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SPLM and the imperative of internal dialogue

The Imperatives of Internal Dialogue: The SPLM and Returning to the Drawing Board


By Elwathig Kameir

December 23, 2009 — As I underlined in my open letter to Dr. Ghazi Salaheldin (Alhadath, Alrayaam, July 2009), national duty binds both partners in power, the NCP and SPLM, by virtue of their leadership of this historically most critical phase in the history of modern Sudan, as well as all the rest of the political forces, to initiate serious, sincere, and open dialogue regarding the equation of unity and separation. I also called on the ruling partners to undertake an objective assessment of where each party had succeeded, or failed, in the implementation of programs and polices in order to render unity “attractive” as obligated by both the CPA and the Interim Constitution. It is imperative for each partner to clearly define its position on the unity of the country, earnestly discuss the obstacles and impediments standing in the way, and ensure the required guarantees are in place. Otherwise, both partners will be held responsible for pushing southerners to vote in favor of separation, and thus should be prepared to endure the implications of their respective policies on the fate of the Sudan and its people. In reading the position of each partner on the unity of the country, I drew on an anecdote made by the late leader Dr. John Garang in his assessment of a certain comrade’s position regarding the Nasir split in which he said “This comrade has one foot with the splinters and the other with us, but his “big” foot is with the splinters!” (Abidjan, February 1992) Similarly, it seems for the attentive observer that each of the partners has one foot in the position of unity, while the other is in the position of separation, but they both have their “big” foot in the position of separation!

The symposium on ‘Unity and Self-determination” jointly organized by the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the Future Trends Foundation in Khartoum (2-3 November 2009), probably marked the first serious endeavor to explore and gauge the intentions of the ruling partners on the question of unity and engage them in a meaningful debate with the objective of, at least, reversing the situation by moving the “big” foot to the position of unity. The symposium was organized at a time when both feet of the SPLM almost swayed to the position of separation following the statements of the Movement’s Chairman at a Cathedral in Juba (November 1st 2009), which sparked a surge of violent verbal exchanges between leading figures on each side of the partnership. The skirmish further widened the gap between the two partners and precipitated a tense and volatile political atmosphere ridden with the exchange of mutual accusations, as each partner blamed the other for leading the country towards separation. In an appreciated attempt for bridging the gap and bringing back the partners on track in order to complete the implementation of the CPA, a necessary task for maintaining the country’s stability, sustaining peace, and paving the ground for a peaceful exchange of power, the organizers of the symposium invited two distinguished leaders, at the political and executive levels, from both sides (Ghazi Salaheldin and Deng Alor), to engage in the debate on the equation of unity vs. separation. Dr. Francis Deng was also invited in a bid to provide the participants, particularly the two partners, with a vision for reconciling unity and self-determination, which might assist them in narrowing their differences in a way that would have a positive impact on the results of the forthcoming referendum. All this effort, however, did not succeed in averting the confrontation and the strongly-worded exchange of criticisms, between the Foreign Minister and the Presidential advisor, in which Deng Alor heatedly called for a “peaceful divorce” between the north and the south. For him, the insistence on preserving the Islamic laws had destroyed the last hope in keeping the country united.

Against this backdrop, in my opinion the most important outcome of the symposium exercise is that it has demonstrated the urgent need for diligent study, painstaking research, and meaningful dialogue on the real dimensions of two options: unity and separation, and the implications of each of them, particularly the deleterious impact of separation, internally and within the ranks of the various political forces, especially the two partners in power. I am inclined to think that dialogue between these forces has to date remained unproductive and fruitless due to the lack of internal strategic discourse, going beyond the mere negotiations over immediate gains of power and wealth, within the structures of these forces. This is why I strongly believe that both the NCP and SPLM are in dire need of serious dialogue and candid discussion within their respective institutions, and amongst the grassroots, in order to make the interaction between them more constructive and effective, and produce fruitful results that would spare our country the evils of wars and disintegration!

This paper argues that such a dialogue denotes a profound challenge, in particular for the SPLM as it prepares itself to face up to two impending momentous events: elections and the self-determination referendum. Dialogue, therefore, remains the most appropriate and only approach for clarifying the Movement’s position on the unity of the country through articulating an unambiguous strategy and political program based on the Manifesto that was approved by the Second National Convention in May 2008.


The SPLM is obliged to immediately initiate internal dialogue, even if it is late, due to a mixed blend of objective (and subjective) factors:

• The vision of the SPLM for the country was stipulated from the beginning, to be the creation of a united Sudan, albeit on new bases: a New Sudan. Since then, the Movement has consistently translated the vision into strategies and policies, even following the adoption of self-determination as a twin objective at the First National Convention in 1994.

