The Sudanese Vice President and one key architect of the Sudanese Peace Agreement known as Naivasha Accord or CPA, Ustaz Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, has embarked on a mission dubbed as “development project funds” to make unity attractive to Southern Sudanese in the next Year Referendum. These projects shall be social in nature, in the areas of health, education, water drilling, road construction among others.
Mr. Al Taha arrived in Juba with a big smile, accompanied by a large delegation from the NCP and the Government of National Unity. But the visit is barely a day at a hot heal of another visit by the Governor of the Central Bank to the same city-Juba.
The court of Public Opinion on the streets of Southern cities was invariably divided, as to whether the said projects are real or imaginary; whether the time for their implementation is right. Others still go on the extreme urging the Southern Government to reject those unity advances/overtures outright. For the later group, the money is too little too late. To them the money isn’t social but politicize fund and therefore dangerous.
However, the Government of the people of Southern (GOSS) sees no problem with that money so long as the intention and purpose is for Southern development. I agree!
But according to the Vice President (Mr. Taha), the decision to start doing something (funding projects in the South) came about after Western Donors slowed down sending any funding to the ravaged region. The idea is to silence voices and argument that the North and the Central Government in particular has done actually nothing to keep the South from going away or separate- going East African Community. This effort is an attempt to ensure the blame is lessen. Southerners shall have no reason to separate since to him development has only been the source of contention.
One wonders whether this money shall make any difference to arrest the already grown up tendency for self rule. Time will tell!
It is easy to weigh up the odds though not to just take everything for granted. History is the best teacher, it’s said; and that once beaten twice shy. This is not the first time for Southerners to hear about promises from the North/Central Government right from 1973 (Addis Ababa Agreement). The leaders in the central (Khartoum) have all along made as many promises as you could imagine for Southerners, later to be turned down. The NCP party has also made series of promises about developmental projects to the people of the South but to date there is none.
To many well wishers, the issue is not necessary to make unity attractive, but to put the South back into something after decades of war. Unfortunately our brothers Arabs never kept their promises. I wish I have time to go through each promise here including the latest about Rumbek University money, Upper Nile University construction money, Renk-Malakal-Juba-Nimule High Way, Abyei developmental projects etc.
What difference will this promise from Al Taha make, that will make it special from others? I doubt therefore whether the 500 million pounds shall really be released. But even if the money is disburse, then we got to detach it from attractive unity project, and see beyond what that money is all about. The money to this author isn’t about swaying Southern opinion in favour of unity, but about attractive neighbourhood between the emerging nations (the South and the North states). This is how Al Taha money isn’t without any string attach, one of which is that the money must be about services along South-North border.
What do you make of this condition? Why services at the borders? What size of population are we serving there along the borders? Figure out, why not give that money to ministries concerned in the South other than Khartoum to prioritize and implement these projects, on behalf of GOSS?
Do you know what, the NCP is ahead of us and they know that unity can’t be made attractive through projects/contracts. They didn’t just sign CPA and even that clause about separation for the sake of winning peace. They aren’t fools. With all the theatrics you hear on their side, they know the South case is a forgone case.
The decision to let the South go, isn’t in fact the NCP creation; but a condition that has been created over the years, and that has been supported by internal and external political environments- right to choose. Now, for the sake of peaceful coexistence between the two Sudanese nations, there has to be an arrangement to improve services at the borders for goods and services to find their way to each side. The North focus on this fund hence is economic, simple.
But before the South stands alone, the South shall still depend on the North for almost everything. That is a living fact. National Oil Minister wasn’t wrong on ‘uneconomic’ version. Lamu (Kenyan coveted port) is 20 years a dream. The Northerners know they will reap from Southern developmental dilemmas in its first 10 years of existence. Oil current infrastructures, development and its markets shall still be under the North, under some sort of fiscal agreement.
Socially we will still need each other, as millions of Southerners who are trapped in the North and those who are well off in Northern cities shall find it difficult to come back home quickly. Several Northern businesspersons in the South shall still be there siphoning money out to the North, given the South poor status. For time being therefore, you can see the South and the North are to glue to each other for mutual benefits. Mr. Taha knows it and wants to start it from there.
The vastly more useful truth is that, we shouldn’t throw away anything and start to inflict ourselves with self doubts about matters leading to the referendum. To me, the referendum will be conducted on time; registration and the so called outstanding matters are in the safe hands of our big and beloved Vice President Dr. Riak Machar Teny (known as Mr. Detailed, Mr. Pragmatist, Mr. Fine tuner).
The future is indeed bright under the NCP-SPLM partnership. The leaders of the two camps are committed to work together for the sake of peace and political stability or transition. Whether the South goes or not, the matter isn’t in their hands anymore, but Southerners. The fact that President Kiir and his counterparts Field Marshall Omar Al Bashir are sticking together and are at the helm of things, especially on referendum exercise, am pretty save politically. Long live NCP-SPLM partnership, long live Ustaz Al Taha.