South Sudan Cross-Road: UNITY OR SEPARATION?
BY: An authentic SPLM/government bureaucrat
FEB: 17/2009, SSN;
By 2011, the people of South Sudan (SS) will go to the ballot box to vote between unity and separation. The time frame will be worked out by the National Elections Commission.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has listed four principles that give the SS people options to make choice between Unity or Separation. One of these principles states that:
“The people of South Sudan have the right to Self-determination, inter alia, through a referendum to determine their future status.” (Part A. Agreed Principles, 1.3, p2. CPA, 2005)
Self-determination (SD) is a political Human Right for the oppressed people in the world. East Timor, Georgia and Eritrea, to mention few countries, are among the recent countries that benefited from this right. They stood always for one thing – Separation, right from day one to the end. In the case of South Sudan, it is different as we will see below. We are on the cross-road situation created by our leadership. That is why in SS we are divided and seriously debating over Unity or Separation (to cont…below).
The second important principle gives the SS people the time frame stating that:
“At the end of the six (6) years Interim period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum organized jointly by the GOS and the SPLM/A, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of Government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession.”. (Sec. 2.5, p8. CPA, 2005).”
The people of SS, no doubt, are eagerly looking forward to that day to cast their ballot papers into one of the two boxes labeled: Unity or Separation. It is assumed that the conduct of voting will be free, fair and transparent.
If the majority of the SS people voted for Separation, then the South would be declared independent as from that day onward. However, if the majority of the SS people voted for Unity, then the SS will remain part of the Greater Sudan.
What happens when SS people voted for Unity?
In the case SS people voted for Unity, the CPA has provided the third and fourth principles to protect the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) and all its Political Institutions from being affected. The third principle states that:
“The unity of the Sudan, based on the free will of its people, democratic governance, accountability, equality, respect, and justice for all the citizens of the Sudan, is and shall be the priority of the parties and that it is possible to redress the grievances of the people of the South Sudan and to meet their aspirations within such a framework.” (Part A: Agreed principles 1.1 p2. CPA, 2005)
This principle lays a solid foundation for Unity if implemented properly. It makes Unity attractive to the people of SS and all the other marginalized Sudanese people. As a matter of fact this principle should be extended to cover all the marginalized regions of Sudan including Darfur, Southern Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains, and Eastern Region (Kasala), to (cont…below).
The fourth principle seems to be even more attractive to Unity and can serve as the pivotal for Unity which states that:
“The people of South Sudan have the right to control and govern affairs in their region and participate equitably in the National Government.” (Part A. Agreed Principles. Sec 1.2. P2. CPA, 2005)
This principle confirms the present set up of the Government status of the SS within the Greater Sudan. Under Unity, Juba continues to enjoy its Parliament, Government, Security, judiciary and the Government Ministries. At the same time the SS people continue to elect members of National Assembly and ministers appointed to GoNU Government in Khartoum. The oil revenue continues to be shared.
Having read several articles in the internet written by SS intellectuals for and against Unity, I decided to write this article with the hope that it provokes more thinking and fruitful discussions. In particular, the Observer intends to challenge the SS intellectuals, even Northerners, to discuss this topic without emotions. This is absolutely necessary for the enlightenment of our people at the grassroots so that they vote wisely in 2011.
This article covers the following sections: section one is the introduction of the four CPA principles in relation to Unity; section two is the brief history of how the SS people wrestled with Khartoum on the question of Federal System for the Sudan; section three addresses the Vision of our leader Dr. John Garang- the New Sudan as opposed to old Sudan; section four attempts to provide some answers to the questions: “Why Separation? Why Unity? Section five is the way forward and section six is the conclusion.
2. Brief History of Sudan
Historically, South Sudan has been requesting for Federal system with Khartoum instead of Separation. In 1958, one of the Southern members of Parliament, provoked by a Northern colleague in the Parliament said, “if South Sudan had indeed wanted to break away from the North, no human being on earth would have stopped it.” He had to say this when his colleague accused the Southerners of trying to break away from the North, as the Southerners insisted on Federal system in Sudan.
