In a rare event last week, on Saturday 2, October 2010, the senior member of the SPLM politburo, former presidential hopeful in the April 2010 Election and the leading apostle of New Sudan, none other than Yasir Arman himself, made a surprise appearance in London, albeit on a personal trek.
The Alliance of Sudanese political forces in London and SPLM UK and Ireland Chapter hurriedly coalesced to play host to a political function at Haverstock High School near Chalk Farm Station, to which Arman was invited to address a large gathering of Sudanese in all their diversity from across the political divides and shades of opinion.
The school hall had quickly filled to capacity when the event kicked off at the usual untimely Sudanese local time in London.
The recent heightened tensions and competing statements of the CPA partners in Khartoum and Juba which threaten belligerence in the lead up to the referendum on Jan 2011, laid a perfect groundwork for raised expectations and interest in what Arman had to say to the public on the key issues and fate awaiting Sudan before and after the Referendum.
Chief among the issues raised were, firstly whether the breakout of war in Sudan was now imminent or unavoidable, secondly the consequences of the outcome of the referendum for the stability (or lack thereof) of the remainder of Sudan if the South secedes, thirdly the stability of South Sudan itself if it secedes, fourthly the eleventh hour strategy to respond and manage next phase of the transition in Sudan post the Referendum, and fifthly the fate of New Sudan proposition and that of SPLM itself in the remainder of Sudan post 2011 and beyond.
1. War is highly probable in Sudan, mobilise now to stop it
There was no disputing, as Arman argued, that Sudan is at critical cross roads, and passing through an extremely dangerous time in which the likelihood of war erupting now is very highly probable. He catalogued a long list of SPLM grievances and held their partner (NCP) accountable for bad faith in implementing the CPA and leading the country back to war. That the NCP monolithic, theocratic project of the Sudanese state formation runs counter to the intrinsic diversity, toleration, unity and aspirations of Sudanese peoples, and decried imposition of the current state formation vision, one which lacked being informed and shaped by both ancient and contemporary history and realities of the peoples of Sudan. The continued existence of this state formation monolith unchanged, Arman argued, laid at the root cause of the multiple wars (old and new ones likely to erupt) in Sudan.
The way to reverse this and stop continued wars or new ones erupting in our country would be to reject dictatorship and terminate the monolith we know to erect in its place a modern democratic nation state that cares about the national interest of all its constituents and appealed to core humanist and divine values drawing on Sudan’s ancient and contemporary heritage and traditions. The alliance of political forces and Sudanese peoples, he said, were challenged at these momentous historical times to rise and take on a strategic change initiative to transform Sudan to a democracy, in the face of imminent or inevitable war, be it in one or two states and both of which must transform to democracy in the south and north for the future stability and prosperity of their people and to put an end to wars in Sudan with a view to contributing to building the illusive peace, political stability and economic development in the East Africa sub-region.
2. Consequences of Referendum outcome for unity or secession
Stability (or lack of it) in the remainder of Sudan if the south secedes is arguably an issue of great concern to all across the political divide. Democratic transformation in a new state in northern Sudan, Arman contended, would be compounded by NCP persistent and determined efforts to be entrenched and become inseparable from the state, the more reason wars would intensify and erupt in Eastern, Western Sudan and potentially in Nuba and Blue Nile regions too which would become, in Arman’s description, the new “Southern Sudan” in the remainder of old Sudan state.
His predictions for stability were therefore rather pessimistic and feared further fragmentation and chaos leading to calls for self determination in the marginalised areas such as Dar Fur, Eastern Sudan, Nuba and Blue Nile regions, unless the state and power relations are restructured at the centre to recreate a viable democratic state.
This is not to say that southern Sudan emergent state would be immune from instability and chaos if SPLM and its leaders in Southern Sudan borrow the methods, values and dictatorship of the NCP, and not transforming the society and the would-be new state to a democracy in its wake. The game for a win-win in a two-state outcome after the referendum, Arman contended, is democratic transformation in both Juba and Khartoum to secure stability, viable statehood and good governance in order to avoid potential of free descent into a failed state materialising in the two geographies.
The former presidential hopeful and SPLM leader expressed no romantic expectations either in ‘unity outcome’ for the Referendum, and hastened to acknowledge equally daunting challenges to Sudan stability and future (north and south) under the NCP dictatorial, hegemonic and monopolistic ideology. That the only viable insurance premium for Sudan’s future and stability in a united country lay in the proposition of new Sudan on a new basis and transformation to a democracy as advocated by the CPA and SPLM vision over the last two decades, leading to the promulgation of a truly democratic constitution and system of government unlike that of the current NCP state, in which the NCP is the state and inseparable from it.
3. South Sudan inseparable from change to ‘New Sudan’ and so would Northern Sudan
In response to a challenge on betrayal of SPLM early unionist credentials and principles and the party’s apparent retreat to supporting secession for the South, Arman was quick to invoke the democratic transformation principles enshrined in the CPA which SPLM supported and found no contradiction with the right of the people of Southern to self-determination, and called on all democrats to support self-determination as a democratic principle and practice. He made the argument that the process of change to New Sudan and its realisation would pass through, be preserved and fulfilled by democratic transformation in both South and North
The success and realisation of the “New Sudan”, needs a blueprint and the potential secession of the South realised by the referendum in Jan 2011, would present SPLM and its leaders with the opportunity and challenge to change to quantifiable ‘New Sudan’ in practice. And if that proves to be successful, then the continued New Sudan advocacy for democratic transformation by SPLM in Northern Sudan would gain credibility and further increase chances of reunion of the two states in the future. The SPLM in the northern Sudan would continue undeterred to advocate for the concept of a New Sudan through constitutional and political means and thought leadership. This, Arman argued, would largely define the fate of New Sudan proposition and that of SPLM itself in the remainder of Sudan post 2011 and in Southern Sudan in the years to follow. Simply put, the express dialectic of quantitative change to New Sudan, ultimately goes through democracy, the necessity or mandatory referendum and self-determination step as the case may be, according to the gospel and apostle of New Sudan and hopefully by implication for all intents and purpose, that of the SPLM Secretariat and Leadership too for whom Arman spoke in London.
4. What’s the eleventh hour strategy to managing change and avoid war
Insist on and advocate for peaceful and timely conduct of the referendum in Southern Sudan and Abyei, recognise the democratic choices of the people of Southern Sudan, Nuba and Blue Nile as a matter of democratic principle, mobilise international community, local political and popular support for the successful conclusion of CPA implementation, and intensify efforts by national alliance of political forces and grassroots toward democratic transformation as insurance for peace building, the rule of law and political stability, mobilise to reject imposition of war and protest against voices that are beating a path to war in Sudan.