The Referendum Should Rightly Lead to
“Self determination should rightly lead to
By: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.
The Juba conference held in 1947 following the British colonizers change of heart after having ruled the north and the south as two separate colonies since the 1920s was primarily aimed to lure the south
Sudan into accepting the notion of a united
Sudan ahead of a promised independent united Sudanese state.
The southern representatives preferred a federal system before a complete unity on the basis that there exists a great disparity in development and educational levels between the two parts, and the unity can only be considered when the South has reached a certain level of development that would allow it to deal on equal’s terms with its fellow northerners. Yet things went ahead as was planned by the northern Arab elites and their Egyptian supporters, until the independence of the Sudan as a united country was unilaterally declared from the Legislative Assembly on 1/1/1956, without any consideration for the South’s call for a federation which was perceived at that time to represent a seed for a future secession.
No surprise at all as the “Sudan- rule”, or the Sudanisation policy that followed proved the southerners’ fears right and in place as they suffered a gross marginalization by only being offered 4 out of the 800 posts in the new process. This gave birth to the Torit Revolt in 1955, which later developed into the well known seventeen years war “Southern Problem” or “Muskilat al janub”.
In the planned Juba Round Table Conference in 1965, which was later held in
Khartoum due to security reasons, the south Sudanese politicians tabled the Right to Self – Determination and a Regional Autonomy as a solution to the Southern cause. The whole conference ended up as a failure and both proposals were lost in the political chaos that followed the election of Mohamed Ahmed Mahgoub in office as the new prime minister.
Again in 1972 in the
Addis Ababa agreement, the Anya Nya negotiators again brought up the issue of the right to self –determination into the discussions. Well as usual, the
Khartoum military regime that was represented at the talks by the prominent south Sudanese lawyer Abel Alier, didn’t approve of that. The Nimeri’s regime later settled the deal by offering the South a Regional Autonomous Government within a united
Sudan, and no deal on the self-determination, for the same old fear that it could lead to secession of the south.
One important issue to highlight here is that, though the Addis Ababa Agreement started by establishing the “Provisional High Executive “ for the first five years, the southern Anya Nya ranks and files were not clearly made to understand that the Regional Autonomy , which was even to be abrogated later was all that was agreed up. This point is worth mentioning because a vast majority of southern Sudanese at that time where falsely made to hold to the believe that the first five years of the Provisional High Executive Council would be followed by a plebiscite on the unity of the Sudan. This didn’t happen because it wasn’t in fact part of the Addis Ababa Agreement, as it later came to be clear to the people, but however many senior Anya Nya officers already incorporated in the Sudan Armed Forces did pay the price at the hands of their disappointed soldiers.
However the first time that any Khartoum based government ever signed an agreement incorporating the Right to Self – Determination with the southerners, was in the Khartoum Peace Agreement(KPA) of 1997, between South Sudan Independence Movement/ Army (SSIM/A) and the NIF/NCP, though of course the whole thing was a mere kangaroo deal.
Khartoum peace agreement, which the National Islamic Front (NIF) never ever meant to implement in anybody’s lifetime, unintentionally paved the way for the greatest event, the CPA that since its conception has had a dramatic effect on the south Sudanese struggle in quite unprecedented manner.
On the other hand, somewhere in the bushes of south Sudan, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement /Army (SPLM/A) that had always painted itself as a unionist Sudanese Movement, repeatedly boasting to have fired its first bullets against the traditional south Sudanese separatist, had since its first ever Convention at Chukudum been made to accept and adopt the Right of the South Sudanese to Self –Determination as one of its strategic positions.
Thus by the time the SPLM/A delegation was heading for Machakos in Kenya for the IGAD supervised peace talks with the NIF/NCP, the Rights of the people of south Sudan to Self – Determination has already gained both local and international momentum, though of course remaining scary to the northern Sudanese audiences. The SPLM/A did its part to allay the worries of its friends in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as well as its members from the geographical north and some of its Arab friends, that the Right of the south Sudanese to Self – determination does not contradict the movements call for a United New Sudan (on new basis). At last, self-determination became part of the signed document on the Declaration of principles (DOP), thus putting it right in the centre of the agreements to follow.
The SPLM/A that claims to be a strong propagator for the unity of the Sudan, is to go now into history to be the first political force with that huge dominance it used to enjoy in the whole of south Sudan at the time of the peace negotiations, to request for the right of the people of the South to Self –Determination. This can be clearly seen as putting the unity of the Sudan to plebiscite despite the fact that the Sudan is officially a united country to which the SPLM/A, itself subscribes to, but could even go one step further to kill southern separatists to maintain that unity.
The argument so far as forwarded by the self styled SPLM philosophers is that the South should be allowed to voluntarily vote to maintain the unity of the Sudan that is already in existence, strangely enough even to be in an internationally monitored referendum. Yet the truth remains that the true reason that made the southerners to hold up arms could not be dashed aside to make a way for some weird kind of theoretical , an unrealistic Sudanese unity. Thus the inclusion of the clause on self – determination in any of the documents was in fact a victory to the “Founding Fathers”, of the South Sudanese struggle since the dawn of the Resistance.
