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Articles and Analysies «Š’›Õ… «Šŕ—»Ū… Last Updated: Jan 6, 2010 - 8:49:57 AM

Unity or Separation; Debating the Referendum BY: Deng Paul, CANADA

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Unity or Separation; Debating the Referendum BY: Deng Paul , CANADA


We are almost reaching the end of the tunnel and the CPA era is coming to an end. Itís therefore imperative that we reflect on the past and present events in the country before we decide the future.

It is apparent that most southern Sudanese have made up their minds and know exactly what they will do come January 2011. And the general consensus or view is that, most South Sudanese would opt for an independent country.

However, that will not be in unison. There are lingering voices and views by a few individuals that a United Sudan would be more advantageous to Southerners than a separated South. Well this is the high time to address these issues. Itís only about 12 months before people head to the polling stations should what have been agreed upon prevails. Therefore, we have no time to waste and have to debate on the referendum as South Sudanese.

Our destiny is in our hands and we have to make one of the most important decisions we have ever made in our life. In my opinion, 2011 is another Juba conference of 1947.   What happened in 1947 is now a thing of the past and we have another 1947 coming up, where we are in a better position to make the best decision for our future. This is it. There is no any other better time to decide on our destiny than 2011.

So, letís talk about Unity and Separation. This is not a question of ďitís my vote, I can vote however I likeĒ. Of course you can, but we have to be careful with it because what we do on that very day will affect millions of lives including the unborn and the absentees. We do not want the next generation to be remembering 2011 as the year where their lives were ruined by the current generation like we do with the 1947.

Actually, the chiefs and other Southern Sudanese who were present in the 1947 conference did not agree, not even a slightest bid to keep the country United. I did read the document that is said to be the agreement during Juba conference. The one amazing thing that I found out was that, southerners did not agree to keep the country united.

The Identity of the country: Is Sudan an Islamic country? Thatís a very interesting question. For a long time, Sudan has always struggled with its identity. If you are a northern Sudanese, you would say yes, though some people would say no. On the other hand, a Southern Sudanese would unequivocally say that Sudan is not an Islamic State (maybe some members of Muslim community in the south would). So, where is the line? On whose view should we believe the country is?

Well, if you are not aware, then I have news for you. In the world arena, Sudan is known as an Islamic country with strong ties to the Arab world. This is not a surprise to anybody because the rulers (dictators) of Sudan have always come from the North with a clear agenda that Sudan is an Islamic country and sells its image as they wish. Sudan joined the Organization of Islamic conference (OIC) in 1969. Therefore, it is virtually considered as an Islamic State. One of the main aims of the OIC is; to preserve Islamic social and economic values among member states.

As a southern Sudanese, what is your take on this? If you are hoping to preserve the Unity of the country by voting for Unity in 2011, then bear in mind that you are automatically agreeing to be part and parcel of the Islamic state. It would be difficult to change that status. It is estimated that Muslims are about 70% of the country especially in the north, which is debatable. There are no concrete evidences to believe that statistics.

But letís take an estimate that lies close to the truth. Letís say that about 60% of the country is Muslims. If the referendum were done to decide the status of the country whether to remain as member of OIC or withdraw it; the south would lose on that. A minority canít win against the majority when votes count.

Therefore, a vote for Unity is a vote for confirmation of the country as an Islamic state. It is this or that, no in between. A confused identity is painful.

Sudan and League of Arab States (LAS): Another identity crisis is whether Sudan is an Arab State or not? Currently, Sudan is a member of Arab league or League of Arab States. Thus it is known as an Arab State though most countries in Africa donít recognize it as an Arab state. Sudan joined this organization in January 1956, just a few days after independence.

Although majority of the Country are not Arabs, many donít object to the idea. If you take away the East, far North, most of Darfur , South Kordufan , Blue Nile and South Sudan , those who would claim that they are Arabs will be less than 20% of the total population. Yet one would wonder why such a small section of the society would hijack the identity of the country. The answers are not far from us.

For one, this status was imposed by the small powerful rulers of Sudan who claim to be Arabs and have ruled the country under the illusion of Arabism. Second, Arab culture and Islam are inseparable. This explains why most people in the north do not object to this idea even though they know that they arenít Arabs. Northern politicians know the truth and thatís why they omitted the question about ethnicities from the census forms. They knew that this would expose their lies and would have proved that Arabs in Sudan are less than 20%.

It would be ridiculous for a South Sudanese to walk into the same old cage and hope for the better. Thatís what my primary teacher would call a zero work. Voting for unity is a zero work. The Red Army says in their song (red army is a symbol for young south Sudanese, though the name has its original owners) that the problem between the North and the South should end with Anya Nya I and II.

Sharia Law, Religion and the State: Sharia law is arguably one of the most contentious issues in Sudan . I have had discussion with both friends from the South and some people from the northern part of the country. But what I found out was strange. I am not sure whether this is me alone or other people do feel the same way. To me, religion played a major role in all the civil wars that we fought in Sudan .

