By: Gabriel Garang Pioth
November 23, 2012 (SSNA) — The Government of Sudan has shifted ‘their position from its previous claims on Abyei being Sudan territory to its current position of wanting to cut it in two, in a move aimed at sharing the territory with South Sudan in equal proportion. If this case does not resemble King Solomon’s anecdote, its resolution won’t be far away from King Solomon’s ruling. The famous King Solomon ruling is found in the Holy Bible, 1 King 3:16-28. The story and the ruling go like this:
One day two prostitutes came before King Solomon and one woman (Woman 1) said: "Your Majesty, this woman and I share the same house. I gave birth to a baby boy in the same house. On the second day, she gave birth to a baby boy too. We live together and no outsiders come to our house. One night this woman accidentally rolled over her son and killed him by smothering it. When she woke up at night, she discovered that she has killed her son. She took my son from my side while I was deep asleep and put her dead child in my son’s spot. When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, I found the child was dead. When I look at him closely, I realised that the child was not mine. It belongs to this woman”.
The second woman (woman 2) said: "It is not so! The living child is mine, and the dead one is yours!" The woman 1 responded: "No! The dead child is yours, and the living one is mine!" The argument went on and on before the King. King Solomon stopped the arguing mothers and repeated their core argument. The King said: "you (woman 2) claim ‘the living child is yours, and the dead one is hers, ‘and you (woman 1) claim the dead child is hers, and the living one is yours!" they affirmed their statements.
Then King Solomon said to his servant, "Bring me a sword!" The servant brought a sword to him. He then ordered his servant, "Cut the living child in half, and give one half to woman 1 and the other half to the woman 2” The woman 2 broke down in tears and said: "Please Your Majesty, give her the living child and do not kill it!" But the woman said: "Don’t give it to either of us; go ahead and cut it in two!" The King ordered his servant to stop killing the child and gave the child to woman 2 because in his infinite wisdom, she was the real mother.
Abyei: The Disputed Child
Prior to 1904, both South Sudan and the North Sudan used to coexist as separate systems in the same country. In 1905 Abyei was transferred from Bhar el Ghazal to Kordufan. The Dinka Ngok of Abyei became dissatisfied with their host from the get-go. They joined Anyanya-I war (1955-1972) and then the SPLA/M liberation struggle (1983-2005) en masse. During the negotiations of comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) between SPLM and GoS in Kenya from 2002 to 2005, both mothers (SPLM/South Sudan and Sudan) argued emphatically to be granted the child (Abyei). The squabbling between the SPLM and GoS over Abyei almost derailed the peace talk. When the mediators saw that this Abyei issue was risking the whole talk, they decided to give the child special status (protocol) and freedom to decide in a plebiscite to choose between two options: remain with Sudan or reunite with the South Sudan. The GoS knew the child would certainly choose to join South Sudan because that is where it was transferred from and that is where its tribesmen are. By then the international community (and especially United States President, George W. Bush) was threatening with sanctions any person likely to refuse. The GoS being afraid of their previous mistake (hosting of Osama Bin Laden) kept quiet, hoping that they would thwart the whole exercise when left alone with South Sudan. The CPA was signed and celebrated as the closing chapter for the war in Sudan on January 9, 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Before the CPA reached its second birthday, the GoS started their manoeuvring by first retracting from previous commitment to honour the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) report. The two mothers (South Sudan and Sudan) then resolved to take the child to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The PCA took the common legal solution for a disputed property by cutting the limbs (oil producing areas) off the child and give them to Sudan and the other part of the body (the land) to South Sudan. At first, the GoS celebrated their victory by claiming that the court has done the right thing. Although the GOSS didn’t break down like the biblical mother, it decided to take the torso child.
After the GoS learned what they were given was the dead part of the body (oil was nearly depleted) and South Sudan has taken the body that contains the lungs that pump blood to the limbs, they started to cry again demanding that the child be cut in two. The wrangling between GOSS and Sudan Government over Abyei started all over again. This time, the child was taken to the wise-men/women of African (African Union Peace and Security Council, AUPSC) to decide the case. The GoS did not hide what they thought was the solution for the dispute over the child. They publicly told the wise-men/women of Africa that, to end the dispute over this child once and for all, the child should be cut in half.
The GOSS played the real biblical mother by pleading to the AUPSC to spare the life of the child and decide logically who the real mother is between these two women. The GOSS Foreign Minister explained how the child was born and taken to South Kordufan. The Minister also gave birthmarks (physical features, historical account etc) which showed the child really belong to South Sudan.
Although the AUPSC did not take the same steps that King Solomon went through, they took the view that a true mother would not call for the child to be cut in two. Instead, she should have demanded to have the child as a whole or gives it away alive so that she can still be able to see him/her around like the woman 2 in King Solomon’s anecdote. The AUPSC decided that the child would be given 1 year (from October 2012 to October 2013) to make up its mind before a referendum to decide whether to remain with Sudan or join South Sudan. As usual, the GoS was quiet when the decision was unanimously handed down by AUPSC in Addis Ababa on October 24, 2012. Omar el Bashir is now making his usual noise to brand the wise-women/men of Africa (many stood against ICC arrest warrant against him by the way) as biased towards South Sudan. I don’t know whether the international community will let El Bashir get away with his bargain hunt for justice.
The GoS promiscuous relationship with various rebels’ factions in the Sudan has earned it the notorious title of being the world record holder in dishonouring agreements. They only seek peace when they are weak in one way or the other. They would seek peace with the group they perceive to be powerful. Often, they prolong the peace talk to score some points on the other fronts and restock their arsenals. They can only agree to a peace deal for short term benefits. When the pressure that forced them into the peace deal has passed, they would dishonour the agreement and the cycle between the intermittent peace and war continues throughout the history of Sudan.
When their trick fails to change the situation, they would resort to childhood cry. For instance, in April 10, 2010 when the SPLA seized Panthou (Heglig) oil fields from Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan el Bashir, declared the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) as an insect that deserved to be crashed. The SPLM Deputy Secretary General, Hon. Ann Ito responded by comparing the Government of Sudan (GoS) to a mosquito, which lands quietly on your skin and suck your blood. When you feel the itchiness from mosquito bite and make any move, it flies away and cries hysterically to awake the people around. When the SPLA captured Panthou, the noises from NCP awaken everybody including those who were asleep, the blind and those with interest in Sudan. These different groups of people avenged their anger on the GOSS. They called SPLA as occupying forces when in real sense, they only retook their land. The President of South Sudan haphazardly ordered the withdrawal of SPLA forces from Panthou and the justice was done the NCP way!
On November 20th to 21st, 2012 SAF warplanes bombed Kiir-Adem in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State killing five civilians and wounded two others. This unprovoked attack on the territory of South Sudan is a sign of NCP intention to dishonour the cooperation agreement. According to my own calculations, we have just passed the peaceful part of the great circle and we are back to where we started.
In conclusion, our forefathers have warned us that when you reach for more things above your shoulder, you are more likely to lose what you had under your armpits. The NCP has been successful in confusing world justice, and get away with it. If the AUPSC resolution of October 24, 2012 fails to resolve the problem of Abyei, I don’t know the court that GOSS and GoS would go to again since they appear to have exhausted all judicial avenues?
Gabriel Garang Pioth is a South Sudanese residing in Australia. He can be reached at [email protected]