• It is the New Sudan vision that has guided the struggle of the Movement since its inception in 1983 against all forms of governments in Khartoum and informed its alliance with the rest of the political forces in the country. The objectives, mission and political program of the SPLM, throughout the period 1983-2005, were all premised on the tenets of this Vision, which also provided the correct tools of analysis that enabled the Movement to successfully diagnose the internal political situation, with both its regional and international ramifications.

• Most importantly, the New Sudan vision remains the source of the growing popular support that the Movement has been able to garner all over the Sudan, particularly in the North. Thus, the membership of the SPLM has a national character and is not restricted to southerners only, but embraced large numbers from the north, the west, the east, and the centre. It also included both those who joined in the armed struggle, and those who opted for political resistance in support of the Movement’s objectives. Indeed, large sectors of the Sudanese see the SPLM as the only organized political force with a clear vision.

• Above all, it is the SPLM that called for the right of self-determination following the Nasir split, and was consequently adopted by the Torit Conference in September 1991 as a negotiation position with the Sudan government, until it was endorsed by the First National Convention in April 1994.


However, the Nasir split was not the first rift within the ranks of the SPLM. There are, and have always been, differences. In fact, disagreements have occurred, degenerating into violent confrontations at various historical junctures in the evolution of the SPLM. Thus, the vision of the New Sudan, and the adoption of objectives and programs consistent with it, had its difficulties and troubles in the early days of the Movement. Some leaders of the SPLM and some Anya-Nya Commanders splintered on the grounds of fighting for an independent Southern Sudan. The Nasir episode, however, led the northerners in the SPLM/A to wonder whether the Movement had abandoned its commitment to its long-held objective of the united New Sudan, the very goal that attracted them to the SPLM in the first place. Thus, the northerners felt that they were threatened by the call for self-determination, with the purpose of separation. They were arguing “we joined the SPLM and sacrificed and now people are going in a different direction”. So, they sat together with the late Chairman of the Movement, and some other leaders, during November-December 1994, in a place called, ironically, Jabal Anya-Nya 1, to find an answer for the question then posed; if the southerners separated, then what do we do? In addition to these meetings, the First SPLM/A National Convention sufficiently addressed these fears and confusion through open debate and subsequent resolutions. The Convention also debated all issues of concern to the movement and its future direction, especially in the aftermath of the split of 1991, and correctly addressed the issue of Self-determination as a people’s right that does not contradict the SPLM objective of a united democratic New Sudan, but on the contrary enhances it. It was, thus, resolved in unequivocal terms that the establishment of the New Sudan and the achievement of the right to and exercise of self-determination as two principal objectives of the Movement. Indeed, accurately perceived, the New Sudan can only be achieved through the mechanism of self-determination i.e. through the free will of the Sudanese people.

The late Chairman of the SPLM was forthright in his approach and understanding of the right of self-determination as a tool for achieving “voluntary” unity of the country. In his words “when we talk about self-determination, even in the NDA charters, it is in a very deep sense that the unity of the country, the New Sudan itself, must be achieved through self-determination, by who? By the Sudanese people themselves. So, when people talk about the unity of the Sudan in emotional terms that it is threatened, one begins to wonder whether they mean what they are saying or they know what they are saying”. The ensuing debate during the First Convention, therefore, reaffirmed that the realization of the vision of the New Sudan, brought about either through a combination of armed struggle and urban popular uprisings or a politically negotiated settlement, is key to the attainment of freedom, equality and justice for the Sudanese people. The Convention, thus, put the SPLM on the right path towards achieving the objective of building the democratic New Sudan, and converging with the rest of the political forces in the north. In other words, the 1994 Convention aimed at developing a robust and rejuvenated SPLM/A that is capable of impacting the totality of the situation so as to bring about a fundamental change in the entire country.

Therefore, notwithstanding the adoption of the right of self-determination following the Nasir split in 1991, which also cast doubt on the feasibility and viability of achieving the New Sudan vision, the genuine and sincere dialogue that took place before, during, and in the aftermath of the First Convention, enabled the SPLM leadership to articulate a comprehensive strategy to realize the unity of the Sudan on new bases, which eventually led to the conclusion of the CPA as a major milestone on the road to the New Sudan.


With the commencement of the CPA implementation and the tragic departure of the late Dr. John Garang at the end of July 2005, however, the SPLM orientation, policies, and contradictory statements of its leadership, regarding the unity of the country, in the context of the intense power struggle, have exacerbated the suspicions of the grassroots of Movement’s sincerity and commitment to its declared objective. Besides, in the absence of strategy and lack of clear programs and policies to this effect, the SPLM found itself engulfed with the partner in power in disputes over the spoils of wealth and power, while relied on inertia in dealing with the post-CPA political reality, thus overlooking basic facts on the ground:

- To start with, the CPA incorporates several aspects of the New Sudan Vision, as dubbed by the late SPLM Chairman a “Mini-New Sudan”. Although it is essentially a political compromise between the SPLM and the NCP, the Agreement provides us with the required framework for the continued pursuit of the objective of the New Sudan through purely political means as opposed to the pre-CPA combination of military (and political) methods. Thus, the new political reality consequent upon the CPA provides the SPLM with a golden opportunity to translate its vision of the New Sudan into a working political program, and to build alliances with like-minded forces.

