The countdown to the referendum in Southern Sudan in January 2011 as per the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) of January 2005 seems to be unstoppable. The time of truth has dawned on Northern Sudan that the numerous strategies employed since the Juba Conference of 1947 to maintain the unity of Sudan at any cost have reached the point of diminishing returns. Aware of this the North is now in a frenzy of panicky reaction.
However, the question to ask is, will this panicky reaction make unity of Sudan any attractive to the South? This is an open question. One thing, though, is clear. A drowning person will always panic and will cling desperately onto anything for dear life.
Northern Sudan has always considered Southern Sudan as its lifeline since time immemorial and recently a lucrative source of oil. For the North the people of the South do not matter an iota but all that matters are the abundant natural resources found in the South. Arguably the unity of Sudan has never been attractive to the South except for some lip service and cosmetics here and there. The northern panicky reaction is nothing but a cosmetic package in a desperate attempt to rescue an imaginary unity that is all but gone down the drain. Even if the prophets, peace be upon them, were to rise from their graves they would not rescue the unity of Sudan. The prophets might instead sympathise and support the total independence of Southern Sudan.
They would have known the history of North-South dichotomy.
It is not necessary here to relive the history of North-South dichotomy. However, in brief it is said it takes two to quarrel. In theory then the ever strained relations between the North and the South may suggest that the two are responsible for having brought the unity of Sudan into disrepute. Nonetheless, to determine the extent to which either side is responsible may need expert knowledge of judges like those in the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. For the North and the South they will always trade accusations on who is the bad guy in making the unity of Sudan unattractive. One way forward, however, is for a critical analysis of conditions for unity of Sudan. People have to be scientifically objective. Basing arguments on mere assumptions unreflective of the reality on the ground is not helpful.
The North had every opportunity to make unity attractive from 1956 when the Sudan got its independence from colonial rule. In contrast, however, the North instead chose to work feverishly to create conditions conducive for separation of the South. Paradoxically the North is now panicking at this late hour and pointing fingers at the South as a separatist. The North erroneously sees itself as the angel of perfect unity that the South will enormously benefit. A little over half a century of independence the North has shown its colours of neocolonialist mentality.
Arguably the North is the separatist because of the policies adopted since independence. Apart from having used the South as a source of lucrative resources, the North has not exerted enough effort to make unity attractive.
Why did the North adopt the policy of declaring the Sudan an Arab country knowing very well that the South was and is non Arab and that the Arab element in the Sudan was a minority? Why has the North adopted Islamic Sharia as the law in the Sudan while the South needs a secular constitution in line with Sudan as a multi religious country? Why is the North having the lion’s share of development while the South is one of the most under developed regions in the world?
Answers to the above questions may provide some explanation of the South’s reluctance to vote for unity in the referendum. There is no way that the unity of Sudan will be attractive when the South is aware and knows that Sudan is being groomed into an Arab Islamic state with development deliberately concentrated in the North.
It is clear that the North has run out of time to make unity attractive hence the panicky reaction to the strong expression of separation. In my previous article, “Unity of Sudan not possible at this late hour”, I tried to argue that time was too short for any attitudinal change in the South for unity of Sudan.
I also tried to argue that separation of the South was not the end of the road. In our hearts we shall be Sudanese as do the Arabs in the Middle East although they are of different countries. The fact that southerners may prefer to live in Khartoum to living in Kampala or Nairobi is a message that we should treat each other with loving care. There are also northerners who have made the South their home. Even if the South separates no northerner in the South should be categorized as an alien and vice versa.
In conclusion unity of Sudan is not music to ears in the South and this should not be a surprise to the North. If the North is still adamant then the result of the referendum will wake it up.
The offer of confederation is a non starter because the South has moved on beyond the concept of a confederal system. Instead a fresh look and arrangement for a peaceful co-existence between two independent states, the North and the South, should be the best option in promoting harmony in Sub Saharan Africa. We should now end the blame game and embark seriously on a roadmap that will lead the North and the South to peace, development and prosperity in post referendum era.