At the time most African states gained independence in the late 1950s and 1960s, a few had enough university graduates to fill a standard primary school classroom. International transport and communication was limited, thanks to technological challenges. The idea of the world as a global village was not yet born and the cold war, which so polarized the world, was raging.
Yet the colonial masters, either through coercion or negotiation, handed over power to their subjects.
Scholars of international repute such as Prof Taban Lo Liyong’ and Dr Francis Mading Deng, the current Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Conflict Prevention and Genocide Affairs, come from Southern Sudan. Seasoned leaders such as Salva Kiir, Dr Riek Machar, James Wani Igga, Pagan Amum, Dr. Anne Itto and Abel Alier, come from the region, and are still alive and, I trust, eager to continue to serve their people should they opt for independence.
To President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, however, South Sudan is ill prepared for independence and was destined to face instability if it voted to secede from the North in a referendum that begun on Sunday and ended peacefully on Saturday the 15th Jan, 2011. President Bashir is quoted as telling al-Jazeera TV the South did not have the ability to create a stable state or provide for its citizens.
However, he was proven wrong when the Southerners turnout to vote for the referendum which was described by the entire International, regional and local observers as the most peaceful, free and transparent and has met the international standard. This explicitly indicated that Southerners are prepared for Nationhood.
I cannot, by any stretch of imagination, pretend to hold brief for Southern Sudan, but it is my considered opinion that President Bashir’s position is way off the mark. They are also a mark of hypocrisy, inconsistency and ill-will. Just a few days ago, while on a visit to the Southern Sudan capital of Juba, President Bashir was unequivocal that he would respect the verdict of the people, even if they opted for separation. What has changed so suddenly? Nearly all sub-Saharan African states (Sudan included) are suffering instability not because of lack of enough qualified personnel to run them. They are doing badly because those in leadership, either legitimately or otherwise, have a warped idea of their privileged positions. They have elected to serve their selfish interest as opposed to working for the welfare of the majority.
If Bashir and his predecessors had been committed to good governance, even the referendum would not have been necessary in the first place. To now admonish the Southerners for their inability to govern themselves is a futile effort coming too late in the day. President Bashir should probably be offering lessons on how to maintain good neighbourliness as the South is parting ways with the North.