Dialogue with South Sudanese (part 1)

By Wani Tombe Lako

May 27, 2013 (SSNA) — There comes a time, in a man’s life, in which, he opens up his heart, in an honest and sincere fashion, to allow his countrywomen, country youth and countrymen, to have the opportunity to share with him, his inner most feelings. Such an occasion also provides the opportunity for such a man, to explain his life’s intentions, as regards, decisions which he took in life, and which provoked universal reactions of his countrywomen, country youth, and countrymen. Such is my personal situation, whereby, even as a private human person, some of my opinions, have attracted public and popular reactions, as if, I were a public figure.

For example, my political opinions on the now settled issue of referendum as stipulated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) 2005, my opinions on the misuse and abuse of tribal affiliations in South Sudan (SS), my opinions on issues of land grabbing in South Sudan, my conversion to Islam, and many other issues which, some, if not all, South Sudanese are invariably concerned about.

I am just a common figure, out of eight million (8,000,000) or more South Sudanese, that is, just a drop in the ocean in numerical terms. Therefore, my personal opinions versus the population of South Sudan quoted above should not really generate such near hateful reactions of those concerned brothers and sisters in South Sudan. It is important from the outset, to point out that, I have never in life, stained my hands with any precious and sacred blood of daughters and sons of South Sudan, and I do not intend to, and shall not stain my hands with the said blood, for whatsoever reasons, till the end of my simple life. Such is my life’s political principle, and I intend to abide by it.

I am trying to enlighten you my sisters and brothers; about the prevailing political discourse at the moment when the peoples of South Sudan were being prepared for the referendum. Politicians in Juba were trying very hard to differentiate the peoples’ choice for secession, from the rest of the Sudan, from their general want for goods and services. The gross misrepresentation that was done on the peoples of South Sudan was as if, these peoples of South Sudan were just going to vote and then disappear. Nobody wanted to discuss with them the consequences of secession.

On the other hand, I was trying to make the peoples of South Sudan to understand the consequences of secession so that, they were fully prepared and know how to cope with such consequences. Therefore, those in Juba by then did not want me to raise these kinds of awareness, and they presented me to the peoples of South Sudan as their enemy. All that I warned the peoples of South Sudan against are all happening to their own detriment. I am not arguing here against the choice of the people for the birth of the RoSS, I am arguing for clean politics and sincere representation of facts to the peoples of South Sudan. It is unfair to call me a traitor simply because; I want the peoples of South Sudan to own the correct information pertaining to their general and individual lives’ chances.

At the personal level, I bear no grudge or hate against any daughter and son of South Sudan, who feel angry with me, or called me names, or wish me any bad luck for all my political and other opinions. I do sincerely understand their feelings and reasons why, they feel so, and such like. We live in times filled with subjective political, social, cultural and religious emotions, to the extent that, human objectivity is sacrificed so that, human emotional subjectivity can flourish.

This means that, societal evaluation of what a private man like me does is always carried out on the basis of mob culture indices. That is, individual freedom of choice and conscience, however, benign that is, is always categorised as being lack of allegiance to the common good, and thus, a kind of treason. On the other hand, such perceived lack of allegiance is also dangerously defined as blanket disrespect and disregard, to the fallen heroes and heroines, who sacrificed their precious and sacred lives and blood, so that, the rest of us are freed, liberated, emancipated, and dignified, in terms of all evil human acts and omissions, that comprehensively subjugated the women, children, youth and men of South Sudan.

These mob culture indices, used to measure levels of nationalism in us in South Sudan, are strictly based on subjective indices of nationalism. That is, a man like me is denied the right to use objective indices of nationalism, in defense of the comprehensive interests of South Sudan. On the other, objective indices of nationalism are categorised as being against the comprehensive interests of the peoples of South Sudan, and individuals like me, carrying such objective indices of nationalism ought to be vilified.

In this regard, is it necessarily valid that, as a result of historical cruelties, hurts and agonies that we as peoples went through, in our political metamorphoses, is it valid that, we must all as of necessity become subjective in all that we do? For example, within the remit of the referendum that led to the birth of the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS), can we discern the express and implied freedom of choice, conscience and association in the whole exercise of voting?