- The CPA is not merely predicated on trust of the NCP, or other northern political forces. It is premised on the SPLM/A being an equal partner in its implementation. We should not be worried that the NCP might renege on the Agreement, because the SPLM/A will not allow them to. In the past the question was: what will the north do? What will Khartoum give to the south? The question is rather: what can we all do? The creation of the New Sudan in the context of the post-CPA situation will depend on what we all do during the interim period.

- The CPA’s “one country-two systems” was modeled on the SPLM proposal of confederal arrangements (Abuja 1993), with the objective of giving a chance for the two partners and the rest of the Sudanese political forces, for that matter, to rethink during the extended interim period how to maintain and sustain the unity of the country in the long run.

- The only route for sustaining the unity of the Movement, thus the unity of the Sudan at large, is through genuine adherence to the New Sudan vision at the program and policy levels, and vigorous engagement in national politics. For the aspirants for either unity or separation of the south, their respective objectives would not be met through withdrawal or retreat from the center of power, where the fate of land and people has been, and is determined!

- Paradoxically, even the “southern nationalists” would harvest the wind at the end of the day if the SPLM failed in making use of the powers, at the national level, accorded to it by the CPA. This is simply because the self-determination referendum has to pass through the gate of elections. The outcome of those elections would be disastrous for the SPLM, as well as for the cause of the “southern nationalists”, if it failed to secure a comfortable representation in the national parliament. Otherwise, the CPA will turn into Addis Ababa Agreement II.

- Elections (Free and Fair), therefore, add yet another national responsibility to the SPLM to initiate a process of national dialogue and political discourse with all the political and social forces. The objective is to arrive at a social contract that encompasses issues of the CPA, national reconciliation and democratic transformation as a basis of national consensus. Indeed, “Nationalism” is not a “northern” phenomenon!

- In the context of operationalizing the New Sudan Vision, something that is already long overdue, the SPLM should use Southern Sudan, where it enjoys near total control, to demonstrate how it would go about nationally pursuing the goals of (i) ’Restructuring power’, (ii) ’Democratic Governance and Human Rights’ and (iii) ’Equal and Sustainable Development’.

ISSUES FOR DIALOGUE: A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the signing of the CPA as far as the organizational and institutional aspects of the SPLM are concerned. Most importantly, the SPLM has gained large numbers of members and supporters in the various states of Northern Sudan, including in Darfur. These are supporters whose minds and hearts have become captivated by the New Sudan Vision. The unprecedented reception of the late leader on 8th July 2005 is the best witness for this surge towards the SPLM. Meanwhile, the SPLM ventured into developing its organizational and institutional structures in the process of its transformation from a military and regional movement into a national political entity in the context of the transition from war to peace. The convening of the Second National Convention in May 2008, fourteen years after the first one, left the doors wide open for the participation of SPLM members from all the states in the north, the Northern Sector being represented with one third of the convention’s members totaling over one thousand five hundred.

The Convention presented a long awaited opportunity to which the movement’s grassroots, especially supporters of unity whether northerners or southerners, aspired in order to participate in a serious and transparent dialogue on the critical issues related to the evolution of the movement and its transition from a military-based organization to a political party, that can lead economic, social and cultural transformation, and achieve the country’s unity on a new bases, all this in the shadow of a general discomfort due to the ambiguity in the position of the leaders of the movement regarding the unity of the country. In reality, the organized membership of the movement and its supporters (who have given it the benefit of the doubt) are somewhat confused since the “ghost” of separation keeps them awake as they ask: Has the movement deserted the vision of the New Sudan? They joined the Movement in the quest for a new united Sudan, yet they find themselves as if swimming against the tide. Contrary to expectations, however, the agenda of the Convention and its outcomes proved disappointing. The Convention was successful in settling the internal power struggle in an amicable and democratic fashion and was able to preserve the Movement’s unity and consolidate its leadership, in addition to endorsing the constitution. However, notwithstanding the consensus on the vision of the New Sudan and though the Manifesto was passed by acclamation, yet the Vision was not translated into strategies, or detailed programs and policies, that could guide daily political activity and on which the Movement’s electoral manifesto or program could be based. Until the writing of the present paper, none of these documents has been circulated for discussion and dialogue, nor has the National Liberation Council been convened to approve strategies, programs, and policies. The SPLM grassroots and supporters of the country’s unity among northerners (ethnically and geographically) and southerners harbor many questions searching for answers, and find themselves helpless, and feel embarrassed in responding to the endless queries of both friends and foes about the position of the Movement on issues of unity and separation, self determination and the referendum. Therefore, serious and frank dialogue that embraces the participation of the Movement grassroots, from all nationalities, regions and political shades, is the only entry point for dealing with these issues and finding the answers to the questions raised:

