By Elhag Paul
July 5, 2012 (SSNA) — Finally, after 55 years of all round abuse and dehumanisation, on 9th July 2011 the people of south Sudan broke free from the yoke of Arab Islamic colonialism. Now this divorce is nearing its one year old anniversary and we are in celebration mood to express our joy and happiness of this momentous achievement. This divorce did not come easily. The colonialist Arab who took over from the departing British in 1956 thought that it was their right to reshape the Sudan as they saw fit. They felt that since the British did what they wanted in the Sudan from 1898 to 1956, they too after assuming the reigns of power had similar right. They never saw the South Sudanese people who inhabited the southern part of the country as citizens with equal rights. To them, the South Sudanese people are a stock of slaves and if they are to be accommodated in the new emerging Sudan, they needed full acculturation and civilization.
The cultures of the tribes of South Sudan to the Arab who arrogantly saw themselves as superior beings were an anathema and must be obliterated and replaced by all means necessary with the advanced Arab culture and Islamic religion. It is this core Arab belief in the first place that led to the flourishing of slave trade in the Sudan. The Turko-Egyptian invasion of the Sudan from1821 enabled the invaders to practice slavery with impunity until the British came to the scene. Do not get me wrong, the British too practised this vice. They populated the southern part of their colony in America with slaves labour from Africa to produce cotton. Visiting the slavery museum in Liverpool, UK can be a traumatic experience to any African with a conscience.
However, the British policy on the topic was changing fast at the time due to influence of the Quakers who succeeded in outlawing the practice in 1833 throughout the British Empire. So, when the British re-colonised the Sudan from 1898 they had a legal duty to stem out slavery. Nevertheless slavery continued sporadically in the Sudan until 1924 with the introduction of the closed district Act. This separation of the Sudan into two distinct administrations by the British was a response to a barbaric slave raids by Arabs in south Sudan during that year.
After having exercised slavery for nearly a century, the Arab believed beyond doubt that they were superior to their African fellow country men. So from 1956, the assault on South Sudanese started in earnest with all the local chiefs renamed with Islamic names with a lightening construction of mosques and Khaluwas (Islamic pre schools) throughout the new found Arab colony in South Sudan. The word ‘Abid’ meaning slave became a common word in the streets of north Sudan that can be thrown to any dark skinned person.
As humanity always resists abuse and oppression, the South Sudanese rose against Arab colonialism instantly. This led to two bloody wars costing nearly four million lives; lost half of a century in education and development with a traumatised population. This was brought to an end with the CPA which gave South Sudanese the right to self determination. As a result in January 2011, South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted to secede from Khartoum and on 9th July 2011 South Sudan was proclaimed independent. South Sudan was born – the baby of Africa.
On 9th July 2012, South Sudan will be one year old and that is all the reason why we must celebrate it with fan fare. Let us make speeches. Let us drink. Let us eat. Let us be merry. Let us dance and party like never before. Let us express the freedom we dearly attained in all forms. This must symbolise the shedding of Arab colonialism with all its vices of acculturisation, Islamisation, slavery, carnages, massacres, disappearances of South Sudanese intellectuals, obliteration of local languages, renaming of places etc. The fact that we in South Sudan now do not have to think about imposition of Sharia law on us and the destruction of our places of worship is such a relief. The symbols of Arab colonialism still exist in South Sudan such as in the names of certain stretches of the Nile and names of certain places. South Sudan needs to consciously restore the original names of these places to regain itself. The timing of doing so is now up to us but it is necessary that it is done soonest for the benefit of our identity.
That is on the cultural and identity angle but there is the inner human damage caused by colonialism and the struggle against it on the people of South Sudan. This by far poses the greatest danger to the survival of our country as a state simply because the way it manifests itself is so destructive and the government appears totally ignorant and ill equipped to address it. The damage to the being of South Sudanese by colonialism and the war against it is displayed out in Jonglei state and the insecurity throughout the country. While we celebrate our political independence we must not forget that we need to recover our humanity. We need to fight the emotional and psychological damage afflicting us by creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the ills that created it in the first place. In addition to that we need to fight against economic and social oppression that our political independence has not yet brought. The former is something that needs careful attention as it is linked to policies of globalisation, while the latter is rooted in the violence and inequalities imbedded in the structure of SPLM/A from its inception.
SPLM/A as a product of violence of corruption (please see Fudging the issue: President Kiir and Corruption in RSS) from the word go had no intention of liberating South Sudan from Khartoum. Its main objective as clearly articulated in its manifesto sought to revolutionise the Sudan by overthrowing the regime in Khartoum and ushering in a united ‘New Sudan’ that is multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial etc. In trying to do this, the SPLM/A paradoxically constructed itself in such a way that it became an exact twin of Khartoum – singing about fighting for all the elements of good governance but practising poor governance and all the ills Khartoum practices.
