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Debating A Southerner (7): Pagan Amum
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Dec 15, 2010 - 2:23:18 PM


Pagan Amum, Secretary-General, Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM).


1. Akol Liai Mager: SPLM, Queensland, Australia.

2. Ezekiel Gatkuoth: Head, South Sudan Mission, Washington, DC.

3. Dr. Jok Madut Jok: Professor, Loyola Marymount University, USA.

4. Luk Kuth Dak: Journalist, was in Sudan, now in USA.

5. Dr. Lual Deng: Minister of Petroleum.

6. Steve Paterno: Author: The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure: A Roman Catholic Priest Turned Rebel.




1. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Karti.

2. Minister of Fianance Ali Mahoumd.

3. Opposition Leader Ali Mahmoud Hassanein.



Pagan Amum, Secretary-General, Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM).


Washington: Mohammad Ali Salih


Q: Foreign Minister Ali Karti, when in Washington, accused you of supporting US policies against the government of President Omer Al-Bashir.

A: Every time I come to Washington, they say I come to take orders from the American government. There are no secrets in our relations with the Americans. Yes, they helped us in the past when we were fighting in the jungles, and that was because we were under brutal attacks by the armed forces of President Al-Bashir, under the slogan of Islamic Jihad. Yes, they have been helping the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) since its establishment, according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the North and the South in 2005. And yes, they promised to help us in the future if we choose unity or if we choose independence.


Q:  Karti also said that the Southern Sudanese leaders who were calling for secession were suffering from an "inferiority complex."

A: We don’t have an inferiority complex. The ruling National Congress Party [NCP] which Karti is a member of is the one with an interiority complex. They want to impose their views on us by force, although they know we don’t agree with them.


Q: Karti also said that you were serving the goals of US churches who are worried about the spread of Islam in Southern Sudan and sub-Saharan Africa.

A: Our struggle is not a religious one; it is nationalist. Karti and his colleagues were the ones who added religion to the North-South disputes when they declared Islamic Jihad against the South. Karti should be the first to know that because he was the leader of the “Jihadist dababeen” (Jihadist tank forces) in the South.


Q: The US announced a global war on terror; and this is something that has indirectly resulted in Muslims being targeted, whether this is in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, or Sudan. Are you exploiting this "war on terror" to win US support?

A: Firstly, what you just said [about Muslims being targeted] is your own opinion. Secondly, we don’t serve the goals of "others"; we are serving our own goals.


Q: There have been reports that if the South chooses secession, the United States African Command [AFRICOM] intends to establish a base in Juba, and that Israel would also be establishing strong relations with Southern Sudan.

A: There is much news out there and people say many things. Please don’t ask me about what others said. I tell you: all that we want is freedom, peace, stability and prosperity. We don’t want to cause problems for ourselves, or the Northerners, or our neighbors; those who are close by and those who are far away.


Q: Do the Americans support unity or secession?

A: You are in Washington; why don’t you ask them?


Q: Sudanese Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Lual Achuek Deng – who is himself from Southern Sudan – said, while in Washington, that SPLM founder John Garang was a unionist, not a separatist.  And that secession was therefore a betrayal of Garang's objectives.

A: Firstly, this was Deng’s personal opinion. He wasn’t the only one who knew Garang (though they studied together in the University of Iowa). We all knew Garang. Secondly, when Garang signed the CPA, he agreed to accept the results of the forthcoming coming referendum. Therefore, if Garang were alive and the South voted for separation, he would have accepted it.


Q: Deng also said that the Southerners are now having it both ways, and it will not get any better for them: they have their own government in the South and also participate with the Northerners in governing the country as a whole.

A: This is not realistic. Firstly, the reality is that the Southerners rule themselves and share in ruling Sudan, but not the North. Secondly, the South is not a colony of the North, so it is not like the colonized share in ruling the colonizers.


Q: During these debates, some of the Southern Sudanese who supported secession, called for the Northerners to apologize for past mistakes, like the issue of slavery and the Jihad that was declared against the South. Do you agree with this?

A: First ask the NCP leaders whether they are ready to apologize. Secondly, people apologize for actions that they no longer commit however the north's injustice and discrimination [against the South] is ongoing. Thirdly, our struggle is not only for the sake of the South; we struggle to create a " Sudan Jadeed" [New Sudan] in the South and the North. Long before the CPA, we said that the Sudanese State had failed and called for a " Sudan Jadeed".


Q: What do you mean by saying that the Sudanese State has failed? When you last visited Washington you told a US congressional committee that Sudan was an “artificial state.” Is this the same thing?

A: I said Sudan could be partitioned because, since its independence, it had been beset by internal wars, mainly between the North and the South.  And that these wars proved that the unity of Sudan was unsustainable, and, so Sudan is failed state.


Q: You also told this US congressional committee that there was discrimination in Sudan against "the African majority." Aren’t the Northerners also Africans, in addition to being Arabs and Muslims? Wasn’t what you said discriminatory?

A:  What I said was not discriminatory. I criticized those in the North who practiced, and are practicing, discrimination; those who have been trying to impose an Islamic-Arabic rule on us.


Q: Who are they?

A: You live in America and you don’t know what has been going on in Sudan. Do you read the “Al-Intibaha” newspaper? Have you heard of Al-Tayeb Mustafa? He is President Al-Bashir's uncle and Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper. He wants to expel the Southerners from the North. He mentioned me by name and called for my expulsion from the North. Is there any greater discrimination than this? You talk about the united Sudan; however, Northerners like Mustafa don’t want us in Sudan; they want to get rid of us. These are signs of genocide.