ii. UNITY AND THE RIGHT TO SELF DETERMINATION: Reconciling these two objectives represents the major challenge faced by the SPLM, by virtue of its vision and the nature of its membership. The success in advocating a policy that assigned priority to the unity of Sudan since its foundation in 1983 and up to the signing of the CPA in 2005, calls for the leadership of the Movement to follow an unambiguous strategy that reconciles the two seemingly contradictory objectives and reflects the aspirations of its grassroots spread all over the Sudan, including those who yearn for unity in the South. While the demand for the right of self determination, before and during the first Convention in 1994, took place on a ’’theoretical’’ level, the “actual exercise” of this right is now looming just around the corner. Thus, regardless of the endorsement in the first Convention of a clear strategy towards the building of the New Sudan, and despite the small numbers of Northerners at the time, yet their mere fear of the imposition of self determination into the Movement’s agenda (with the purpose of separation), following the Torit conference in 1991, represented a grave concern for the leadership. Thus, the apprehension of northerners in the SPLM led the late Chairman, with the participation of some of the Movement’s leadership, into a series of discussions and debates, both during and after the Convention, over the span of two months (November and December 1994) with the aim of further arriving at specific proposals supporting the unity objective of the Movement. This contrasts with the situation now when all indications show that separation is inevitable, in addition to the fact that all northerners, in the various states that fall under the jurisdiction of the Northern Sector, constitute one third of the membership of both the National Convention and the National Liberation Council, and more so the serious consequences of separation this time will impact the Movements grassroots in the Nuba mountains and the Ingessana whose population constituted fodder for the armed struggle for the New Sudan. Therefore, the question becomes: is the right of self determination synonymous with separation or is it a mechanism to achieve either unity or separation? If self determination is synonymous or tantamount to separation it would appear that the SPLM is striving to achieve two contradictory objectives: separation and unity of Sudan! However, if self determination is a mechanism, how it is used in favor of either objective remains in the hands of the political forces that had originally called for the exercise of the right. In this regard, has the Movement endeavored to undertake a feasibility study on the impact of each of the two options (unity and separation) on the future of the political, security and economic situations in the South and on the life of the Southern citizen, or managed a dialogue on the content and substance of the separatist cause? For instance, the CPA bestows on the South unprecedented constitutional and institutional powers and authority in the political and economic domains, and ensures the participation of Southerners, proportional to the population of the South, in the federal system of rule. Moreover, perhaps more importantly, the CPA constitutionally endorses citizenship rights for all Sudanese, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, as the basis for public office eligibility, including the presidency of the Republic.

Though some of these hard-won gains and rights sanctioned by the Interim Constitution have not seen the day light, in the shadow of a reality dominated by political and institutional roadblocks, cultural prejudices, and social barriers, yet the political struggle for making citizenship rights a living reality will continue and will not be consummated with the end of the interim period. This struggle will endure even after the general elections and the ratification of the permanent constitution. Thus, we should not allow despair to take its grip and stand in the way of continuing the political struggle towards building the Sudanese citizenship state, based on equal rights and duties. Americans of African origin waited for their turn to reach the Presidency for more than two centuries until finally it came to fruition with the election of the forty fourth President. They did not allow the bitter conflict and protracted struggle for their civil rights to lead them to abandoning the cloak of the American Union. Indeed, the late Dr. John Garang counted on the dynamic nature of the SPLM and its capacity of interaction, including the building of alliances with the rest of the political forces in the North, to realize the long-cherished goal of change and transformation and to achieve full equality in rights and obligations. In turn, this leads me to discussing the Movement’s position on the Self-determination Referendum!

