelings of the South Sudanese people. On 3 rd October 2011 in London , Mr Yasir Arman, the secretary general of SPLM-North confidently said to an audience of dignitaries that the agenda of ‘New Sudan’ is well and kicking and it is the ultimate objective of SPLM as a whole, that is SPLM in South Sudan and SPLM-North combined. According to Mr Arman, once they (opposition in the Sudan ) remove Bashir and NCP from power in Khartoum , both governments in Juba and Khartoum would start work on the project of ‘New Sudan’ with the aim of re-uniting the country. The representatives of RSS in London were present among others, but neither stood up for the interest of South Sudan indicating their total allegiance to the SPLM party rather than the former.
Mr Arman’s briefing is concerning, but understandable in light of the fact that SPLM in South Sudan has not officially renounced the policy of ‘New Sudan’. While this fallacious policy of ‘New Sudan’ continues to remain in the books of SPLM and SPLM continues to hog it, our achieved independence in South Sudan is insecure. There is something fishy going on in SPLM that is not being explained to the South Sudanese people. The ambiguity around its policies needs to be clarified to us, especially given the fact that we overwhelmingly voted to quit from the Sudan. As a party the SPLM is free to pursue policies of unity with the Sudan, but this needs to be done in an open way and not behind doors, and South Sudan does not need to be taken back into the nightmare after their resounding No-to-unity.
Now should the concept of ‘New Sudan’ be SPLM’s official policy, it is absolutely vital that president Kiir either holds a referendum on the issue so that all South Sudanese can have a say, or he calls a general election for the people to make their choice of who should lead/govern the country. SPLM imposed itself on South Sudanese without elections. Therefore it has not got a mandate to pursue a policy of unity with the Sudan. This fallacious concept has no place in South Sudan. Even if the concept of ‘New Sudan’ was to be workable and desirable, it would not be SPLM to implement it. SPLM itself as we have experienced it is not a democratic party and moreover it pursues interest of one ethnic group at the expenses of all the others. It failed during the war in the liberated areas and during the interim period from 2005 to show its democratic credentials. It squandered valuable opportunities and proved beyond doubt that it is a totalitarian organisation riddled with corruption. In line with its totalitarianism SPLM staffed all the bureaus of South Sudan with die hard apparatchiks regardless of their skills and qualifications. These apparatchiks have been imposed on offices by the SPLM without undergoing any proper recruitment procedures. As such they are appointed or posted abroad to represent South Sudan . Currently all the South Sudanese embassies abroad are staffed by the former SPLM chapter members in those countries. Unfortunately these unprofessional and inexperienced apparatchiks behave like robots as they are unable to separate their allegiance to SPLM and their duty to RSS. They look at the two as the same. Thus they neglect the interest of South Sudan when a confusing concept like ‘New Sudan’ comes up in any fora as exemplified by the behaviour of RSS representatives in London during the meeting with Mr Yasir Arman. South Sudan needs clear minded professional diplomats who differentiate issues accordingly.
Mr Arman’s call for the overthrow of Bashir to pave the way for reunification process does not sit well with president Kiir’s address to UN General Assembly on 23 rd September 2011. In that august assembly, the president “vowed to promote peace and stability with all South Sudan’s neighbours particularly the Sudan .” (Sudan Tribune 23/09/2011 under the heading – ‘South Sudan’s Kiir addresses UN, urges Khartoum to address conflicts’) Additionally, president Kiir appears to have assured president Obama of USA of his commitment to resolving all the problems between South Sudan and the Sudan in a peaceful manner. (Sudan Tribune 03/10/2011) This is highly welcome. South Sudan does not want to be embroiled in problems that will not benefit it in any way. We have been at war for over half a century and we do not want any problems with our neighbours or anybody for that matter. The consequences of war have scarred us psychologically. Joanna Adams in her article, “Holding our National Government to Account” published on South Sudan Nation website on 3 rd October 2011, intelligibly explains it thus, “ In traditional African villages, a person will get by daily without ever planning where to sleep or to have their next meal. This is still a common cultural practice all over the South, where you won’t be turned away if you drop by at meal times or require a sleeping mat. During the long intermittent civil wars spanning nearly 50 years in total, it didn’t make sense to plan in advance for basic needs such as shelter or food when you couldn’t guarantee being alive the next day or month, let alone the whole year. This attitude of living without advance planning, coupled with the visible wastages of putting our money where our mouth lies, makes planning one of our biggest weaknesses. This unfortunate habit must be dropped if we are to establish successful, sustainable nation in a progressively modern and complex economic environment.”
