The NCP: Reckless Leadership on the Referendum Bill
For much of
Sudan‚Äôs modern history, one clearly dominant thread linking the successive governments in
Khartoum is their consistently ill-intentioned and disastrous reaction to the rightful demands of the people of
Southern Sudan. These successive regimes, from the post-independence premiership of Ismail El-Azhary to the current ruling party have reflexively reacted with a clinched fist whenever Southern Sudanese advanced any agenda demanding equal citizenship and respect for covenants and commitments. It is therefore not surprising that the South has also historically not backed down from such intransigence, and in fact waged a relentless struggle for those rights with greater ferocity and commitment than before.
What is really puzzling is that the lessons of the last 50-plus years have not sunk in with the rulers of today, and they have thus resorted to their old tricks of reneging on agreements and looking for dodgy ways to thwart their implementation. They apparently think that the right of self-determination could be watered down by the illegal shenanigans and strong-arm tactics of the likes of Speaker Ibrahim El-Tahir and Mrs. Badria Suleiman in the Parliament. It is completely nonsensical for the NCP to demand among other things that the referendum law require that turnout for the referendum be at least 75% of the registered voters, and that a
NO to Unity vote be endorsed only if it reaches the 75% mark. These are standards not supported by any precedent in the histories of referendums around the world, and appear to be wholly prejudicial attempts to thwart the will of the people of
Southern Sudan. In fact, Mrs. Suleiman and Mr. El-Tahir are on record claiming that the referendum bill should be crafted in a manner so as to make a vote for unity most likely and separation excessively difficult. This is entirely wrong, coming from people who are ostensibly lawyers, because the intent of the underlying provisions of the CPA is to grant the people of Southern Sudan that right to determine their fate within what is now Sudan, and inherent in that right is the protection of its exercise from outside coercion and interference. Those looking for a specific outcome in 2011 have the political arena wide open for them to proselytize and campaign to sway the vote of the Southerners, and not by trying to impose a certain outcome by legal fiat from an assembly in
Nowadays, in the absence of the requisite political will and moral rectitude to abide by what the NCP leadership endorsed in Naivasha in 2005, these reckless elements believe that the CPA is ripe for abrogation through the twin strategies of dividing the Southerners and uniting the North around their exclusionists and inarguably racist and theocratic banner. The scrambling for the upcoming elections provides them with the fertile ground to find both the gullible and corrupt southerners willing to sell their soul for a few coins, and some of the short-sighted Northern political elite that has never cared for the people of
Southern Sudan and would care less if their rights were trampled over.
However, their devious plots are doomed because of the one consistent strain in the modern history of
Sudan, and that is the fact that the South has conclusively and tangibly rejected subjugation by the center since 1955, and it will not accept even a modicum of it in 2009 or 2011. If the NCP has some wise men and women, they will counsel their irresponsible leaders to know that the rights granted by an agreement reached after decades of war cannot be dialed back by irresponsible and reckless law-making in the Parliament. The continued unity of this country cannot and should not be imposed, but must be allowed to occur only as a result of the South opting for it in a fair and transparent plebiscite. Anything short of that will not preserve
Sudan as Mrs. Suleiman and her colleagues erroneously think, but will only hasten the collapse of the whole country and in fact engulf every corner of it in another calamitous civil war.
The wrangling over the referendum bill and the equally contentious census issue must be seen by all Southerners as causes for concern and as impetus for unity. They are not battles of the SPLM to fight alone, but matters of principle that should be treated in a non-partisan manner. The cleavages instigated by the NCP to divide the South and weaken the Government of Southern Sudan are strategic attempts to lay the ground work to reverse what they believe were excessive rights gained by the whole South under the CPA, and not just by the SPLM or those serving in the government. Those rightfully concerned about the performance of GOSS have a much bigger historical obligation to also discern that we have a national project for change in
Sudan that is under assault by a more menacing foe bent on turning back the clock, and it would be foolhardy to get sucked into its evil bandwagon unaware. As they say, we must not cut off our noses to spite our faces, because while our government can eventually be reformed, you won‚Äôt even have a government to bark against if you let the forces of darkness destroy the CPA and abrogate your right to a fair vote in 2011.
Parek Maduot is an occasional commentator from
Sudan, and can be reached at [email protected].