iii. POSITION ON THE REFERENDUM: The “mundane" response that unity constitutes the Movement’s preferred option, whereas it is the people of the South who will decide on this in the upcoming referendum, as an answer provided by the SPLM leadership to any question in this regard, is hardly convincing and remains unsatisfactory. In all contemporary experiences where the right to self determination has been demanded (Quebec in Canada, Eritrea, East Timor, Eastern Europe), movements or political parties championing the cause of this right started from a “separatist” perspective calling for the establishment of independent states for the peoples that these forces represent. In other words, these forces used the referendum for the right to self determination as a mechanism or tool to achieve the objective of separation, but more so to advertise for it through organized publicity campaigns, as is the case in any competitive electoral process with each party proselytizing for its position. Such practice is not in contradiction with the fact that people and citizens are the ones who in the end decide the outcome of the referendum or election. In contrast, the SPLM is a movement with a national character, which has spearheaded the struggle for the unity of the country (albeit on new bases), and its membership embraces different nationalities and peoples of Sudan. It is curious therefore, that if only Southerners have the right to participate in the Referendum, should the remaining membership of the Movement be deprived of even advocating for unity among their comrades, let alone amongst the non-SPLM members in the south? Besides, will the SPLM as a political organization, accommodating all nationalities, adopt a neutral position without pronouncing its stance, at least to make people aware of the pros and cons that each of the options (unity and separation) entails for southerners? Is not adopting a neutral position in itself a declared position in support of separation, albeit covertly, for a movement that has continued to promote and struggle, for over two decades, to achieve voluntary unity? This further begs the question: how will the Movement treat its position on the unity of the country in its electoral program?

On the other hand, Southerners have carried arms and have fought and sacrificed tremendously for over twenty years under the banner of the New Sudan, but did the people of the south decide, on their own volition, to pay such a high price and make all these sacrifices for the sake of this Vision? Or did the leadership of the SPLM lead them in this direction? Ironically, these same leaders have always and repeatedly declared that the first bullets the SPLA fired actually targeted the separatists within the Movement? It is the political leadership that shapes the minds of ordinary individuals and influences their thinking and behavior. Thus, it behooves on the leadership to create awareness of the option that is in the interest, and to the advantage of southerners. Separatists themselves remain accountable and responsible in front of their peoples to explain their point of view concerning the independent Southern state and how separation will serve their interests and meet their expectations. Hopefully they will reflect and learn the lessons from what the late leader Dr. Jon Garang said, namely that Sudan belongs to all Sudanese and, therefore, it is the responsibility of southerners to play their part as necessary for bringing about change in the entire Sudan as he stated “we cannot allow ourselves to be reduced to a mere fossilized regional sub-species”.

iii. ATTRACTIVE UNITY: The term “attractive unity” was coined by the mediators of the peace process in Machakos with the purpose of alluring southerners to vote in favor of unity following the stalemate over reaching an agreement on sources of legislation and a unified legal system. The “one country-2 systems” model was, thus, premised on the assumption that such interim and “provisional” arrangements provide space for promoting and fostering Sudanese commonality during an interim period that would eventually lead to “A Transformed Democratic Sudan”. Though the northern political forces, in particular the NCP, assume the lion’s share of the responsibility for transcending the interim dual system of laws, the CPA obliges the SPLM (as well as the NCP) to seriously work for making unity “attractive” so that southerners would freely opt for unity. Thus, while southern politicians, outside the SPLM, are free to mobilize during the interim period, support for separation, the SPLM and its cadres are obliged to work towards making unity attractive. This is an obligation that the SPLM cannot shun without seriously flouting the CPA. Besides, the SPLM as a revolutionary movement struggling for change, and by virtue of its vision, and the national character of its membership and supporters, is also obliged to promote its concept of unity on new bases. In fact, the demand of the SPLM for an effective presence in legislative and executive institutions throughout Northern Sudan, and its participation in the governance of those states for the duration of the pre-elections period, was made with the objective of making it possible for the Movement to advocate for the unity of Sudan. Indeed, in the words of the Movement’s leader in his 22nd SPLM/A Anniversary Address “The CPA enables the SPLM to retain its national character and to expand all over the Sudan. The SPLM shall consolidate itself in Southern Sudan where we shall have 70% of power and in the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile where we shall have 45% of power. The SPLM shall also have 10% of power in all the remaining 15 States of the North. With the consolidation of the SPLM in Southern Sudan and its expansion and consolidation in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and the other States of the North, the SPLM clearly has the potential to become the majority party in the coming national elections at all levels – local, state and national”.

In this regard, what are the main features of the SPLM elections manifesto or program? What is the nature of the Movement’s political alliances that would lead to making unity attractive? In other words, what is the objective of the SPLM in contesting the elections? Is it the mere adherence to the CPA provisions, while impatiently waiting for the self-determination referendum and ultimately the secession of the south, or the genuine participation in the process of democratic transformation towards building the Sudanese citizenship-state, thus fulfilling the expectations and aspirations of the Movement’s grassroots and supporters? On the other hand, has the SPLM ever initiated serious and open dialogue or brainstorming over the true meaning of “attractive” unity, or attempted to define its own responsibilities and what it could really do in this respect? Has the SPLM devised any plan or policy for making unity attractive? The Movement, therefore, can be accused of half-heartedly supporting unity, thus, covertly harboring separatist inclinations. Thus, it seems to the membership and supporters of the SPLM, especially in the north, as if the Movement has replaced the New Sudan vision and the Manifesto with the CPA and has withdrawn into a cocoon, waiting for secession of the South, instead of using the Agreement as a launching pad, which in reality that is all that it is, to achieve its grand objective: the united New Sudan. Thus, if unity is unattractive in the eyes of some, what is attractive about separation?