In light of this, we need stability and planning and this can only be achieved by conscious development of a peaceful environment. Thus our foreign policy should and must reflect such an objective. It also must be sovereign flowing from our independence which entitles us to do everything, even going the extra mile to avoid getting into conflict with any of our neighbours or beyond.
Now, we have the unresolved problem of Abyei. As per the CPA South Sudan needs to exert enough diplomatic pressure to ensure that a referendum is held to allow the people of Abyei to choose their destiny – whether to be South Sudanese, Sudanese or even become an independent country as lately suggested by retired General Lazarus Sumbeyeiwo of Kenya in Oxford early this year. Presently the status of Abyei people is unclear. Legally speaking, Abyeians are neither South Sudanese nor Sudanese. They are in a limbo. Their identity will come into effect only after they have decided in the referendum as agreed in Naivasha, Kenya. Therefore, the representation of Abyei by the likes of Dr Ahmed Deng Alor and Mr Mustafa Biong etc in the government of South Sudan is wrong and illegal because technically they are not South Sudanese. I know that someone somewhere is going to refer to the constitution of South Sudan as a justification for appointing Abyei people in GOSS. The inclusion of Abyei in our transitional constitution itself is a breach of the CPA and this constitution can not be said to reflect the true will of South Sudanese people as strongly argued else where. Let us be objective here because SPLM was a signatory to the CPA. It accepted this arrangement and it should honour it. No cherry-picking. As this is a very sensitive area, nobody should try to label anybody on this point because this is a fact.
Therefore, it is bizarre to see Dr Ahmed Deng Alor championing the case of Abyei all the time on the media rather than the foreign minister of RSS. Allowing Dr Alor as the sole person dealing with the case of Abyei is not only wrong but it raises serious issues of conflict of interest in relation to South Sudan foreign policy. Such a sensitive issue with potential of igniting a conflict must be handled by a competent South Sudanese diplomat with no ties to Abyei other than on facts, so that the issue can be dealt with objectively with the interest of South Sudan taking centre stage. It is not good enough that Abyei boys are allowed to dictate things in a country which technically is foreign to them. I was shocked to learn from wiki leaks on South Sudan the extent to which Dr Alor manipulates and holds South Sudan hostage to his personal interest. This interest is intertwined with the project of ‘New Sudan’ which at the moment is posing danger to the security of South Sudan. It begs the question: why are non South Sudanese (at least for now) appointed to ministerial positions? Why are South Sudanese deprived of these ministerial positions which are legitimately theirs? Why is Abyei, a small area represented by numerous high ranking officials in South Sudan (a foreign country)? It would be good if president Kiir’s administration explains this to the South Sudanese people.
Nevertheless, one can deduce that the appointment of Abyeians in the cabinet of South Sudan has direct link to the operationalisation of the fallacious policy of ‘New Sudan’. This policy if not buried will no doubt plunge our new country into deep problems. Alternatively, South Sudan needs to be rebranded with a completely new name that does not link it to Sudan in any way to avoid complications. Please see ‘Negligent SPLM exposes RSS’ published in Sudan Tribune and South Sudan Nation last month. The suggested recommendations made in that article apply here.
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan; he can be reached at [email protected]