Before that incident and after, chances for SS to separate or at least to request for separation from Khartoum had come and gone. There was the popular Juba Conference June 1947 when the SS people could have told the British in no uncertain terms to separate from Khartoum. They did not. Instead they asked for Federal system which was played down later on by Khartoum. The Southern representatives were manipulated by Khartoum representatives who told them to suspend their demand until the Sudan had obtained independence from the British. Khartoum later on rejected the Federal idea even before the Independence Day. However, this was followed by the revolt of the Torit Peace Corps in August 1955. The Torit revolt sent a signal to Khartoum to the possible delay of the Independence which Khartoum would not stomach. So Khartoum once again accepted the Federal idea for the Sudan. In December 1955, in the Parliament in Khartoum, the Southerners agreed to sign a document for Federal Sudan just before the Independence (January 1956). Of course it was never implemented. When the Southerners pressed hard for the implementation of the Federal Sudan, in 1958, Khartoum, at night, handed over the Government to the Army.
Even as late as the 1965 Round Table Conference in Khartoum, the Southerners settled for Federation with Khartoum instead of going straight for Separation. This decision was painfully taken after the massacre of thousands of Southerners in Juba and Wau in August 1965 by Khartoum Government. In 1972 the Southerners willingly settled for Local Autonomy Government without even attempting to mention the word Separation to Nimeri. The point I am making here is that the Southerners, at any time in history, were never shown to be separatists. Khartoum promises were always empty and as a result the SS people were left with no option except to resort to armed struggle. Thus the offer of Government of Local Autonomy of 1972 and the offer of the self-determination of 2005 resulted from two bitter civil wars between Khartoum and the South. It has been the political game played by Khartoum Government for fifty years.
Today our stand is as polarized as ever. We are divided right from the top leadership of the GoSS Government down to the messengers. Dr. John Garang, our wise leader, was the first to strongly oppose Separation. As a result Mr. Gai Tut and Mr. Abdalla Chol had to loose their lives because of their insistence to fight for Separation. Today we are on the cross-road situation because we are not sure and the leadership is not sure of what we want. Why are we not sure? (see below).
3. The Vision of Dr. John Garang
During the period of SPLM/A armed struggle (1983-2005) until the abortive coup of 1991 the word Separation was a crime, punishable by death as stated above. Since that time onward nobody else talked openly about the word separation. Of course, with time, the sense of humor later on developed among the SPLM leadership which resulted in the creation of the terms: Unionist and Separatist. Dr. John Garang was labeled as a Unionist together with those who agreed with him. Others were labeled as Separatists.
What was the Vision of Dr. John Garang in the Movement?
The Vision of Dr. Garang can be summarized in the following words:
The struggle was against the old Sudan that was run by traditional Sectarian leaders of Khartoum, who used to marginalize other parts of the country such as South Sudan, Western Sudan, South Blue Nile, Eastern Kassala and Nuba Mountains. The old Sudan had to be destroyed and replaced by New Democratic Sudan where all the citizens are equal, enjoy freedom of worship, equal opportunity, equal development, respect for Human Rights and justice for all.
This is the vision of Dr. John Garang, the leader of SPLM/A supported by most of his commanders but opposed by others. Because of this powerful Vision of New Sudan, majority of the Nuba people, South Blue Nile, Kassala and now Darfur plus those in the cities supported the SPLM/A and indeed some of them joined the war in the bush because of that Vision.
Over six million Sudanese people came to Khartoum Airport to welcome Dr. John Garang in July 2005. They supported Garang´s Vision of New Sudan.