iii. THE STATE AND RELIGION: The signing of the Machakos Protocol and the following Naivasha peace negotiations aroused suspicions and criticisms about the terms of the CPA. Subscribing to the “one country-two systems” was seen as a prelude to dividing up the country. It was felt that the SPLM had reneged on its position on the relation between the state and religion by agreeing to the maintenance of Sharia’a in the North. In the course of the response to these suspicions in the Introduction to my book (John Garang: Vision of the New Sudan and Rebuilding of the Sudanese State, 2005), I argued that this is a misreading of the outcome of the negotiations and a failure of understanding the logic and rules of these negotiations. To start with, the CPA is neither the program of the Movement nor is it the project that the NC aspired to realize. When it comes to negotiated settlements there is no winner or loser and no party is in a position to impose its will completely. In the particular context of the Sudanese conflict, the SPLM/A, and for that matter the NDA, has not defeated the government, a precondition for repealing the existing laws, and moving on to a new Sudanese political dispensation. However, since then, the SPLM has been completely silent on the relation between religion and the state, and has hardly ever discussed the issue, which did not help in wiping out these accusations. In fact, suspicions were probably aggravated by the intervention of Deng Alor at the UNMIS symposium in which he avowed “why people are surprised when a southerner says that he (or she) is a second class citizen under an Islamic government”? Many observers, including SPLM supporters, did not take what Deng has said seriously, but considered it a sort of political expediency, since the issue has not been raised during the past five years that followed the signing of the CPA. Moreover, overlooking the issue throughout this period led many people to suspect the SPLM Northern Sector as a mere (branch) of a (southern) movement, and as such is shouldered alone with the responsibility of separating religion from the state in the (state of northern Sudan) as long as this objective has been realized in the constitution of (southern Sudan), as if the Movement leadership is saying (what have we to do with the north!)?

The “Juba All Political Parties Conference” would have been the appropriate forum for discussing this question, but the SPLM did not seek reaching a consensus on the future of the Sharia laws and ensuring citizenship rights. As I explained in earlier writings, more than one breakthrough was realized on the most contentious issues of citizenship, on the one hand, and the relation between the state and religion, on the other, between the SPLM and the religion-based forces in the north. These breakthroughs started with the Sudan Peace Initiative (Mirghani-Garang) in 1988, followed by the NDA resolutions in Nairobi in 1993, and then the Asmara Conference on Fundamental Issues in 1995. Ironically, though the NIF (later the NCP) is the only political party that did not participate in, or even blessed, this dialogue, yet it was also able to achieve a breakthrough in the negotiations with the SPLM, regardless of its adverse impact on the unity of the country. Thus, first the NCP accepted the DOP of IGAD in 1994, and later signed the Machakos Protocol in 2002, on which the present legal system(s) is premised. Thus, dialogue between the SPLM and the rest of the political forces, including the NCP, constitutes the first option for reaching a consensus and to rise above the issues that divide us. Elections represent the second route provided by the CPA to transcend the obstacles inherent in the “one country-2 systems” model. The SPLM is aware that law-making, including repealing laws, is a along and complex process and not an event. What has not been achieved in the CPA is subject to be revisited and modified through the general elections, since the issue of laws for the National Capital has been deferred to the elected national parliament, and therefore all political forces that want to move forward the agenda of civil laws have a fighting chance in that parliament. Indeed, Article 2.4.5 of the CPA regarding Agreement on the National Capital, where Sharia’a law and its application in the National Capital reads “Without prejudice to the competency of any National Institution (Parliament) to promulgate laws”, implying that parliament can promulgate any law, including secular laws.

All of the above begs a legitimate query: Will the position on the relation between religion and state constitute one of the measures that will guide the articulation of the SPLM electoral manifesto, in addition to mapping its electoral alliances and determining its allies? Or is the call by the SPLM for the abrogation of these laws, as one of the necessary and imperative conditions for ending the war, a sheer pretext to advance the right of self determination as a first step, to be used subsequently as a raison d’être for separation when the time comes to decide on this right through the Referendum? This is precisely what was impressed on people’s minds through Deng Alor belated statement on the issue of the state and religion!

