Beyond the ‘South-South’ Dialogue.
By: Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.
South Sudan can be described as a nation in the making, a reality that it shares with many other countries in the world, who because of their colonial past are crammed to operate within the bounders left behind by the former European colonial administrators. Whichever way those border were designed, their primary intent was to weaken the native population through the brutal confrontation of indigenous resistance eventually giving way to colonization. Once pacified and colonised, Africa was repeatedly abused. Its dignity raped over and over again and the will of its once proud people reduced to that of mere struggle for survival. The invaders after winning their battle went on to secure the obedience of our leaders which guaranteed for the continuous flow of wealth, raw materials and slaves needed to build the giant civilizations in what the colonial masters called home far away in Europe and the Americas.
What the above implies is that, there were a lot of bad intensions on the side of the colonial administrators when they craved their administrative units, which we now call the African states. Everything was initially intended to facilitate the job of the colonizer and not the colonized. But as life went, we realized the necessity of converting our common cause for freedom into a reason to bring our struggles together as a people faced with a common destiny ; one more of a design than default.
South Sudan has always been described as a region inhabited by group of African tribes who don’t have any considerations for one another as fellow citizens of a common nation. In other words we are being told that there never exists anything as a south Sudanese nation, as long as its people continue to take more pride in their tribal or ethnic origins than otherwise. Others who claimed to be more knowledgeable in south Sudan affairs and to some extend Africa, went on to conclude that the people of south Sudan [because of their varied tribal backgrounds] are only brought together by their shared hatred of the northern Muslim Arab domination and possibly the euphoria of the anticipated referendum. This suggests that once the northern element is eliminated by independence or the referendum is put off the moment the CPA ends, there would be nothing left to hold the south together.
Like any general statement, there are always two sides to the story. The way our people have historically played their different roles in Sudan’s civil wars has witnessed unfortunate moments where personal aspirations and ambitions got mixed up with national issues. Therefore any lessons learned should underscore the fact that there are moments where other peoples’ opinions do seriously matter, even if for a while, and every criticism is worth listening to. Battles are won and battles are lost, but it is only those who stick to the core aims of the struggle will be able to say whether the wars were lost or won. Not surprising though, some wars just seem to go on and on. It is not easy to eradicate injustice, inequality, tribalism, favouritism and corruption to mention but a few and it is not easy to put up with them either - for as long as these vices continue, the victims are bent at any particular moment to stand up for their rights. The journey has been a long one, however we are determined to make.
Following the latest South – South dialogue which saw south Sudanese from different political spectra converge together in the capital, Juba, could be a reason well taken for the conferees to congratulate themselves, especially given the fact that barely few weeks ago some of them could have hardly seen eye to eye with one another.
All issues discussed and resolved in this conference are by all means aimed at improving the working relationship between the different political groups in South Sudan. It will be a big blessing should the people in power keep to the resolutions of the dialogue and its spirit. There is practically no time left for theorising matters any further and the immediate implementation of the resolutions of the dialogue hold the key to the future of an independent south Sudan nation. The litmus test is that all the 23 political parties that converged in Juba must be seen operating freely in every part of south Sudan without any kind of obstructions or intimidations that unfortunately became the main stay of the ‘CPA ‘ politics in south Sudan.
Should we have no any reasons to doubt the genuineness of President Salva Kiir Mayardit when he called for the dialogue, then let us believe that those who signed the communiqué will not in any way drag their feet the same way the northern Arabs of the NCP continue to renege on their CPA obligations. Our bitter experiences with our fellows from the north should teach us a valuable lesson that we need to lead by example and not to renege on promises especially the ones to do with inter-community issues and harmony - for in our case given the timing, it can mean a lot.
Despite the fact that President Salva Kiir Mayardit implies that political parties talk exclusively on the issue of the referendum, he must also understand the concerns of the other political parties who obviously among other things continue to share with him the importance and urgency of the plebiscite – a centrepiece in the CPA. However things can only make better sense when people are assured that the independent south Sudan is surely intended to be a safe homeland for all ethnicities regardless of their numerical numbers, while taking into consideration all the issues raised in the conference. The future should promise good governance, rule of law, inclusiveness, accountability, war against tribalism ....etc, otherwise the fears remain true.
