Political Divorce a lesson for both the Sudan and the rest of Africa.
By: Justin Ambago Ramba
The present day Sudan, with its current borders like most of the countries in Africa only came into existence as a creation of the colonial powers. In their quest to control and exploit the continent the Europeans divided the indigenous African kingdoms and chiefdoms and replaced them with artificial borders that only served the interests of the evil minded invaders. But the local people who were mostly used by the colonizers as proxy tools to weaken one another,
enough opportunity to mix freely with the intension of
forging a truly unifying and common national identity and hence they remained but to identify themselves as tribes and clans,
to which they continue to attach much pride.
Following the withdrawal of the European colonialist, the continent of Africa woke up to the realities of its artificial settings and structures. It found itself faced with this huge task of forging a unified national identity, as proposed by the fore-founders of Pan-afrikanism, but as time went by, this was never achieved, pushing the various people of the continent to further identify themselves in terms of their narrow ethnical origins and tribal identities.
In the absence of homogeneity and the lack of laws to check the wildly spreading fire of micro-nationalism and regionalism, the real allegiance of Africans today is largely turned towards their various tribes. Should the status quo remain the same, our continent risks its only remaining hope to make up for its dark history of slavery, servitude and colonialism as clearly defined in the Pan Afrikan movement principles.
This in turn is likely to endanger the
noble dream of creating the ďuntied state of AfricaĒ. Even the big slogan of ONE AFRIKA, will soon find itself consciously overtaken and replaced by a backward journey where every tribe on the continent will find itself going more inwards and toward its roots, origins and past glories without appreciating the roles of the others who share the same national borders.
This trend as it continues to dominate todayís Africa; it is slowly evolving into a number one cancer and a great reason for concern.
Sudan clearly stands as an example of these artificially created countries that has failed to maintain any peacefully co-exist within its borders.
In its five decades history of civil wars, where religion, ideology and ethnicity were all at conflict, this country by all standards
demonstrates to the world that there is more to geographical demarcations in creating a harmonious nation.
Former Yugoslavia, the Balkans, and the old Soviet Union are all examples that the human history has finally come to openly acknowledge as a failed attempt, by those greedy adventurers, emperors, tyrants and dictators in creating artificial national boundaries based entirely on carving geographical territories and forcing the inhabitants who are at their best sworn in enemies and antagonists, into the pretext of being one people.
History has brought us this far and we are now eyes witnessing a fact that, after almost a century, the Sudan state that was artificially created by the colonialist has failed to be a success story. After it went through a five decades civil war in the south, the country is now
already seven years into another separate war in Darfur (within what is known as the political northern segment of the country).
Most Sudanese and especially so, the people of the south who bore the main brunt of the sufferings that resulted from the institutionalised marginalisation and the brutality of the civil wars, have finally made it clear to those who have conscience in the international community, that south Sudan should not be left as such to pay for a crime which isnít its making.
The comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) came into existence as a way forward to solve a humanitarian crisis which was for long ignored. It also offers an opportunity for the people of south Sudan who were practically forgotten for half a century to come and take their rightful place as fellow human beings and live side by side with others as equal members of the human community. The plights of the people of south Sudan which was once only treated as mere statistics even in the most prestigious institutions that traditionally pride themselves with
the welfare of mankind and international fraternity e.g. the united nations, the African union......etc, must now be given the due attention.
The causes for the failure of unity and peaceful co-existence between mankind at large are well demonstrated in the endless debates that continue to take place in the security council of the United Nations and the other regional organisations. The African union, the Arab League or even the much controversial international Islamic conference are all aware of their own failures in the goals they have so far set for themselves.
Many nations in different parts of the world are also struggling with issues of how to maintain unity within their borders. And to this end the Sudan, Africaís giant of 1 million square miles, is no exception as it struggles in the south, in Darfur and in the East. Although the reasons leading to the complete failure of unity in the Sudanese setting are many, however it is those ones created by the elites, who despite their hard work in up-rooting colonialism, unfortunately turned around to become even worse than the colonizers. Their eyes and hearts went straight to those evil luxuries used to be enjoyed by the foreign rulers and they ended up doing exactly what the colonialists did.
In most revolutions there are always those who find themselves in the centre of events and it is not necessarily that they are more revolutionary than the others. History has it that all the Sudanese did put some form of resistance against the colonialist and all the other foreign invaders. But when it comes to writing the history books, they were either written by the Europeans or their Arab counterparts.
Should we restrict ourselves to the Whitemanís books; the whole praise for the Sudanese revolution will continue to go to Imam al Mahdi, although he was largely surrounded by men who came mainly from Darfur, Kordofan and the different parts of the south. This selected reference to the history of the Sudan has very much contributed in stratifying the Sudanese people and the way that the Sudan was governed thereafter unfairly gave much credit to the people of the north and al Mahdi and the al Mirghani families, eventually
the seeds of the modern day Sudanese political crisis.
Following the second world war, the Sudanese northern elites were quick to exploit their better education and proximity to Egypt, and they stood up as the only self proclaimed group and went on to assign themselves the sole right to the exclusion of others, and
decided for the rest of the country.
Without the mandate from the rest of the inhabitants of the so-called 1 million square miles, and especially so the people of south Sudan, the riveran Arab elites chose to start the future of the Sudan on the wrong footing from the very moment they assumed the right to not only monopolize the negotiations with the colonial rulers on the future of two distinctive parts of the Sudan, but also by declaring themselves from there on to be the only rightful leaders of a united, Arab and Islamic Sudan.