iv. MARGINALIZED AREAS: Undoubtedly the expected secession of the South will precipitate potentially explosive situations in the two areas of Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Southern Blue Nile (Ingessana), especially if we take into consideration the two partners’ conflicting interpretation of the meaning and substance of "popular consultation"" as stipulated in the special protocol for these areas in the CPA (Protocol on the Resolution of Conflict in Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states). These two areas hold exceptional significance for the SPLM: not only are they are bordering the south, but in addition large numbers of their population were the first in the geographical north to initiate joining the SPLM/A since the beginning, and have dearly sacrificed a lot throughout the liberation war, besides constituting two of the five liberated areas which fell within the administration of the New Sudan in the pre-CPA era. Moreover, separation of the south would diminish the chances of achieving a New Sudan, where all citizens are equal in rights and duties, or even of preserving the old or the present version of Sudan. This predicament relegates the grassroots of the SPLM in these two (transitional) areas into a state of flux and disappointment.

v. The SPLM: WHERETO? If brainstorming has taken place on the future of Southern Sudan in the post 2011 period, through convening many seminars and symposia for this purpose both within and outside Sudan, it is equally pertinent to commence a deep dialogue and frank discussion on the present status of the SPLM and future scenarios.

This contribution has aimed at candidly expressing my opinion that a fundamental cause with the enormity and weight of the unity/ separation problematic in Sudan necessarily calls for a deep dialogue within the ranks of all the Sudanese political forces, and among their grassroots. This is a concern that causes anxiety and insomnia, on daily basis, for the enthusiasts of the country’s unity. As such, there is no option to unravel this equation other than the engagement of all and the participation of everyone in an open and genuine dialogue. The intervention focused on the imperative for such dialogue within the SPLM in particular due to objective and subjective factors, on top of which is the fact that it is the Movement that has originally called for the right of self determination at a certain phase in its historical evolution. Equally, however, this interactive dialogue must also take place within the NCP, as the senior partner in power, a prerequisite for reaching national reconciliation and a historical compromise that would preserve the interests of all stakeholders in the country. Likewise, the opposition political forces are obliged to expound their vision for preserving unity based on democracy, justice, and equality. In fact, this is precisely what the CPA is all about. So why not utilize the Agreement, as was actually intended, in a bid to build on and expand the commonalities between all national Sudanese forces supporting the restructuring of the Sudanese state on bases of citizenship rights, and denouncing all forms of chauvinism? The CPA is not an end in itself, but rather a means to reach this national reconciliation. Elections or the referendum are mere tools governing and streamlining this reconciliation! It is only this national reconciliation that would spare us the evils of external interventions!

Dr. Elwathig Kameir is a member of the SPLM Political Bureau. He can be reached at kameir@yahoo.com

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  • 24 December 2009 07:52, by Thyinka

    The Unity of Sudan is a lost cause Dr. Khameir. The real solution to the problem of Sudan is separation. Everybody wish that Sudan would be like South Africa where they did away with Apartheid and introduce participation based on merits and citizenship in public affairs. You talked about Addis Ababa agreement two. Well, as long as the vision of an Islamic Sudan is still alive and well in the North, the Arabs will be fought in the South for thousand years to come because they have no claim to Southern Sudan whatsoever and the era of colonialism is over.

    I sympathize with Northerners who supported the South during the war but they should not hold the South public captive because with them or without them, the war would still have been fought. There was no Northerners fighting in the South during Anya Anya I and it was that war that give birth to SPLA.

    The people of Southern Sudan will still support their brothers in the North in their fight for their rights and bring about the change that is required for peaceful co-existence of all Northerners. SPLM don’t even want to be part of this genocidal government. They are there because they have a political agenda to fulfill not that they believe this government is the best to lead the country into the future.

    If Northerners feel that they don’t like the Sharia Law system, why they don’t protest against it? Southerners fought against Sharia laws that is why it is no longer applicable in the South. In any case, Northerners who can’t be accommodated in the North will be welcomed in Southern Sudan. Just as anybody whom Southerners feel they can’t accommodate in the South because he was a traitor can be welcomed in the North by his/her former allies.

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    • 27 December 2009 07:30, by braveheart

      I agree with the author of the article 100%. Am still optimistic that Both the signing parties to the CPA could
      maintain the unity of the Sudan only if they choose agree on a common language of win and lose. All democracies have winners and losers. But only Sudan this rule is not yet learned.

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      • 29 December 2009 11:20, by ukech

        I agree with the author that there is a need for SPLM to initiate internal dialogue on the weighty issues raised in this article. But rather than starting with large number of people attending large seminars, the party must begin with small workshops bringing together a ’think tank’ of key membership and leaders who will to address those critical issues, including of course unity vs separation, SPLM’s elections platforms and manifesto and to extent these platforms and manifesto corresponds with the overall vision, strategies and policies of the party. Outcomes of such a small beginning will then be internal dialogue as such will then outline the direction further discussions st different levels of party’s structures and organs. What I intend to advance here is that we a need (as far as time would allow) a well structure, objective debate within the party structures.