In 1998 Garang visited Egypt where he convinced President Hussni Mubarak and his Government that he was a Unionist, not a Separatist. Garang believed in a New Democratic Sudan with modern values as opposed to the old despotic Sudan. He wanted to extend the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) model to the other regions as the best solution of their political problems. He wanted to establish the New Democratic Sudan in Khartoum whereby all the five regions of Sudan converge to form a truly strong Federal Government. The Constitution of this Federal Government would be worked out by the elected Parliament in Khartoum. Unfortunately, he did not live to follow his vision through.
I am therefore, wondering which Vision of Garang do we, the leaders of SPLM/A, claim we will always follow and implement? Are we still holding to the humor of Unionists vs. Separatists?
It is clear that the GoSS leaders are indecisive on this point. This is why today they are for Unity and the next day, they are for Separation. No wonder the SS people are indeed in dilemma - cross-road.
4. Why Separation?
There are many reasons why SS people may vote for Separation and yet as it will be seen below, Separation may not be the best choice because that is what Khartoum wants to happen so that they continue with Old Sudan policies of marginalization, oppression and intimidation of the rest of the other regions.
However, having said this, the following are some of the reasons which can possibly be used by the SS people to vote for Separation:
· The people of the South have neither forgiven nor forgotten the past when during the Turco-Egyptian rule in Sudan (1820-81) and during the Mahadiya/Khalifa Reign (1881-98) the Northerners looked at the South as a zone for exploitation of natural resources and slaves. Most Southerners still believe that this attitude of Northerners has not changed. For this reason they prefer Separation more than Unity.
· Southerners are afraid to unite with the Northerners because they fear that they may lose their cultures and languages to be replaced by Arab cultures and the Arabic language.
· The Northerners always dominate the Government in Khartoum. As such they always marginalize the other regions politically and economically, including the South. Unity will therefore, put the South at disadvantage.
· Economically, the Governments in Khartoum are interested in developing the North only while keeping the other parts of Sudan backward for their own exploitation.
· The Southerners, from the beginning strongly opposed the introduction of Sharia Law into the country because it was crafted by NIF as a political weapon to isolate the majority of the Sudanese people from participating in the Government. In future, Unity might bring Sharia Law to be imposed on the South Sudan.
5. Why Unity?
a) We all know and agree that the history of Sudan is very dark; nobody likes it and nobody will want to return to it except those few who prosper out of it. But we also know and agree that we have come a long way out of the darkness of our history and the bright future of the Sudan is just around the corner where the Vision of Dr. John Garang – the New Sudan, is going to be implemented because with Unity Khartoum is left with no option except to implement the Vision. And Southerners should be part of that New Sudan together with the marginalized regions.
b) Today we are free people and strong enough to fight anybody who dares to introduce slavery to our community. Together with the other marginalized areas of Sudan, we are liberated and together we can build a better New Sudan free from slavery, exploitation, oppression, justice for all and Law and order. We in the South Sudan should not fear anybody at all except God. But we should be prepared to work hard and compete effectively with others. That is what Dr. John Garang stood for and that is what he meant by New Sudan.
c) Since the British rule until Independence, the people of the South Sudan always treat the North as one people bound by Islam, Arabic Language and culture with one purpose to exploit the SS for their own good. Little did the people of the South know that among the Northerners there are also a lot of differences in culture, languages, politics, marginalization and racial discrimination? Is it not proper that the Southerners together with the other marginalized brothers in the North continue to fight the Khartoum oppressors politically and economically? Together we shall create and build the New Sudan.
d) The people of SS loose nothing to vote for Unity. On the contrary, they should benefit more from Unity. For example:
· If the people of SS voted for unity, they will still have the “Right to control and govern affairs in their region and participate equitably in the National Government.” (see the third and fourth principles above). This is exactly the federal system the people of the South have been fighting for since 1947.
· We are part of Greater Sudan, the largest in Africa and the richest in natural resources, agriculture and animal production, wildlife, water resources, oil, iron ore, zinc, manganese, gold, uranium, etc. We are a gifted country and we should thank God for all of this. Why should we not share these riches with the other marginalized Sudanese Communities?