Of importance is the fact that until the last days of the colonial rule in the Sudan, both the north and the south had existed as two separate entities and were run under two different administrative systems. The north by far had already evolved distinctively from the south as a part of Middle East, while the south
remain up to date an integral
part of East Africa both in the physical features of its people and their indigenous black African cultures.
When the Sudan earned its self-rule in 1954, the northern elites immediately declared themselves as the rightful replacers of the colonial administration. Why do we think they acted so? The answer is simple, for these supremacist northern elites found themselves in a more favoured position by both British and Egyptian authorities and as they were the ones who negotiated the Self Rule, they only felt it natural to marginalise the other Sudanese as people whose roles in achieving the Sudanese independence dream could be considered very secondary. Everything that followed from there was a direct out-come of the northern elitesí greed and today the country is more prepared to disintegrate into several states than in any other time as a consequence of their successive supremacists policies.
If the northern Sudanese riveran Arab elites missed the opportunity to forge a multi-cultural and multi-ethnical Sudan, for sure it offers an important lesson for the other African countries which are at the moment struggling with similar issues of national integration in their quest to survive as a viable post colonial state. This also applies very well,
even to the people of south Sudan who are soon expected to vote for their own state in January 2011, if they are to go and establish a harmonious nation of their own.
The world community and in particular the other African countries which are scared by the possibility that the imminent secession of south Sudan may fuel similar sentiments in their own backyards must come to accept the reality on the ground as far as the Sudanese politics is concerned. The northern Arabs dominated the Sudanese central government in Khartoum and are not in any position ready to sacrifice their tight grips on the power in the centre in any bid to create a fair power sharing by accommodating the other Sudanese of black African origins be them from the south, the west or the eastern parts of the country. This being the case right now, then the dream to have a harmonious united Sudan is as illusive now as it was in the 1890s.
If similar bitter and drastic outcomes to national problems can be avoided in other African settlings, then those who are today monopolizing the decision making in their countries should learn a lesson or two from the Sudanese experience. Africans elsewhere can do better by applying inclusiveness in their governance system and to better work hard to keep at bay the widespread malignant tribal politics, nepotism, favouritism, and regionalism which is right now eating up the roots of our common destiny. Africa can only avoid what is happening today in the Sudan by adopting true democracy where the rights of the minorities are completely respected and protected by the law besides the establishment of institutions that can stand the test of time.
We in south Sudan are often ready to go mad at any one who talks negatively of our intentions to secede come the 2011 referendum. However as mentioned somewhere earlier in this article, we
are also more than invited to learn from our
bitter realities of history that pitted us against the north and where we are entrapped in an endless
wars of survival. The challenge that awaits us is how we as south Sudanese are aspiring to govern and run our new independent nation come 2011 so that we donít fall yet into the same mistakes that we are now blaming on our northern fellows?
The way to our salvation donít end only by achieving independence, but we must be prepared fully to go an extra mile to sever any connections with all the evil politics and attitudes that some of us might have acquired
the northern Arabís.
Marginalization and looking down on other countrymen as a people whose roles in the revolution donít deserve recognition must never be allowed to be a part of our new nation.
As some of our African neighbours are already getting worried about their own backyards, like them we should also start to think about how we are going to forge our own national unity, having seen it failed in many nations, including the Sudan which
we are about to walk away from.
Much needs to be done and NOW, otherwise we are still Africanís and
we may in less than a yearís time find out ourselves going three hundred and sixty degree and back to where we stated from.
Let us always remember that, when it comes to oppression, neither its source nor the colour
or religion of the perpetuator matters. Oppression is oppression regardless of whether they are carried out by a white, black, brown, Arab, African, Muslim, Christian or even a family member for that matter.
Remember that as you cannot tolerate it so are the others.
The African Unionís position in trying to maintain the existing borders of Africa is understandable; however the organisation needs to do more in realising democratic transformations in the continent. The out-dated policy of decreeing blanket judgements against political divorces in member countries especially in the case of the Sudan are doomed to fail as it will neither guarantee any happiness nor will it save the countryís political marriage from being tainted by endless human sufferings.
Those politicians and leaders who wrongly assume that they can save their political marriages by opposing political divorces in other countries are in fact doing the wrong thing. They may possibly save their own political marriages by refraining from the policies that shattered their neighboursí unions. May be they need to listen more to their partners or provide more love and inclusiveness in their own countries. It is all about how one continues to make political union appealing to both sides which makes it work. Forced marriages donít work.
On the other hand when the time comes for the two separate Sudanese states to go apart if that becomes what the southern voters opt for in the 2011 referendum, they must preferably both do so in a peaceful manner. They should as well do their level best to start a better life in their new settings, by making the best use of their bitter experiences, lest them go on into an endless binary fission.
It may not please some people should the Sudan proceed to become like the former Yugoslavia, where both the north and the south goes again dividing yet into smaller states, a very likely scenario if the current stubborn and arrogant leaderships on both sides do not part with their old attitudes of political grandiosity and supremacist tendencies wherever they find themselves. As for the continent of Africa, we must understand that unity has a price. And unless we pay for it, we can never have it.
We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant.
"Julius Kambarage Nyerere, as quoted in David Lamb's The Africans, New York 1985.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). The party that stands for the independence of South Sudan. Can be reached at either