The behaviour of SPLM/A in the 2 decades war was more destructive to the South Sudanese socially than the Sudan. It committed egregious human rights abuses; it destroyed the traditional authority in the South Sudan villages; it structures were and are dominated by one ethnic group to the detriment of the others just like the rulers in Khartoum did and are doing. The product is what is seen in Republic of South Sudan now. A country plagued with corruption, cancerous tribalism, insecurity and extremely traumatised citizens. Frantz Fanon (1924 – 1961) the renowned psychiatrist, philosopher and expert in psychopathology of de-colonization from the Caribbean Island of Martinique draws our attention to what colonialism and fighting it can do to people. He witnessed this first hand in Algeria, his adopted country during the war for liberation. One of the most visible signs is always found in the behaviour of the so called ‘liberators’. They seem to wear the jackboots of the very oppressors they kicked out to trample on their own supposedly liberated masses. This is because that is what they only know and have come to appreciate as symbol of freedom. To be free to them is to be able to oppress others regardless. Fanon advocates that in such a situation this disease must be clearly identified and destroyed both culturally and mentally for a development of a healthy society.
So it now falls on us as a duty of care to save the ‘liberators’ from themselves and in the process of doing this we equally save ourselves in order to totally free South Sudan politically, economically, socially and most importantly mentally by bringing in a government that is capable, led by skilled democrats that are sensitive to the people. The ruling SPLM party has not only failed the people of South Sudan, but it has driven the country into a failed state selfishly. Although this is sad and painful, it is not the end of the world. Many other countries such as Argentina in early 2000s failed economically and yet they pulled themselves up and regained respect. So, failure can in certain circumstance act as a catalyst and motivator for a positive change. Thus, in our celebration of independence let us cheer happily knowing that we have freed ourselves from the Arabs and that the present situation of our country does not make us despair but can catalyse and motive us to force a positive change. Change is inevitable. Whether the Oyeeites like it or not. The Oyee machine will go. If not soonest, it will go later. Therefore, the future looks bright.
Although the SPLM has failed the South Sudanese people, it must be given partial credit for having played a considerable part in the fight for freedom of South Sudan. Many of the fallen heroes of the freedom struggle were members of this organisation and they must not be defiled because of the shameful behaviour of the organisation. A lot of the people who lost their lives in the struggle went in the genuine believe to fight for the separation of the country which is now a reality. Also those who laid down their lives for us during the Anyanya war and in between including those victims of carnages, massacres within the Sudan must be remembered for their courageous stand and sacrifice. Let us also remember that among these heroes are also north Sudanese (members of the Oyee machine and otherwise) who stood with the people of the South Sudan and they paid dearly with their lives.
Recently, I read an article tilted ‘Memories of South Sudan’ written by Hisham Abass and translated by Ahmed El Zobier published by Sudan Tribune on 13th June 2012. This article brings to mind painful realities of the war of freedom. It succinctly portrays the brutality of the Khartoum military machine in the 1990s in Juba under the command of the butcher, Major General Adam Ahmed Musa. The executions of north and South Sudanese supposed collaborators by Major General Musa in the name of Sudan reminds us that not all Arabs are bad and that those Arabs who laid down their lives for us must be acknowledged and honoured by the Republic of South Sudan. Further, all the foreigners who laid down their lives for us must equally be acknowledged and honoured. In honouring all the fallen heroes we acknowledge that South Sudan is a country that is inclusive and respectful of anybody who believes in it regardless of their religion, race, and gender.
These heroes laid down their lives for us to have a Republic of South Sudan for all peace loving people to enjoy a life free of corruption, oppression, totalitarianism and dictatorship. It is an affront that the very organisation some of them joined to deliver the goods is the same organisation promoting these deficiencies now. The sacrifices these heroes made can not go in vain. The very ideals of freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement, and not forgetting democracy and good governance they died for must be demanded to be a reality in RSS. At the same time, we say to these heroes posthumously, thank you very much for your sacrifice. We will not forget you. Your sacrifice can not be expressed in words. You have given millions a chance to be who they really are in terms of identity, expression and dignity. You lifted the cloud of colonialism from South Sudan and ushered in the bright sun shine of freedom. Freedom that is now in danger of being snuffed out by the ravenous ruling sons and daughters of the land in the form of Oyeeites. Your sacrifice will remain to be the force that propels South Sudan to greatness.
In closing, the separation with Khartoum like a divorce between a man and a woman, the relief of being free at last from mental, physical and emotional abuse can be such a beautiful thing. Gradually, this separation allows South Sudan like a divorcee to develop and flourish into a full free balanced being. So we say, maak al salaam ya Khartoum, meaning ‘Bye bye Khartoum’. Time to forget everything and let us party by indulging in Dombolo and Ton Ton Skol tembe nye to mark the first anniversary or birthday of our country.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]