By Jacob K. Lupai
June 12, 2012 (SSNA) — Sudan, as we know it today, did not exist as a single political entity at the time of its conquest and occupation by Egypt in the first quarter of the 19th century. The kingdoms of Sennar and Darfur between them controlled much of what was then called northern Sudan before the independence of southern Sudan. Southern Sudan then had maintained its own independence by resisting raids and invasions from the northern kingdoms of Sennar and Darfur. Egypt was seeking gold and slaves in Sudan for self-reliance. However, as the gold in Sudan was too little and its population too small to provide the needed quantity of slaves to the Egyptian army, Egypt was driven further south to open up lands which had previously been beyond the reach of the northern kingdoms.
Routes to southern Sudan
The opening up of routes to southern Sudan gave northern Sudanese who identified themselves as Arabs the opportunity to plunder natural and human resources in southern Sudan. The Arabs had always invaded southern Sudan for slaves and ivory. They were interested in the potential value of southerners as slaves and nothing else. The Arabs had no desire to integrate with southerners except for their value as saleable commodities. Despite the memory of all this the predominantly Black African southerners supported the independence of Sudan with the understanding of being treated as equal citizens. This was on the promise of the predominantly Arabised North that a federal system for independent Sudan would be considered for adoption. However, the North only conned the South and after independence was attained it rejected the federal system altogether. The predominant northern elite in government instead adopted a policy of Arabisation and Islamisation of the South to ensure the unity of Sudan. This was arguably the genesis of North-South conflict which ultimately led to independence of southern Sudan.
Regions of Sudan in turmoil
On the 9th July 2011 Sudan split up into two independent countries of South Sudan and Sudan. The split was not without ramification. Sudan which grudgingly accepted and recognized the independence of South Sudan had double standard, deceptive and hostility. When southern Sudan separated Sudan was left with four regions to cope with. Southern Sudan separated because conditions for unity were intolerable. Northern and southern Sudan were totally two different worlds apart for which unity based on hegemonistic agenda would be untenable. This was precisely what happened when southern Sudan separated because the northern elite had imposed on southerners their worldview of what Sudan should have been, that of an Islamic Arab state with no chance for secularism which might have made unity attractive. With independence of southern Sudan, the four remaining regions of Sudan are the northern, central, eastern and western regions. The four regions of Sudan would have been expected to be at peace with themselves because the four regions have Islam as a unifying factor and also for the fact that they subscribe to Arab culture after having been Arabised for centuries. Peace within the regions and unity of Sudan would have solid foundation because of the two shared factors, Islam and Arab culture. However, this is not the case.
Hegemony of northern region
The hegemony of the northern region over state machinery in Sudan leaves the other regions marginalized. In response the marginalized regions are up in arms against the central government dominated by elite from the northern region. In the western region Darfur and Kordofan are witnessing fierce battles against the central government. In the central region war is raging in Southern Blue Nile. The eastern region is restless because of marginalization by the elite from the northern region. The agitation by the regions against the central government of Sudan suggests that something somewhere is not right. We know that the central government of Sudan is of Islamists and the regions are predominantly Muslim. There should have been therefore a common understanding of Islam. However, interpretation of Islam may be the point of departure where there is no agreement hence the massacre of fellow Muslims by the Islamist central government as in Darfur in the western region. The president of Sudan is already charged of crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. When the Islamic central government of Sudan cannot make concessions for a peaceful co-existence with fellow Muslims it is difficult to see how the same regime can promote peaceful co-existence with non Muslims. It is here that the Islamist regime in Khartoum is more of a liability than an asset to peaceful co-existence in the region.
Rogue regime in Khartoum
The regime in Khartoum has defied all norms of peaceful co-existence in the region. When southern Sudan separated to become independent the regime in Khartoum embarked on a bizarre but expected aggression to undermine and eventually to destroy the nascent South Sudan. The regime’s anger was fueled by its greed for the available resources. Instead of peaceful co-existence where all outstanding issues could have been resolved on the basis of mutual understanding and advantage to all, the regime in Khartoum chose confrontation because of the erroneous belief in the might of the gun and also deluded itself that its lies would always carry the day. The regime is not interested in dialogue on North-South boundaries as on 1st January 1956 when Sudan got its independence from colonial rule. This is simply because most of the known oil deposits are in the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan. The regime is calculating that by keeping the borders undemarcated it will have advantage of exploiting the oil deposits in South Sudan. It is prepared to go to any length in protecting the flow of oil hence revenue to economically hard hit Sudan. This is confirmed by the regime’s unprovoked attacks on South Sudan with the United Nations and the African Union being impotent to do anything tangible to deter the regime’s naked aggression. When South Sudan responded to such unprovoked attacks the United Nations ignorantly accused South Sudan of aggression and occupation of Sudan’s lands. However, the United nations is slowly beginning to learn the untrustworthiness of Sudan.