Was it not foreseeable and expected that, some South Sudanese, however small their number may be, shall vote contrary to the wishes of the majority of South Sudanese? Therefore, are these South Sudanese, in the minority evil South Sudanese, and therefore traitors per se? It is extremely unfortunate that, the late Dr Garang died so soon and prematurely. Supposed, he did not die, and the majority of South Sudanese voted for secession as it is, how do you peoples of South Sudan judge his statement that, the first bullet was fired against those South Sudanese who wanted to seceded from the rest of the Sudan? Is the late Dr Garang a traitor in the eyes of those who think that, voting contrary to the wishes of the majority is treason?

I am not a member of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), the ruling political party in the RoSS. However, during the campaign leading to the referendum, there were SPLM ministers and others, who openly opposed the secession of South Sudan from the rest of the Sudan. These senior SPLM figures voiced their objective opinions, and up-to-date, I have not seen or heard the same people who consider me a traitor, because of my opposition to secession, referring to the same SPLM senior figures as traitors. May be you the peoples of South Sudan know the reason for this cherry-picking of traitors in South Sudan.

This reminds me instances and occasions in England, before the signing of the CPA, when some South Sudanese who were in or out of government in Khartoum, came to England, for private or official visits, the attitude of the SPLM Chapter officials towards such visiting South Sudanese was extremely variable. That is, according to tribal affiliations, some of these visiting South Sudanese were classified as our strugglers inside the enemy territory, and some of the same South Sudanese were considered as being traitors with the enemy inside the Sudan. The paradox was that, the same visiting South Sudanese may be in the same delegation. Can you see the contradiction between subjective and objective nationalism in operation here?

In terms of the referendum leading to the birth of the RoSS, for those of you who are familiar with my line of arguments and therefore, my political opinions about this issue, you will notice that, I was opposed to the reasons given for secession, and not for the conduct and outcome of the referendum. My objective opposition to secession was based on the fact that, many of the reasons peddled around, could not convince a reasonable politician, who sincerely thought in terms of the comprehensive interests of the peoples of South Sudan, and not in terms of politics and economics of elites.

For example, consider the argument that, we had to secede from the rest of the Sudan; so that, we had full advantage of the 100% revenue, instead of the 51% of the revenue from the sale of our crude oil. This was very simplistic an argument and it was tailored to appeal to specific category of our women, youth and men in South Sudan. My response to this campaign was that, what have you done with the 51% of the revenue that you received from 2005 up to the time of referendum? What miracle shall occur when we secede from the rest of the Sudan, which shall make you to better use the remaining 49% of the revenue, which shall come with secession for comprehensive interests of South Sudanese? These were objective nationalistic questions. The economic and financial reasons, given by then Juba politicians for secession, could not convince a reasonable and an honest politician to take such a decision given the empirical evidence on hand. It was clear that, based on these reasons, the interests of the peoples of South Sudan were not the priority as purported.

During this period in time, I was a senior civil servant in the government of National Unity (GoNU), in Khartoum; I was in Grade (1) Supper Scale, as the First Deputy Undersecretary, and Director General for Macro Economic Policies and Programming in the Federal Ministry of Finance and National Economy in Khartoum. I was arguing from objective and authoritative economic and financial positions. I knew the working of the hitherto Sudanese economy like the back of my hands, and I knew how much money was coming to South Sudan to the last penny. Therefore, based on these economic and financial reasons, it was nationalistic for me to oppose such weak reasons for secession.

Should I be considered a traitor, because, I did not want to mislead the peoples of South Sudan, and build false hopes for them in terms of economic and financial resources that shall accrue to them? I knew that, more than 90% of the peoples of South Sudan were going to be economically and financially marginalised as a result of secession, and I have been proven right. Refer to audited reports of South Sudan’s economy by the World Bank, as well as to the letter of his Excellency the President of the RoSS concerning the looted billions; and other evidences to this effect. Why am I being considered a traitor simply because, I do not want a minority of South Sudanese; to enjoy life at the expense of the majority of the deserving multitudes of our women, youth, children, and men?

Within the same economic and financial remits, as well as on issues of goods and services, I was objectively opposed to the misleading of our peoples that, they were not accessing basic goods and services like education and health services, because, they were living in a united Sudan. I knew that these politicians were playing dangerous politics with the lives of these women, children, youth and men in South Sudan. To these politicians, these women, youth, and men were just numbers in the ballot boxes and nothing else. I was very disturbed by this.