· We are landlocked region with economic potential, we need a port of our own and that is Port Sudan not Mombasa. We can only use Mombasa as supplement to Port Sudan; otherwise, we will be slaves to Kenya. Time will come when the honey moon is over and then Kenya will dictate on us on their facilities of their harbor.
e) The right to self-determination should not be treated as if it were a private property of the South Sudan. Darfur is now asking for the right of self-determination or even separation and soon the rest may follow. It is clear that the situation in Sudan has changed greatly. In the Anyanya 1 war of 17 years (1955–72), Khartoum used Islam to rally the African Muslims in the North to fight the people of the South. Today the equation has changed greatly. Khartoum strategy today is neither Islam nor Arab Culture. It is something else! The Northern black Muslims including Darfur are now legitimate targets. These tactics of Khartoum will not end until all the Sudanese people are indeed liberated. Breaking away from Khartoum will not solve the problem because Khartoum will continue to manipulate the rest of the regions, once again, to destabilize the South or any other region. If we vote for unity, we will play leading role of the five marginalized regions and indeed build the new Sudan that our great leader John Garang has been dreaming about and therefore, change Sudan into a better prosperous place instead of leaving it to the handful of people in Khartoum.
f) As a matter of fact the solution to all the political problems in Sudan lies in the application of the CPA model to all the five regions. Every region has the right to run their affairs with little interference from Khartoum.
6. The Way Forward?
There is a serious dilemma, a cross-road situation, that the people of South Sudan (the grass-root) are facing and they definitely need guidance from the leadership with one voice. The question they usually ask is what is the way forward? Should they vote for Unity or Separation?
The analysis above has shown that the Southerners should Vote for Unity. The New Sudan we have fought for by losing two million Southerners is still far from being achieved. The Old Sudan is very active in its operations and threatens the very existence of the New Sudan. As soon as the Southerners voted for Separation in 2011 and withdraw from Khartoum National Parliament, the GoNU, other National Institutions, Civil Societies, etc, the New Sudan concept will be over. Once the “troublesome” Southerners are out from Khartoum and the other towns of the North, the enemies of New Sudan will not waste time but celebrate and clean up the supporters of the New Sudan in Khartoum and elsewhere in the Northern towns. The GoSS in Juba will have more political, socioeconomic, security problems than they have ever seen in their lives. There will be no peace in South Sudan. Khartoum will mobilize our disappointed supporters to destabilize the South forever.
So, to avoid going back to square one; let us fight for our rights and dignity within the United Sudan. Our fore fathers did it before and we have done it twice in our lifetime. We will do it again if necessary, this time politically in Khartoum together with the other marginalized people. At this time, in history, we are not alone, we are five marginalized regions: the South Sudan, the Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains, Kassala and Darfur.
We all converge in Khartoum and work together to create and build the New Sudan that Dr. John Garang had visualized.
This is the New Sudan, the powerful Democratic and free Sudan that we are all dreaming of to happen in the ten, twenty, thirty or fifty years to come. This is the Sudan around the corner with bright and better future for our posterity/children. So, let us Go and Vote for Unity. Do not be afraid for we lose nothing. The reverse is indeed darkness and isolation.
The Sudan has been slowly undergoing changes from the Old toward the New Sudan and it will never be the same again. The SS people should remember that they have been part of these changes throughout. They have endured sufferings for too long and have spilt too much blood on this land called THE SUDAN. The sufferings of the marginalized and the blood of the two million Southerners shall not be in vain but override separation and replace Old Sudan with the New Democratic Sudan. And we are part of that New Sudan. So let us VOTE for Unity!! Let us VOTE for New Sudan.
SPLM Woyeee! New Sudan Woyeee! GoSS Woyeee!
(Name withheld on request)
Envoy in Europe
1. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). 2005.
2. Yosa Wawa. The Southern Sudanese Pursuits of Self-Determination: Documents in Political History. 2005.
3. PM Holt & MW Daly. The History of the Sudan From the Coming of Islam to the Present Day.