United Nations embarrassment
It must have been embarrassing to the United Nations secretary general for advertising his ignorance in public when his special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan clearly indicated that South Sudan did not occupy any of Sudan’s land. For example, the brief occupation of Heglig by South Sudan was not the occupation of Sudan’s land. The special envoy asserted that Heglig was not given to Sudan by the court in the Hague. This shows clearly that the United Nations secretary general could have been taken for a ride with lies by the rogue regime in Khartoum, but only to blame South Sudan ignorantly. It is evident that the regime in Khartoum is a rogue regime when its most senior members including the president of Sudan are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for crimes committed against humanity and genocide in Darfur. Now the regime is committing atrocities and terrorizing people in Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile again in addition to the people in Abyei and in North-South border areas with impunity. Such a regime is nothing but a menace in the region. The regime does not think in terms of peaceful co-existence for stability in the region but is always confrontational. However, people would like to settle down to invest their time and energies in development to improve their living standards. Nevertheless, what the rogue regime in Khartoum does is to set people against each other in a grand plan to stay in power at all cost and to exploit resources in South Sudan. This type of rouge regime is a threat to regional peace and stability and the sooner people get rid of it the better.
Military coup pre-empted peaceful co-existence
On Friday 30 June 1989 a group of officers led by one brigadier general known as Omer Hassan Ahmed El Beshir took power in Sudan through a military coup, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Sadiq El Mahdi of the Umma Party. It is interesting to note that Friday is a rest day in the week in Sudan and also a day of prayer for Muslims. This means that instead of observing Friday as a rest day and a day for prayer El Beshir who turned out to be an Islamist defied the Islamic observation of Friday as a day of prayer. Instead El Beshir deliberately engaged to hoodwink Muslims in a clandestine plan for a coup on Friday, the Muslims day of prayer in the week. The military coup inherited a war that was being fought in southern Sudan. The democratically elected government of Sadiq was in the process of concluding peace with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) fighting the government. However, the timing of El Beshir’s military coup seemed to have been designed to undermine and nullify altogether the peace process when negotiations with the SPLA were in progress. A date was already set for the convening of a constitutional conference. In fact Sadiq as the prime minister of Sudan was due to meet with Dr John Garang de Mabior, the commander-in chief of the SPLA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 4 July 1989 when El Beshir pre-empted the meeting by staging a coup on 30 June. This clearly demonstrates that the coup and regime that followed was no good for the region leave alone for the future of Sudan. The military regime was very harsh and intensified the war in southern Sudan by openly declaring it a holy war (jihad) against the infidels. It recruited Islamic militia who were enthusiastic and fanatical in prosecuting the war in the name of Islam and Arabism for unquestionable exploitation of the vast resources available in southern Sudan. The leaders of the regime and their blindfold quest for Islamic Sharia for the supposed Islamic paradise on earth backfired disastrously. Southern Sudan broke away and the regions in what is now left of Sudan are in perpetual turmoil. This is all because of a rogue regime in Khartoum that has lost all directions to recovery.
Regime change in Khartoum essential
The regime in Khartoum has become a thorn in the flesh in the region. It defies all accepted norms for peaceful co-existence. The regime continues to be aggressive even when told by the United Nations to stop aggression on neighbouring South Sudan. The regime is creating humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions in refusing to recognize the legitimate rights of the people of Darfur, Southern Kordofan, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei. Those regions have grievances that the regime in Khartoum is adamant to address through peaceful means but by the use of brute force. The regime survival seems to be only through confusion and turmoil. Common sense has it that a quarrel does not occur out of nothing. Something somewhere must not be right for people to pick up a quarrel. It is not a matter of who is right or wrong but rather of what the problem is. This means people have to dialogue in order to arrive at a consensus in promoting mutual understanding hence peaceful co-existence. However, the regime in Khartoum believes in the might of the gun and tyranny. The guns that are to be used to protect citizens are now turned against the very citizens. Darfur, Southern Kordofan, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei are in conditions of enormous humanitarian crisis. Yet the regime is indifferent. There is no way the dire humanitarian situation will improve when the regime is headed by people wanted by the ICC and who seem to think they have nothing to lose in hanging on to power. A regime change in Khartoum is therefore essential as a great service to the people who have never known peaceful co-existence in the region. However, how will regime change come about? Regime change can either be peaceful or violent. A peaceful regime change can come through the ballot box and a violent change is either through an uprising (intifada) or a coup. Whatever means is used a regime change in Khartoum is absolutely essential to relieve the region of perpetual tyranny. Regime change is not only limited to the regime in Khartoum. Any regime that is racist or tribalistic, favouring illiterate or semiliterate next of kin in all government functions should be changed by preferably through the ballot box for progress and peaceful co-existence. If people are serious efficiency cannot be achieved through the rampant employment in sensitive positions of illiterate, semiliterate or inexperienced next of kin.
Until the 9th July 2011 Sudan was one united country. Although with political differences and the centre-periphery gap was wider, people had managed to live together as citizens of one country. The main problem was the narrow vision for the country articulated by some self-centered elite in the northern region of the country. The self-centered elite wrongly assumed that their vision for the country would carry the day. In their delusion the elite did not realize what the impact of such a narrow vision would be on the peripheries in Sudan. Now there is a repeat of the problem. Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile are struggling as did southern Sudan because of such a narrow vision that is being repeated again in Sudan. This means a change of the narrow vision for a wider one for inclusiveness is essential. This implies a regime that recognizes and respects diversities. For now the regime in Khartoum is committing the same mistake of narrow vision of an Islamic Arab state in the sea of diversities. Such a narrow vision is likely to be discriminatory against non Muslims and non Arabs of Sudan as it had affected southern Sudan which then opted to separate from a discriminatory system.
In conclusion, one only needs religious fanatics to destroy a country and this is precisely what is happening in Sudan and Somalia. For Sudan the alternative is a regime change and hopefully the religious fanatics are consigned to the dustbin of history for a peaceful co-existence in the region.
The author can be reached at [email protected]