If it is true that the dialogue has suggested ways to end the post election rebellions and re-unite the South Sudanese Fronts, then there is wisdom in making it a reality. No southerner should again be forced into a situation that he or she will become vulnerable to the exploitation by our sworn in enemies of the north. That precious blood should be reserved to defend the motherland against the aggressors who are determined to invade and occupy our Oil fields and fertile agricultural lands.
As we now agreed to operate under the one banner of ‘a united south Sudan’, let us take upon ourselves to seriously believe in our ability to defeat the enemy. There is nothing that brings a person greater honour than the sacrifice to bring a dream dearly held by our grandparents, who passed it to our parents and now it’s our duty to see that it is translated into the reality of an independent south Sudan. Thus Unity with the north is not an option for any respectable South Sudanese who values dignity and has self esteem. There has never been in history of mankind that a hard earned opportunity to freedom is allowed to slip off due to inconsistency as it is about to be the case in south Sudan. The price to our 5 decades of sufferings and bloodshed should be nothing less than secession. That said, we must not forget that the international community which we are a part of and its institutions that we are about to join barely few days from now, expect of us a high level of responsible commitments and the south – south dialogue is just the first step in that direction. Acting responsibly and taking positive role in putting our house in order is a pre-requisite for enjoying external respect. Well done!!
Each day that passes by, brings us closer to the realities of what it actually means when one has to live up to the full responsibility of our people in their millions. This is what our brothers and sisters who are now in the government should live up to. We have dear ones stranded in the North due to mixed messages from our leaders when some out of ignorance chose to preach weird concepts of “an ever-lasting Sudanese nationality” – as if choosing independence is just a refreshment exercise of frustrated picnickers. Instead of encouraging the internally displaced persons[ IDPs] to leave the north and return home, some reckless community leaders were instead philosophising in issues like ‘automatic dual citizenship’. The thing is, if you also want to be known as a northerner thereafter, why are you then voting for secession in the first place?
Should the repatriation process for the southerners currently stranded in the northern parts of the Sudan fail to bring the entire people home in time to vote, it must be made amply clear that it will only translate into one of the most unforgivable blunders yet to be committed by our leaders. We are our brothers’ minders and this should be how people in public offices feel. Everybody the President to the lowest labourer is basically hired to serve the public, care for them and take decision on their behalf especially when their positions are obviously compromised due to external influences by malicious enemies like the northern NCP.
There is no much room left for anyone to blame the CPA, although the current overwhelming possibility of secession should have been seriously considered in the agreement and soon thereafter. Those of us who kept relentlessly campaigning for independence of South Sudan ever since, remained to consistently do so. But because of that fluid statement in the agreement which calls for making of the unity of the Sudan attractive, did in every sense made our calls for secession sound unpopular, very far and remote as assessed by the ‘grey line politicians’ – but not today and nor tomorrow.
The whole world is now aware that the NCP of President Omer al Bashir is not keen on allowing the conduct of the referendum. But it was still shocking, how some southern politicians chose to talk of postponing the referendum when they know that the whole delay had been a calculated trick from the north. As we talk, the NCP lacks the basic credibility to be part of the plebiscite and simply like the rest of the northern Arabs – they never stick to their words.
How on earth does anyone expect the south Sudan’s grass roots to trust the NCP and its chairman, when al Bashir in the run up for the general elections last March 2010, promised the electorates in the historical town of Yambio that he would be the first to recognise the south’s choice even if they are to chose to secede and establish an independent state in South Sudan. He went on to say that should he be voted in office, which he is now; he would facilitate the implementation of the remaining parts of the CPA. Now Al Bashir and the NIF/NCP are back in office, but this time they are clearly and openly preparing to invade the South militarily and take over the oil fields. This is al Bashir – he can never keep a promise.
However although the South Sudan reunification conference came at a time when it is needed most and it has given our people a second chance to walk towards the Promised Land as a united people, yet the challenges ahead remain immense. We are all aware that the overwhelming majority of our people are in favour of secession, an option relevant with the true aspirations of our fallen heroes and heroines, but the practicality of getting the job done remains tenacious until such a time that the international community confronts the north as a bloc. Going by the latest official statements from Juba, the southern leadership have ruled out the option of unilateral declaration of independence in favour of conducting a unilateral referendum on the 9th of January 2011. Let’s hope that unilateral referenda are feasible and no cunning politicians or any ambitious soldier for that matter upsets the status quo before we are finally a free country.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. He can be reached at either [email protected] or [email protected]