North and South have been two geographical regions of Sudan in perpetual differences. The two regions have tried to live in harmony in a united Sudan but the level of incompatibility has been too high that the South is now granted the right to self-determination in order to test its free will for unity. All indications, however, are that the South will confirm separation from the North. The question is will separation cause division between the people of the North and South. There is no simple answer but theoretically separation should not lead to division of people. When members of a household become grown ups or adults and when they quarrel each may try to establish a household of their own.
In Sudan people have lived together for years that people have established personal relationships that have transcended racial, ethnic, cultural or religious divide. The paradox is why are now the people of the South opting for separation from the North? The answer may be found in the system of governance and policies adopted which have not made unity of Sudan attractive. This, however, does not suggest that on the personal level the people of Sudan did not relate to each other. On the personal level Sudanese are next to none in courtesy.
The polarity of the North and South was because of the policy adopted to reverse allegedly the colonial policy of separation of the South from the North. The post independence policy adopted had failed to build a Sudanese identity that was inclusive. Sadly the policy divided Sudanese into Arab and non Arab, Muslim and non Muslim. The consequence was of course the marginalisation of those who did not belong to the elite who wielded the reign of power. With the use of coercive state apparatus to consolidate the marginalisation of the disadvantaged, it was obvious that unity of Sudan especially to southerners was going to be very unattractive indeed.
Many will accept that Sudan is a colonial construct and that there is little binding the country together except the shared history of colonial rule. The post colonial era is characterised by the handing over of the government machinery to the political and economic elite at the centre. The people in periphery both in the North and South have not been adequately integrated in the state structure. There is therefore no wonder that a sense of national belonging exists only to a limited degree. For southerners a sense of alienation from the centre is especially rooted in a history of plundering and slave taking by northerners and cultural oppression since independence.
It should be noted that by the time of independence on the 1st January 1956, war in the South had already begun. On the 18th August 1955 a mutiny of southern soldiers in the Equatoria Corps at Torit, some 84 miles from Juba, broke out. The cause of the mutiny was southern dissatisfaction with the decolonisation process where southerners were losing out while northerners were installing themselves as masters and rulers of the South. What the North negotiated for the South was the transfer of the colonial structures from Britain to the northern nationalists. Decolonisation in Sudan was therefore flawed as southerners had no influence on the process nor on the future of their region, the South. Southerners were obviously indifferent to Sudan’s independence as it did not lead to much rejoicing in the South.
The highly expected separation of South Sudan should not be seen as division of people. The masses both in the North and South should not take things personal. Occasionally some may take things personal but this should not be allowed to escalate to dangerous levels. The problem was the system of governance and the identity crisis. Southerners see separation as the lasting solution to decades of marginalisation since independence. The people of independent South will be second class citizens to none. They will also have no identity crisis. However, even if the North and South are two different countries there will likely be new arrangements for harmony so that the masses will not be divided.
It is important that the masses in the North and South exercise a high degree of maturity because there are vast opportunities. The North and South should move forward on the basis of cooperation in the best social and economic interest of both. People do not need to cry over spilt milk but instead to endeavour by all means that no milk is spilt again. It is likely that it will be traumatic to hear the announcement that the South has voted for separation. On the other hand the announcement should be received with high expectations of a new beginning of relationship that will withstand the test of time. It will be an era of northerners and southerners meeting this time as stakeholders of equal status to plan their joint future for better life to the coming generations.
When brothers quarrel they may separate but are not divided. It may be appropriate for the representatives of southern political parties to travel to the North when the South separates to demonstrate people are not divided. It was more of the failure of the system rather than individuals making unity unattractive. Separation of people who quarrel is common. The Holy Bible tells us of brothers quarrelling and separating. For example, in the Bible (New International Version) Genesis Chapter 13 verses 8 to 9, Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left”. Now who will say Abram and his nephew Lot were divided. They separated but not divided because they would be quarrelling. It is almost the same scenario between northerners and southerners.
Although northerners have treated southerners badly hence separation and independence, southerners may need to have another look at northerners as nephews and cousins. People will hardly be divided. Northerners will continue to live and do business in the South and among southerners and vice versa. It is important that the building of good human relations should not only be left to the governments of the North and South in the event of separation. Civil society organisations, the youth, women, trade unions and so forth in both the North and South should play an active role in promoting love and respect for human values of peaceful co-existence and harmony.
In conclusion, northerners and southerners are brothers and sisters in humanity. The problem was not personal but it was the system of governance that polarised the people of the two regions. Too much damage had been done that separation of the South was inevitable. Independence to the South will be a challenge the people are ready to face with confidence and determination to make a difference. This should not be alarming for southerners have no ill intentions to the brothers and sisters in the North although the National Congress Party (NCP) is by all means trying to sow a seed of discord. It is understandable that the NCP is scared of being blamed for the separation of the South. As a last resort the NCP is doing what it can to sabotage the outcome of the referendum which is the separation of the South.