I never thought I would live to read a Dr. Adil who still believes that at the beginning of 21st century the “Sudan problem” is the creation of the British colonialists. Dr. Adil al-Khidr Bela wrote in the Sudanil recently what he called analysis of possible scenarios regarding the breakup or the unity of Sudan.
In his opening statement, Dr Adil says he is not worried by the on-going debate of the issues regarding the breakup of the Sudan or its unity, because he believes the parties to the debate will ultimately arrive at a scenario preserving the unity of “continental nation”. He supports this conclusion on four grounds: first, that Sudan is endowed with natural resources, not less than Canada, with a population of not more than forty million; second, that a Sudanese by nature is a democrat; third, that the that seed of discord was planted by the British colonialists; and finally, the political parties were unable to place the Sudan in its natural place, because the success of military coups is the proof of the inability of the political parties. If the parties were in themselves democratic, the military would not have succeeded in grabbing political power. The rest of the article is devoted to the same old wine in a new bottle. Dr. Adil is so immersed in the old Sudan mentality, making him still believe southerners cannot rule themselves as a separate nation. The remaining part of the article is just verbosity, and does not deserve any consideration.
To begin with, Dr. Adil bases his “unity scenario” on the fact that Sudan is a rich country, and can live in prosperity with its less than forty million population. Is this a factor or an element of unity? I guess not. The fact that a country is rich or poor in resources does not qualify it to be united or disunited. There are definitely other elements, which should unite a people of certain geographical area such as homogeneity of race and religion. Nonetheless this homogeneity of people, unity of faith and destiny, did spare Somalia from disintegration and chaos. Riches are unable to secure unity for Iraq, despite unity of faith. However, countries as diverse as the United States of America, South Africa and Canada have been able to preserve their unity because the political elites have recognized a minimum agenda that form the basis of such unity. This is what we lack in the Sudan, and as long as we cannot arrive at such minimum agenda, we will be chasing an elusive goal.
The allegation that a Sudanese is a “democrat by nature” is a farce; people are not born democrats, but it is what they learn during life that qualifies them to be democrats. The Arab-Islamic elite has been increasingly used to this idea, while intentionally refusing to go to the roots of our problems. Out of the 50 years of independence as a nation, only 11 years have witnessed a democratic life; the rest has been dominated by military and theocratic regimes. Is this an indication that the Sudanese is a “democrat by nature”? Or is it an indication of our elite failure to find a common minimum agenda of pluralistic, democratic, secular and united Sudan—a new political dispensation that can take care of our historical, ethnic, cultural, religious and contemporary diversities? Hence, the talk about a Sudanese being a “democrat by nature” is an idle talk that has no basis in our contemporary history.
The Arab-Islamic elite, whether coming from the left, center or right, has refused to go to the roots of our problem, and would rather prefer to impose its Arab-Islamic ideology on all the people of the Sudan. In this endeavor, there is no difference between, the Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Sudan Communist Party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other marginal political groups such as the Ba’athists, the Nasserites etc.
After 50 years of our independence—mainly characterized by wars—we still have the audacity to blame our ills on the British colonialists. Were the colonialists who told us to reject the Southern call for a federal system at the declaration of the independence in December 19, 1955? Were the colonialists who attempted to resolve the issues of diversities by violence and imposition of Islam and Arab culture on southerners during the Abboud years? Were the colonialists who failed the Round Table conference of 1965, and the consequent resolutions of the All Parties conference in 1967 and 1968? Were it not al-Saddig al-Mahdi and his brother-in-law, Dr Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi, who frustrated southern and the marginalized areas representatives in the Constituent Assembly (Parliament), by introducing an Islamic draft constitution in parliament in early 1969?
After achieving a period of ten years of civil peace and tranquility in the country, who unilaterally abrogated the Addis Ababa Accord of 1972? Were the colonialists who advised dictator Nimeiri to impose the September laws of 1983 on all the Sudanese, whether Muslims or Non-Muslims? His main support for abrogating that agreement came from the extremist Islamic quarters, led by Hassan al-Turabi
The SPLM/A under the leadership of our Fallen Hero, Dr. John Garang, called for the national constitutional conference in the SPLM/A Manifesto of 1983, and again in the Koka Dam Declaration 1986, and during al-Mirghan-Garang Sudan Peace Initiative of November 1988, to be attended by all Sudan political forces, including the Sudan military, the twice failed prime minister of Sudan, al-Saddig al-Mahdi, dragged his feet until the extremist National Islamic Front (NIF) succeeded in grabbing power in the early morning hours of June 30, 1989. It was not the colonialists who advised al-Saddig al-Mahdi to delay the formation of the national unity government to implement the Sudan Peace Initiative.
At the ascendancy of the NIF theocratic regime, led by the Islamic ideologue, al-Turabi, the NIF declared a holy war (Jihad) on the people of the South and the SPLM/A. The NIF saw itself as a defender of Islam, duty-bound to Islamize and arabize the whole Sudan and Africa. Massive killings of civilians, bombing of refugee and IDPs camps, use of food as a weapon of war, force population transfer (in the case of Nuba), sexual slavery and sexual abuse, forced herding of population into controlled areas, slave-taking and slavery were common practices, resulting into the lost of over two million lives in the South and the Nuba Mountains.
When at last the NIF realized that military victory over the SPLM/A and the people of the South was not possible, it accepted the Intergovernmental Authority Development (IGAD) Declaration of Principles (DOP) and agreed to negotiations, as a way out of the conflict. The DOP mechanism gave the NIF clear choices: first, a united Sudan based on secularism, democracy, pluralism, justice and equality among all Sudanese, irrespective of religion, race and culture. In case of the rejection of the unity option, the DOP required NIF to agree to the right of self-determination (RSD) for the people of the South, including separation.
The NIF flatly rejected the unity option; on the basis that Shari’a was one of its red lines, and there could be no return to secular democratic Sudan, except over their dead bodies. Under these circumstances, the IGAD and its partners—the USA, UK, Norway and Italy—prevailed over the SPLM/A to negotiate the second alternative, the RSD. This how the present Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi on January 9, 2005. How come, therefore, that Dr. Adil considers southerners separatists, when they had clearly wanted to negotiate the terms of a just unity, but Adil’s brothers in the NIF absolutely rejected that unity?
It appears, however, that Dr. Bella is living in the pre-Naivasha period. In his article, he spends his energy in making strategies about the inevitability of unity and insinuating how south cannot rule itself as a separate state. This strategy has been the main stay of the northern politicians since 1956, and their noses have bled over the years. I do not understand how an intellectual who call himself a Doctor and a researcher can in the 21st century still cling to old ideas that have proven not to hold water. The Ministerial Committee formed by prime minister al-Azhari in 1956 precisely recommended what Dr. Adil Bela is trying to convince us with in the year 2005. In five years' time, when southerners go to the polls to determine their future, they will remember that Apartheid, an evil political system, looked after its downtrodden blacks; but the ruling Arab-Islamic elite has performed much worse than the Boers.