Op ed

Sudan: To Be or Not To Be

Sudan is one of the countries that will always remain indispensable in the African continent. It’s not just because a most renowned African civilisation, the ancient Nubian society once flourished there, or that it is the biggest African country; Sudan is of special important to Africa, both due to its strategic position and what it represents, historically and culturally. It’s equally important as a major destination for African scholars and historians who must dig up the remains of ancient Nubians, in order to authenticate the histories of African people.

Yet, Sudan is one of the countries in Africa that have hardly known peace, especially since these last few decades. Civil wars, genocides, religious scheming; some have even documented what they called “the Sudanese ethnic cleansing”, and those who claim to be the (international) watchdog for human rights have said it will never happen again.

Now the cloud is gathering once more and the indications are spreading both fear and deep apprehensions about the future of this African country.

“The upcoming 2010 elections and 2011 referendum in Sudan are the culminating events of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the National Congress Party and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement.  However, looking at 2011 and beyond, there is increasing concern that Sudan may revert to violence rather than move forward toward the sustainable peace envisioned by the CPA…”

At October 2009 when the United States Institute of Peace made the above report, some people would have concluded that it was still too early to judge. The vast African country is now a month and few days away from facing one of its most vital moments as a country, the referendum to decide the independence of southern Sudan.

“As January 9 approaches tension continues to escalate with accusations of voter intimidation, disputed bombings along the border and a wave of aggressive rhetoric stoking uncertainty on both sides of the still contested north-south border…,” Reuters, last Saturday, 4th December, 2010.

Below is an appeal by a Sudanese artist and advocate, Emmanuel Jal. He was a child soldier during the last Sudanese civil war, between the north and south of the country.

“My country is on the brink of war. On January 9, Southern Sudan will vote for its independence to be free from a government who has slaughtered and displaced our people for 43 years. The country is currently led by a regime bent on controlling oil resources.  80% of Sudan’s oil fields are in the south, making it a prime battleground to displace our indigenous people.  Both north and south are preparing for war, leaving innocent people at grave risk of major human rights violations. The last civil war between North and South claimed over 2 million lives, including my own mother. I have firsthand experience as a war child, forced to fight in the conflict and torn from my family. The time to prevent another genocide is now. I have a written a new single called “We Want Peace”.  It is a call for peace, protection and justice for all in my land, and also for an end to conflicts affecting innocent people all around the world. Thank you for joining me in my struggle.”

Come to think of it; what does independent Sudan or the united Sudan really mean?

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader while serving as the head of African Union last years was advocating for the united states of Africa. Whether his proposal was merely political or he truly meant what he said, especially that he latter called for the partitioning of Nigeria along ethnic or religious lines, people must understand that no singular African country is too big or so culturally complicated that it cannot be governed by one central government.

Instead, in Sudan, like Nigeria or Congo, there are enormous natural resources that there is no easier way to reap off those natural resources for the benefit of the capitalist Europe an America without playing ethnic and religious politics in those African countries.

In essence, whether Sudan remains one country or end up divided into one hundred countries, few questions will remain central. Are the local leaders truly ready to defend the interests and survival of their own people; are they willing to make little sacrifices, to shun the alluring proposals of moneybags western politicians and businessmen so that the local resources can be use to develop the local community? This is where the argument lies.

The problem of Sudan, like in many other African countries is not the geopolitical or cultural complicity of the country; it’s rather more of a leadership problem and the non-accountability of the leaders to the local people.

So, since it’s usually the failure at the central entity which causes its components to disintegrate, African leaders should defend the interests and survivals of their own citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origins, then those same citizens will reciprocate by protecting their national unity and collective aspirations as a people.

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