THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN SUDAN SEEN FROM PAN-AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE, AS A JUSTIFICATION FOR A UNITED NEW SUDAN
We write as war rages in Darfur and in the shadow of the Southern Sudan Referendum and the impending split of The Sudan, as we knew it. This erstwhile largest country in Africa, now has only months left of life, after which it’s land mass will be juridically sundered, part of it becoming the new nation-state of Southern Sudan. In principle, no one welcomes the further Balkanisation of our Motherland. Some have been minded to read these developments as determined by the operations of that dual force of imperialism/Zionism – always, of course, self-interested, exploitation centred, and anti-African – moving here in the specific context of the discovery of and quest for the acquisition of and control over oil. Such readings, while by no meams devoid of political merit and demanding proper attention and analysis, are dangerously partial and themselves also potentially anti-African.
This text is premised on an in-situ analysis leading to the conclusion that the problems of the Sudan and indeed the Borderlands in general will only be resolved when a critical mass of Africans South of the Sahara and Diasporan Africans know, understand, respect and apply the lessons of the actual history of Sudan.
This text is also premised on the understanding that the overwhelming majority of the people of Sudan are Africans. But many were subjected to a protracted process of forcible Arabisation, producing what might be termed Arabised Africans side by side with an equally protracted process of destruction and subjugation of indigenous African as well as African-Christian political, cultural and juridical entities. There has also been a broadly concurrent process of Islamisation involving the same attacks on African ancestral culture as done by Euro-Christianisation. The historically received image of Arabs as a ‘Semitic’ people has had enduring cultural and political effects, by no means only in The Sudan. Calling the people of Northern Sudan Arabs flies in the face of that historically received image, even as it speaks specifically to their now well developed cultural and political consciousness, which entails something that might be recognised as a confusion in matters of ethnicity and race and in the politics of self-perception. That image of Arabs has also impacted the Pan-African political project, certainly since the 5th Pan-African Congress (late 1945). Within that project it has been correct to identify with the Arabs of North Africa and beyond, as fellow victims of racist colonial imperialism, but quite incorrect to ignore historic Arab ideologies and practices inconrovertibly oppressive of Africans. It has been wrong also to deligitimate the contemporary struggles and utterances of Africans against such oppression as merely or potentially tools of imperialism. Nor have those involved in the post-1945 Pan-African project spent sufficient time mastering the issue of land-holding and tenure in the Sudan and its role in land alienation away from Africans, as currently taking place in Nubia, Northern Sudan for example, thus generating the potential for social and military encounters up to and including civil wars.
Based on these conclusions the question that arises - especially seen from the Southern African perspective - is: did the pre-Referendum and pre-separation nation-state of The Sudan represent, embody and advance the interests of the people of that country and will the de facto successor state of Sudan prove different.
Civil wars are indisputable evidence of a state’s failure to satisfy a significant section of its population. The current situation in The Sudan is the product of a long and destructive history during the penultimate phase of which some two and a half million Southern Sudanese Africans lost their lives, with millions more displaced and dispersed. The civil war in Darfur is on-going. The cause of the North vs South conflict as defined by Lagu and Garang, was the attempted forced Arabisation of the Southern Sudanese. In fact to state it thus is to underplay the level and nature of the oppression involved. The solution posed was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 which envisaged the accession of Southern Sudan to full self government on the 9th July 2011 following the Referendum. It is undeniable that Zionism and Imperialism have an economic and political interest in that outcome. It is untenable to hold that is the sole interest at stake here.
With Southern Sudanese answering ‘yes’ to separation in the Referendum, Northern Sudan from the 9th July 2011 will be known as Sudan. With the sundering of The Sudan and the emergence of an indisputable African Southern Sudanese nation-state, the national question as applied to the post-9th July Sudan demands to be addressed analytically and in a pro-people manner. Are the land and resources of this new geographically African entity (the former Northern Sudan) with its Arabised African population part of the patrimony of Arab World or do they belong within the constellation of the African Nation, so called. If ‘both’ how and why? How is the Sudanese national question perceived within that new entity, within (a) the shrunken Sudan, itself and (b) within the constellation of Global Africa (which, of course, encompasses Arabised Africans in the entire Northern Africa, as well Arabia) and (c) within what passes for the Arab world, which definitely perceives itself as as encorporating all of Northern Africa as well as increasingly lands further south with Islamised polulation? Will the national question, which is much multi-dimensionally alive in Southern Africa around the land issue (Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa) and so forth, be resolved in Southern Africa before it is in Sudan and the Borderlands in general? Is there a link between the resolution of the national question in the Borderlands and in Southern Africa? Why is it that the African Union (AU) High Level Group has been either unable, or taken too long, to come to terms with the legitimate aspirations of the Southern Sudanese and Darfuri people, when both these peoples in their different struggles clearly articulate the aspirations of the Africans of the Sahelian Borderlands for an end to the oppression they have experienced from Arabised African formations of state and sometimes sub-state nature? Not that we have concluded that the solution in Darfur should be the same as that being arrived at in Southern Sudan. But in both these - and any other similar – instances Africans domiciled South of the Sahara and in the Diaspora must, minimally, recognise and be committed to the ending of real, historically rooted, oppresison being experienced by fellow Africans in the Borderlands. If this means the break-up of states, so be it. Nothing in Pan-Africanism renders sacroscant any particular African continental juridical entity, nor obliges African peoples experiencing oppression of a certain type to remain within such entities.
The answer to these and related issues in Sudan are at the core of the Sudan conundrum and will demand the attention of us all going forward.
Sudan Sensitisation Project (SSP)
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