Q: Are you saying that the Northerners intend to pursue a policy of genocide against the Southern Sudanese?

A: I didn’t say that there is genocide right now, and I am not calling for the international community to intervene at the present time. I said that what is published in “Al-Intibaha” and other similar publications are signs of genocide.  Don’t forget that the international community didn’t intervene to stop the Rwandan and Darfur genocides until it was too late.


Q: Don't the majority of the Northerners support a united Sudan?

A: How do you know? How do I know? I know the record of the ruling NCP party: it hasn’t made unity attractive, has put obstacles in front of it and doesn’t care much about it. We are not against the Northerners. I have studied in the North and have many Northern friends. Our problem is with the NCP and its discriminatory leaders.


Q: You previously said that the problems between Northern and Northern Sudan will continue so long as the Northerners call the Southerners "abeed" [slave]. Why do you want to divide a country over the word "abeed"?

A: They insulted us, fought us, killed us, destroyed our homes, and exiled us. Therefore, we want to be masters of our own fate, in our own country.


Q: In the US, there was official slavery and discrimination and, until this day, some Whites insult Blacks by using the word “Nigger” (salve).  But, the Blacks haven’t called for the partition of the US. Why don't the Southern Sudanese follow the example of the African Americans?

A: These are two completely different situations.


Q: In the US, slavery and discrimination were in the constitution and Blacks were openly slaved, lynched, bought and sold by Whites.  Despite this, the Blacks didn’t call for the partition of the US.

A: First, the Whites did not declare jihad against the Blacks. Second, you live in America and enjoy its freedom while there is no freedom in the Sudan. Third, there is no “Al-Intibaha” and Al-Tayeb Mustafa in America.


Q: Why don't the Northerners and the Southerners start afresh and forget past differences? This is what has happened in the US, and today there is Black president: Barack Obama.

A: Ask the NCP leaders whether they want to open a new page. They don’t seem to be interested in us. Like I said, they want to get rid of us.


Q: Could it be that the real reason behind the call for secession is Islamophobia, the fear of Islam and the Muslims, as implied the US support of this secession?

A: You keep talking about religion, and I tell you again that our struggle is not religious; it is nationalistic. We have nothing to do with Islamophobia in America.


Q: You said that you were not angry at the Northerners but at Al-Bashir government. Before Al-Bashir’s, there were governments led by: Ismail Al-Azhari, Abdalla Khalil, Ibrahim Abboud, Sir Al-Khatim Al-Khalifa, Mohamed Ahmed Mahgoub, Gaafar Nimeiri and Sadiq Al-Mahdi.  Despite problems and wars between the North and the South, the Sudan remained united. Why do you want to partition the country this time?

A: All of these governments subjugated the Southerners, killed them and expelled them from their lands. Let’s look at history: Al-Azhari refused to grant federation to the South, Abboud sent convoys of tanks to kill the Southerners, Nimeiri changed his mind about the autonomy of the South and imposed Islamic Sharia laws, Al-Mahdi refused to repeal the Islamic Sharia laws, and Al-Bashir declared Islamic Jihad in the South.


Q: What about the British attempts to partition the Sudan? Didn’t they impose the “Closed Areas” law in the South so as to stop the spread of Islam and the Arabic language? Didn’t’ they work days and nights to spread Christianity in the South?

A: There were many differences between the years when the Sudanese – Northerners and Southerners – worked together, as brothers, to get rid of the British rule, and the following years when the "brothers" in the North subjugated Southerners.


Q: Why is the anger?  Why do you want to partition the county because of past mistakes?  Some Northerners say that the Southerners are like "the husband who castrates himself because he is angry at his wife."

A: Our struggle is not because of anger but because of hope, not because of the past but because of the future.  We hope for a free and prosperous future.


Q:  If the south secedes, will you stay in Khartoum or move to the south?

A: At the present time, I live in my independent country, the Sudan, and when the South becomes independent, I will live in my independent country.


Q: What about the Northerners who are members of the SPLM? Will they stay in Khartoum or move to the South?

A: Ask them.


Q: Some of them seem to be confused, as they didn't expect the SPLM to call for secession.

A: I believe all members of the SPLM should follow the CPA and accept the result of the forthcoming referendum.


Q: Yes, however some of these Northerners joined the SPLM because it called for " Sudan Jadeed,” but now you want to partition the Sudan.

A: " Sudan Jadeed" can still be achieved if the South becomes an independent country.


Q: Will the Southerners support unity or secession at the forthcoming referendum?

A: It has become clear that Al-Bashir government hasn't made unity appealing to the Southerners and, so, I expect the Southerners to vote for independence.


Q: President of the GOSS, Salva Kiir Mayardit recently said he was a unionist, but that “people don’t understand me.” Is he really a unionist?

A: Ask him.


Q: Are you a unionist or a separatist?

A: I am a nationalist.


Q: As the Secretary-General of the SPLM, why doesn't your party call for the Southern Sudanese to vote for unity so as to keep the Sudan united?

A: The CPA calls for the Southerners to determine their future.


Q: Yes, but the CPA also calls for all the parties to support unity.

A: Yes, but Al-Bashir government has not made unity an attractive prospect.


Q: On the day of the referendum, will you vote for unity or secession?

A: I am not going to tell you how I will vote.


Q: OK. What will your feelings be upon entering the voting booth?

A: That the day of freedom has arrived; freedom for my children and grand-children. That the days of subjugation and repression are finally gone


Q: By which you mean you intend to vote for secession?

A: I didn't say that.


Q: Why do you want to divide this great state of Sudan?

A: You mean the failed state of Sudan?


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