It may be convenient to assert from the outset that I am not a politician. However, others may think loudly that if that is the case why am I meddling in something that is politically sensitive and controversial. Well, I am a Sudanese citizen taking advantage of freedom of expression as enshrined in our interim national constitution, Article 39 (1) which says in part, “Every citizen shall have an unrestricted right to the freedom of expression, —–“. Time of hatred has gone and is now behind us. People should be looking forward for better times. It is now time for peace and reconciliation for peaceful co-existence and good neighbourliness as illustrated by the Articles of the Naivasha comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) of 2005. It is very important, though, that one has to be objectively realistic about the unity of Sudan being made attractive in six months time.
It is interesting to observe that the North propaganda machine is in full swing for unity of Sudan. Words such as peace, unity and development have formed an important slogan that is being repeated as parrots do through the media. For the South it seems it is not yet sure which slogan to adopt in public about unity of Sudan. However, the South Sudan Democratic Forum has started a vigorous campaign for separation of the South. Other southern political parties are yet to come out clearly whether they are for unity or separation. The North has not either defined the basis of unity except to sing it as an old song.
It is important to recall that Southern Sudanese were unionist on day one of independence of Sudan in 1956. What happened later on is the responsibility of the northern elite who in their greed for power and gross insensitivity to the aspirations of the people of Southern Sudan brought the unity of Sudan into disrepute. The response from the governments led by predominantly northern elite was brutally of enormous magnititude on the people of the South. It was obvious that the northern over-enthusiasm for unity of Sudan raised suspicion in the minds of many southerners of northern intentions of neocolonialism in the South.
The northern ruling class and elite did not make unity any attractive as they were mostly preoccupied with the scramble for power and control of the affairs of Sudan. They instead looked upon southerners as inferiors who deserved non-equal treatment. The southern response was decisive as evidenced by the Articles in the CPA which foremost included wealth sharing, security arrangements and importantly self-determination to Southern Sudan to be exercised through a referendum. In the referendum a southerner in a normal frame of mind is most unlikely to vote for unity of Sudan. It would be suicidal to vote for unity because that would mean inviting history of marginalization to repeat itself in Southern Sudan. Besides the northern political parties and elite lack the confidence to be articulate on unity that is attractive to the South.
It is unfortunate that the northern political parties and elite seem to prefer to hide behind ancient and medieval Middle Eastern religious laws that were used supposedly to tame the unruly nomadic tribes. Who really would like to associate with a terrible God that sanctions amputation of the poor, stoning a woman merely suspected of adultery and worse still flogging of helpless and poor women brewing alcohol to feed their hungry families? What many people believe is that God is compassionate and merciful because he already knows people’s weaknesses. However, there are hypocrites who have assumed the role of soldiers of God on earth but in fact are doing terrible things to humanity in the name of the supposedly compassionate and merciful God. One would have expected the religious to be compassionate and merciful as their God would have also been compassionate and merciful. However, this would not be the case when religion was used by the hypocrites as an instrument of control.
Unity of Sudan is not possible at this late hour for the simple fact that about five and one half out of six years of the interim period of the CPA have not convinced southerners of the attractiveness of unity. In reality the unity of Sudan is in tatters. People instead should think of better ways of providing harmony between the people of the North and the South respectively.
In theory, however, the North is still clinging to the fading hope of realizing unity after the referendum. This is nothing but wishful thinking. Taking the two wars combined (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) and with the massive destruction of lives and property in the South it would be near lunacy for a southerner to vote for unity. This is not preaching hatred but what had happened is unforgettable though forgivable. Those who may think I am preaching hatred are misguided. I have lived more than half of my life outside Southern Sudan in different cultures and among different ethnic groups.
One question to ask is, will separation of the South mean the people of old Sudan will be divided? My answer is a big no. Borders are artificial and imaginary lines but people are real who have existed in the area for ages before borders were even demarcated for economic and political expediency. Depending on how the North will react to the separation of the South people should remain calm. It should, however, be emphasized that southerners are keen on peaceful co-existence with the North. In fact separation of the South may bring it closer to the North.
This is not a paradox because the fear of marginalization and being perceived as second class citizens will not longer be felt in the South. The exploitation of resources in the South by the North will be a thing of the past. For example, the North will not expect to share southern oil on 50 per cent basis while it enjoys 100 per cent of its own oil.
The future of the North and the South as separate entities will be a healthy one because of mutual interest and respect as sovereign nations. There will be agreements to serve the interest of either side. There may be no need for the use of a passport when traveling between the North and the South. It is expected that there will be trade agreement that the people of both sides may find new relationships that did not exist before. Foremost people of old Sudan have known each other for some time that they are likely to cooperate in the best interest of peace and prosperity for the coming generations. In the past relations were strained. Hopefully the North will not afford to antagonize the South that has a standing army with no shortage of volunteers in the event of an emergency.
The northern fear that the South would turn into imperialist and Zionist stooge is an insult to southern intellectuals who will not tolerate a change of masters as when the British left and the northern elite took over. The exaggerated fear expressed by some circles that independence to the South will be a disaster to Africa is only being entertained by the simple-minded. When Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia was it a disaster to Africa and in what way? Which is more stable Eritrea or Somalia supposedly a united country? Those backward looking bunch of next-to-nothing should better find a worthwhile scenario to worry about. They may as well go to hell.
It is inevitable that the South will be independent after January 2011. The North was responsible for the mistreatment of the South for the mistaken belief that the South could be subjugated with brute force and converted to Arab land. Even Dr John Garang de Mabior the ardent unionist was deeply distrusted as a separatist by the northern elite. As for the destiny of the South it is more preferable to be a martyr for the cause of independence than to vote for unity that is only in the interest of Islamic Sharia that destroys basic civil liberties and also in the interest of Arab hegemony in Sudan.
In conclusion unless the Sudanese see themselves as Black Africans Sudan is unlikely to be a united country. After all those Sudanese who call themselves Arabs may not say so when they are outside Sudan because they look more Negroid than Arab. Sudan will always be divided along racial lines, Arab vs. Black Africans. I hope I shall be proved wrong. However, on the personal level Sudanese may be friendly and get on along with each other with fewer problems but politically they are a bunch poles apart.