However, there are people who confidently argue that the main problem was economic and political disparity. And their justification is what is currently happening in Darfur . Well, I do agree with them on those issues. But it would be too naÔve to ignore the role that religion play in this country. What was the main trigger in the 1983? Wasnít it the dishonoring of the Addis Ababa agreement and imposition of Sharia law in the whole country?

During the civil war between the north and the south, people were mobilized along religious lines. The Khartoum government played a religious card by mobilizing Muslims in the north to fight what they called infidels in south and free the country from non-believers.   Their sources of funds for war were from Islamic countries. They even invited Islamic fundamentalists including Bin Laden to Sudan to help them fight against the infidels in the south who were hindering the spread of Islam and their sharia law southward. So, religion was the main tool used by Khartoum to fight against the south.   

Currently, Sharia law is in its full swing in the north and also in what is so-called the government of national Unity. It was agreed in Naivasha that sharia Law would apply in the north but only to Muslims (just during the CPA era, nothing was said about it after 2011). Unfortunately, sharia is being publicly imposed on southern Sudanese who live in areas around Khartoum including Khartoum itself.

In the United Sudan after 2011, how will issues like sharia law be addressed? Should we just wait until we vote for Unity to decide on the fate of Sharia law? The south wonít accept the Sharia law.

The above are some of the reasons as to why I believe that Unity will most likely disadvantage the south. I know people who advocate for independence of the south are referred to as box thinking individuals. That is, people who are blinded by hatred and donít think outside the box.

The only thing I can tell them is that, weíve been thinking outside the box for the last 55 years. Therefore, we are tired of it and want to try a new one. Why canít we try something we have never done before? It could work for us. You never know unless you try.

Thinking inside the box of south Sudan is not a bad idea. Is it? We need a break. When you know that you have ideologies or principles that can never be harmonized or compromised, you have to give it a break.

I would also like to address some of the issues that the southern Sudanese people who would like to vote for unity put forward as their reasons. First, I would like to apologize to all my friends who talked to me about these issues. They may feel bad and that I am writing about them. I am not writing about anybody but about issues that will affect our next generations should we make the wrong choice. This is not just about us but also the unborn generations.

Therefore, I feel obliged to discuss what I think is right and this is the only way we can involve many in the discussion. Apart from their various reasons they give, I will only talk about two of them.

Corruption: Some people think that there is too much corruption in the south and voting for unity will somehow help stop it. It is true that there is corruption in the south and we are very sad about it. However, I donít think that a united Sudan will have all the solutions to it. Somebody might want to explain it explicitly so that people would have a clear understanding on how it will be solved when the south votes for Unity.

My understanding is contrary to what they think. In my opinion, corruption could be worse than what it is right now. A united Sudan means a centralized government. In a country like Sudan where there are no transparency systems, centralism is not the best form of government.   A centralized government empowers a few and allows the exploitation of the general public by those in power.

Sudan is a country whereby the security apparatus are being used by one political party to strengthen its political muscles. So, do not think that there is no corruption in the north. It could be a lot worse than we think but nobody is talking about it. If you talk, then your head could be cut off like what they say. The NCP and its security apparatus have no secret and have told the general public that if you donít conform to their principles, then expect your head or finger to be cut off.

There are only a few people in the north that can risk their life and expose the dirty practices of the Khartoum government. But majority is not brave enough to confront the government of liars and dictators because they fear their life. They support the government not because the government is doing a great job but because they are assured of sharia law and religious dominancy.

Thatís the only reason as to why you donít hear people talking about corruption in the north.   So, I donít see how the United Sudan will help curbing corruption in the South. We known corruption is a pandemic disease in the south. Neither voting for unity nor deserting the south for Khartoum and shout at the top of your voice would help solve the situation.

Insecurity in the south: Insecurity has been burning like a wild fire in the south for quite sometimes now. It is very unfortunate that the government of South Sudan is not trying its hardest to solve the problem. They always use the wrong methods instead of designing the right one. This has led to Khartoum government exploiting the situation and preaching to world that insecurity in the south is the failure of the people of South Sudan to government themselves and that there were no things like those when the country was one.

The only thing I donít understand is whether the Khartoum government is telling the international community that the south cannot govern itself and that they have to be supported in their oppression against the people of the south or they want other people to be put as their governors. That mentality alone can force me to vote for separation. But they are very fortunate that there are people picking up on it and wanting to vote for unity just because of this insecurity.

The only thing they donít know is that, Khartoum will never ever help the south in any problem. If there is anything that wipes away the south be it corruption, tribal conflicts or other things, they will do their best to help it happen.

So, donít look to the North. I am not pessimistic about it. I have a feeling that a solution will be eventually found but not from the United Sudan.   A tension among southerners is a Khartoum victory. This is the only way they can cling to power.

So, how on earth, would somebody rectify something that is advantageous to them? Let us not simplify the main problem to insecurity. Insecurity problem can be solved but the main issues that led to civil wars are not yet solved and they should be the ones used as a barometer to vote for either a united Sudan or independent south.

Lastly, we need to let the world know why independence of the south is the best choice for Southerners. So, letís keep writing and let our reasons be known. It would be a good idea too for those southerners who want Unity to tell us why they think a united Sudan is their best choice

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