What the above SPLM’s argument would imply is that the people of south
Sudan seem not to be against the unity of the
Sudan as such, but rather they hold grudges against this unity because they were not sufficiently involved in its initial stages since the whole thing started in 1947. So having to voluntarily vote to endorse an already existing unity would in a way be the necessary therapy to settle the Southerners sense of not belonging to a united
Sudan and at the same time a final move to quieten the voices of the separatists amongst the southern population once and for all. This type of argument only exists in the minds of those politicians who think that our people can be taken for a ride when ever these agents of submission chose to.
If we go back to the 1947 conference, it was abundantly made clear by the south Sudanese that the unity with the north was unattractive, hence their hesitance in accepting the offer. But the northerners themselves pretty well knew that given the historical accidents between the two sides and the dirty pages of slave trade and raids, this unity was not intended be attractive to the southerners as long as it appeals to them ( the northerners). And no one can dispute the fact that even before the conference, the northerners had already preserved second position jobs for the southerners in line with their traditional concepts and historical views of the indigenous African people of the South.
So initially there already existed the awareness among both the northerners and the southerners that the intended unity of the
Sudan, where the south Sudanese will remain as second class citizens in their own country will no doubt be unattractive to the people of the south. Such a unity can neither be brought about voluntary nor could it also be maintained voluntarily. And it was the sear ugliness of this unity that prompted the north from rejecting the federal system proposed by the South in 1947, and the subsequent calls for autonomy or self determination, while relentlessly pursuing the military options to either wipe out the entire population, or bring them under the Arab control as conquered people who would then forcible be made to accept Arabisation and Islamisation.
The Self- Determination that the world is use to, is the one where a dissatisfied group who would want to secede are the ones to call for it as a peaceful means to declare and openly verify through the ballot to the whole world that they no longer opt to stay in an existing union. This is what we saw in East Timor, in
Eritrea, and in former
Yugoslavia to mention but a few. In these scenarios, which are indeed forward cases, the self-determination was demanded by the secessionist in order to secede peacefully. But the self –determination that is to be called by a unionist groups (SPLM/A, and NCP), would in fact mark the beginning of a real new world order, or whatever that may be, should it achieve its intended goal.
Now with only one year left for the much anticipated referendum to determine the fate of the Sudan, whether it would emerge as two states or still remain united, unfortunately the two peace partners have not stopped pointing fingers at each other when they were finally faced with the fact that the outcome of the referendum is more likely to favour the Independence of the South. Many northerners are now blaming the SPLM for having failed to make the unity of the
Sudan attractive to the southern voters. Even if they are to base their argument on the failures that the SPLM has demonstrated in providing the peace dividends to the south, the reality is that, the unity of the Sudan right from its inception be it in 1947 or before, was in fact built on deceit, and unfairness. And from that time up till now dozens of regimes have come and gone and each one has a responsibility in painting this unity uglier and uglier.
If we are to go back to the drawing board, the issue is not about whether the unity could have been made attractive by either the NCP or the SPLM despite what was spelt in the CPA. The reality is that this unity was meant to be an ugly unity from day one with the northerners as the masters and the southerners the servants. Logically here and given the fact that this is obviously an ugly relationship, and should we want to make it look better; whom do we expect to do the improvement?
Let us try this simple rule that would be to add what the advantaged group has to what the disadvantage has and then divide the sum by two in order to have equally divided portions. This may not be exactly what we should be doing, but the lesson to learn here is that to reach some degree of fairness however those have more will have to lose something while the disadvantaged will have to gain something. Only one possesses the capacity to give while the other has nothing but the will to offer. A solution can only be reached here when the advantaged group (having capacity), happens to have the will as well, or otherwise you cannot avoid a stalemate.
The northerners who have for well over a century benefited from the south should have been the ones to improve the North/South relationship in order to safe guard their interests, but they chose not to do so. No wonder then, if the south Sudanese, who has all through been the losers in this relationship, opts to quit the first moment they set their eyes on such an opportunity. I am even sometimes made to wonder as to which part of the human brain is being used by those who would want to sabotage the independence of south Sudan, when they argue that the SPLM /A was fighting for the unity of the Sudan. How can south Sudanese sacrifice two million lives just to be back in the old second class citizenry position within the united
Sudan? Let us not fool ourselves by giving in too much to an of these philosophies that run short of clearly articulating the fact that we are going to the referendum to seize this golden opportunity to declare our independence.
We have staged several armed struggles, and signed several agreements with the enemy to no avail. Each time it ends in the same rotten united
Sudan, but this time we have vowed to walk one step further and we will see it through to the last end. As such it shouldn’t really surprise anyone, not so especially amongst the northern Sudanese, because the disappointments they have so far caused to their fellow south Sudanese is too much to bear and to prove that there is a big fault in the current state of affairs in the whole Sudan, Darfur stands there vey tall to tell the story .
It is the south Sudanese masses who demanded, fought for and won this Right to the Self – Determination because they want to opt for an independent State using a civilized and peaceful means and the northerners should appreciate that because it lies within the peace agreement signed in the 2005. And we would also remind them that the CPA is not a gift from the north to the southerners, but it is a negotiated settlement at the highest local, regional and international levels thus making it binding at all costs. Thus our right to self -determination literally means our right to an Independent country of our own.