I knew that we were building false hopes and expectations for our peoples, and this could be dangerous. These were my sincere and objective nationalistic concerns, on behalf of the downtrodden peoples of South Sudan. I was not arguing the way I did, because, I wanted to be a minister in Khartoum or in Juba. I was arguing the way I did because, I was objectively knowledgeable of all political, economic, financial, social, and security paradigms that were being absented from our peoples; and that was unconscionable of us so-called politicians.

I was for example very knowledgeable that, should we secede then, all economic, financial, occupational, educational, health and socio-cultural opportunities that were available to all South Sudanese in both northern and southern Sudan, within the remit of the hitherto united Sudan; shall disappear by up to 98% without any alternatives in a seceded South Sudan for periods as long as ten (10) to twenty (20) years; and that actually happened. My political argument was that, the socioeconomic and financial stability of South Sudan was not to be measured by the socioeconomic and financial stability of the ruling elites and their families. Unfortunately, this was exactly the thinking of the politicians in Juba. As long as they were happy, the peoples of South Sudan were happy. That is, happiness by proxy.

These politicians in Juba were thinking of their own political autonomies, spaces and freedoms of acquiring more wealth without accountability and relative transparency that existed within the remit of GoNU. For example, the exact revenue being remitted by GoNU to Juba, from the sale of our crude oil was not being properly reported to South Sudanese by those in charge in Juba. South Sudanese only got the exact figures from Khartoum and through South Sudanese in GoNU. To the politicians in Juba, this was interference in the affairs of South Sudanese by Khartoum, and therefore, we must secede to be financially independent of Khartoum.

In terms of educational services for example, I knew that, the bulk of South Sudanese children were going to say goodbye to beneficial education at all levels should we secede then. I was arguing on what was going to happen to this generation of South Sudanese that we were going to sacrifice in terms of education, and the historical gap that we shall create? I knew that it was not a question of one generation, but, several generations were going to suffer in terms of poor or lack of education, and the dire consequences on the RoSS?

I was arguing in terms of the best interests of these children, not my own individual interest. No body among the ruling group in Juba was, and is sure, as what is going to happen to these children, but, all politicians knew and know, where their children were and are going to go for better schooling in Europe, Kampala and Nairobi and such like. My question was and is then, why do we want to permanently damage the majority of South Sudanese children? Do you think that these were; and are; the feelings of a traitor? Do you think that, I was, and am, thinking like this because I was and am Arabised to the core as some people would like to think of me? These are honest and selfless concerns of a human person; who loves and cares for the entire children of South Sudan.

On the other hand, it was argued by politicians in Juba that, South Sudanese economy was underdeveloped because South Sudan was united with the rest of the Sudan. Therefore, the peoples of South Sudan were told that, should we secede, our economy was going to recover instantaneously. I knew that this was political recklessness and dangerous misrepresentation of economic and financial facts on the ground in South Sudan.

I argued that, there were, and there are still major structural factors and variables which do not allow our subsistence economy in South Sudan to support and sustain us beneficially. I argued that, our people must be made to know that, our economy in South Sudan was, and in fact is inherently intertwined at all macroeconomic and microeconomic levels with the economy of Sudan in general.

These facts cannot be erased or changed by political emotions and economic as well as financial wishful thinking. I have been proven right by the dependency of economies of regions like Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazel on Sudanese goods and services. These facts have nothing to do with politics of treason or patriotism in South Sudan. I can be abused and called names forever; by my brothers and sisters in South Sudan, but these facts shall remain so for the considerable future for the peoples in Upper Nile and Bahr Ghazel; until tangible economic and financial changes occurred physically on the round in South Sudan.

There are dangerous economic, financial and political tendencies in South Sudan, whereby, secession from the rest of the Sudan is treated like luggage conveyor belts at airports’ terminals, so much that, people just wait for this belts to go past them with their luggage sitting there waiting to be picked by South Sudanese. I was telling people that, this is not the case. I was saying that, secession shall not just miraculously produce all the absent comprehensive infrastructures in South Sudan, nor shall it flood South Sudan with all positive moralities, necessary for development of functional polities and policies for positive socio-economic development of the peoples therein. Surely, these were not the concerns and feelings of a hateful human person, and human person that can be considered s a traitor. See you in part (2).

The author is Professor of Social and Rural Development and Lecturer in Laws. He be contacted at [email protected]

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Dialogue with South Sudanese (part 2)

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