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Articles and Analysies الصفحة العربية Last Updated: Feb 13, 2011 - 7:24:29 AM

Debating A Southerner (3): Prof. Jok Madut Jok

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DEBATING A SOUTHERNER (3): Prof. Jok Madut Jok


Prof. Jok Madut Jok:

Born in Bahr Algazal in Southern Sudan.  PhD, University of California.

Associate professor of history, Loyola Marymount University, California. Author of “War and Slavery in Sudan” and “Sudan: Race, Religion and Violence.”

Recently, both of us participated in an e-mail debate about the future of the South.  He was the only Southerner among a group of Northern academics, journalists and writers.

Here are some of his comments and my responses.



“What explains this sudden outburst of a non-genuine cry for a paradise lost?”



Don’t you know terms like: “nationalism,” “patriotism” and “pride”?

1. You are a history professor; don’t you know the history of the French nationalism (starting in 1789) and the German nationalism (starting in 1815)? 


2. You follow the news; don’t you know that the Germans and the French are now leading Europe towards a “European nationalism” that will supersede boundaries, languages, ethnic groups and religious sub-groups?

3. You studied in Egypt; didn’t you hear the Egyptians proudly singing “Biladi, biladi, biladi, laky hobi wa fo’adi” (My country, my country, my country. My heart and my mind belong to you)?

4. You have been in American for many years; didn’t you hear Bruce Springsteen

signing: “Born in the USA”?


5. You are a Sudanese; didn’t you hear the national anthem saying: “In da’a da’i alfida lan nakhn. Natahada almot ind almihan” (When sacrifice calls, we don’t retreat. We challenge death in times of disasters)?  Do you know that a Northerner wrote the words and a Southerner wrote the music?     


The Sudanese nationalism is centuries-old; long before Islam and Arabism.  The Nubia’s kings were Black and pagan, and the Alwa’s kings were Black and ardent Christians.


For centuries, the Sudanese, Northerners and Southerners, sacrificed for their country.  Ali Abdulateef, leader of 1924 revolt against the British rule, was a Southerner.

Brother Jok:

You call this “non-genuine cry for a paradise lost”?



“It is cheap for all of you to be crying at this hour.”



It is cheap of you to say this is “cheap.” Most of the time, while working on the computer in my office in the National Press Building in Washington, DC, I listen to Radio Omdurman. Last week, my tears ran down when  Ahmed Almostafa sang my favorite nationalistic song: “Ana Omdurman.” 


He sang: “Ana ibn al shamal sakanto galbi, ala ibn al janoob damait doloo’i” (I put the Northerner in my heart and the Southerner in my chest).

Strange that I cried!

I have been living in Washington for more than 30 years. More than 20 years ago, I became an American citizen.  I swore allegiance to the US.  I don’t use the Sudanese passport.   I rarely visit Sudan.  Recently, I started feeling I am part of this Great Western Civilization, this White Christian Civilization.

But, as much I feel I am an American, I feel I am a Sudanese.  Actually, the more I feel American, the more I feel Sudanese.  Therefore, I believe the unity of Sudan is as important as the unity of the US.

Brother Jok;

You call crying for the unity of Sudan “cheap”?



“It is cheap for a few medical students from Khartoum University to embark on a caravan to the South, to give Aspirin to Southern people.”



I heard about that on Radio Omdurman.  Again, my tears ran down when the group, after arriving in the South, sang a nationalist song I still remember from Argo Elementary School. 


In Sudan’s geography class, I studied Mungo (St. Mungo) Zimbiri, a Southern boy in Yambio. At the end of the lesson, the whole class stood up and cheerfully

sang: “Anta sudani wa sudani ana.  Damana alwadi faman yafsilona. Mungo, qul la asha man yafsilona. Qul ma’ee la ash man yafsilona” (You are a Sudanese and I am a Sudanese. The Nile Valley unites us.  Mungo, say death to whoever wants to separate us. Say with me, death to whoever wants to separate us).

Brother Jok:

You call this “cheap”?



“I was in Khartoum last month.  For the first time since I was in high school,

22 years ago … My encounters with would-be fellow countrymen, revealed to me still, how we are really not going to be able to maintain a unified nation. With such racism that infiltrates every interaction.”



I have been living in America for more than 30 years.  Twice I was called “Nigger” in my face.  Few times, I felt rejected by some people, probably because I am a Muslim, Arab and African – or might be I made a mistake or misbehaved. 


I have learned not to pay attention to other people and not to let them define my identity. My three half-White-half-Black children grew-up and are gone. But, when they were young, I repeatedly advised them to do the same.

Brother Jok:

Please don’t let others define your identity.



“Tonight I am writing from Damazin (Blue Nile State, Sudan) and the attitude has not changed between the few northern Jallaba in the market and the dark-skinned people.”



This exactly illustrates your problem.

I don’t wake-up every morning and look at the mirror to see whether I am black, or white, or green or orange. My color doesn’t have anything to do with my identity.


I repeat: My color doesn’t have anything to do with my identity.

The core of my identity is my faith (I could have been a Christian, a Jew, worship a cow, a tree, or a kojor).  Then, comes my mixed Arabic and African culture.

Brother Jok:

Try not to have your blackness as a core of your identity.



“When I was checking into the hotel, the lady at the reception asked for my passport, which I presented, and while holding my Sudanese passport in her hand, she still went ahead and asked me what nationality I was. Without shame she said ‘I thought you were from South Africa,’ my Sudanese passport and all.”



I would have said: “No, Ma’am.  I am a Sudanese and a very proud one.”  Also, I would have added a joke: “Wish I were from South Africa; could have watched the World Cup final between Netherland and Spain at Soccer City Stadium.”

I used to tell my children: “Take a joke, make a joke.”

Brother Jok:

Take a joke, make a joke.



“What does one say to such attitude? The only thing I can say is that enough is enough.  If I have an opportunity to vote for separation, I would do it with a blink of an eye, problems in the future or not.”



Despite the huge differences between Sudan and the US, I believe they are

similar in one important aspect: diversity of races and religions.


On Sudan, I agree with you on more issues than you may expect; the Jallaba, the

slave trade, the discriminatory Khartoum governments and the horrible wars in

the South.   

In the US, the Whites traded in Africans and discriminated against them for a

long time. The Blacks, rightfully, fought for freedom and equality. Now, there

is a Black President, Obama.  I have never heard Obama talking about slavery.

So, why don’t the Sudanese Southerners learn from the experience of their

brothers, the Black Americans? Why don’t you stop talking about the past?  Why

don’t you put an end to your anger?  Why don’t you open a new page?

The word “Nigger” will never disappear in America; there will always be people

who insult others. Similarly, the word “Abid” will never disappear in Sudan.

Do you really want to break-up a great nation and make the Sudanese cry because

you thought a receptionist in a Damazin hotel insulted you?


Brother Jok:

My tears run down every time I think of the possibility that the Sudan would be

divided. The closer the referendum gets, the more that happens. Recently, like a

crazy person, I started singing Sudanese nationalistic songs (like “Ana

Omdurman” and “Mungo Zimbiri”) while walking in the streets of Washington, or

walking around Burke Lake (5 miles circle), near where I live, in Burke, a

suburb of Washington.

I think that, if in January the Sudan will officially break-up, I will die from

a heart attack. At my old age, I proudly welcome that.

And you call this “cheap”?

Brother Jok:

I forgive you. Just let us hold hands and sing another old Sudanese

nationalistic song: “Yei baladna, wa kolona ikwan.”  English: “Yei, (capital of

Central Equatorial State, in Southern Sudan) is ours, and we are all brothers.”


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