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        • 2 January 2010 08:57, by Gatwech

          Dear readers,

          There is no time to waste in 2010 trying to discuss how to acommodate the two contradictory visions of unity and self-determination as long as the choice of the people of South Sudan is concerned.

          If there is any need for SPLM internal dialogue on these issues as some northern members seem to demand, it should be the very future of SPLM Northern Sector in its struggle towards achieving whatever their sole aspiration is in the North. And this should be on how their ally in the South (SPLM) could continue to support them after separation in 2011.

          The modern SPLM is right by supporting the aspiration of the people of South Sudan. To force their direction (choice) towards unity would be undemocratic and unwise decision by the party.

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        • 6 January 2010 09:25, by gaidit

          I agree with SPLM to achieve their right this time.
          to author this your time to initiate internal dialogue on issues raised in this article.you people of splm pay attention this tank.

          thank you

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    • 21 January 2010 09:27, by Joseph Dut Gak

      Dr Khamier ! has put the right articles for those have or has no little about what is really happening and what had happened , these re most particles things.and those who re just barking can still contact them.

      with great thanks

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    • 5 February 2010 07:11, by Atem Deng malek

      The only knife to cut this rope between two big dogs is the separation of southern Sudan.

      Let work hard to make it so

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  • 7 January 2010 01:41, by Khalid Osman


    The last few years have been proven to be one of the most important years in Sudan’s history. The signing of the peace deal ending Africa longest civil war, and the upcoming referendum, which will dictate the future of Sudan, are the major points in our recent history. The intellectuals in the north and the south have failed to seize the opportunity to keep the momentum of the peace process to create the “new citizen”. As somebody from the north, I must admit the ugly history of our relation with the south. One must be honest to admit the systematic marginalization of the people of the south during the past decade. But I must also say that the level of the leadership shown by SPLM intellectuals was more disappointing; aside from the closed-door talks with the NCP, SPLM seemed less concern with Garang’s vision of the new united Sudan.
    I think SPLM didn’t keep the honorable memory of Granag’s dreams of building the new country. One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that we can eradicate the painful memory of the past in such a short period.
    Nation Building is a process that require patient that both of NCP and SPLM seem to lake and understand. I never thought that the bitterness of the past was so strong to make these two parties forget their own purpose. I respect the right of the people of the south to have their own country but I truly think that both of the north and the south will regret this step. People in the south need to understand that the so-called “separation” advocates don’t see the big picture.
    I’m stunned by some folks who insist that southern Sudan is more culturally connected to Kenya, Uganda, and neighboring countries more than its connection to the north. It’s so sad that we don’t even know our history or even care to know. The scenario of the new country in south Sudan may create a temporary feeling of relief for some time but in the long run both sides will see the many side effect of this forced divorce. I will address some points that some of my critics usually point out in arguing for the independence of southern Sudan:
    • The appearance different in culture and religion
    While countries need a common bond to create its identity, the assumption of the necessity to share the same religion is not a valid assumption even in the Islamic way of thinking. In the worst-case scenario that assumes the current system of governing, I believe the country can hold its foot for a while. In the future the NCP may be no longer in power and the door of democracy may open again to improve the union at that point. It’s amazing that all of our leaders lack the vision of the future. Lets take a look at the U.S when the founding fathers wrote the constitution in 1778. Futures amendments were added to improve the constitution totaling up to 27 amendments. Have we thoughts about this? We need to learn, listen and adapt to be able to build our country. It’s the lack of vision and leadership that led us in the first place of creating society based on reactions. Our intellects draw their life learning lesson from their personal life experience; rather than putting the future of this country ahead of their own wake. I really question the lesson we learned from this long war beside knowing that war is the worst choice, not only did it destroyed our physical life but it also crippled our hopes and the way we look to the future.
    • The difference in the governing laws, ideology, and historic ties between the two side
    Despite all of these different, we’ve a lot in common. During my quest to get my degree, I had the chance to know so many people from the south and I can say despite all of the hesitation they had toward me, we maintained a good relationship. We don’t have to agree on every subject but we can still maintain a good base for dialogue.
    Sudan does not need to be two states in order for it to succeed; we need our own Mandela to lead us into the future. I hope that we have some silent majority in the south that agree with my point of view but I learned to keep my expectations low as much as I can. Will the history bring the next Mandela or will it repeat itself.

    Khalid Osman

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    • 24 January 2010 02:38, by jur_likang_a_ likan’g

      Mr Kameir’s article is full of substance and information about ways of how Jallaba Sudan nation can be saved from being disintigrated. As a northerner it is not a surprise to take those steps. He is concerned and worried that Southerners might choose to have their own nation after referendum is conducted in 2011. He is right to have those Northern Sudanese view points. However I beg him to pause and see where Southern Sudanese have come from in the history of the nation-state called Sudan. He should look at the cost of lives Southerners have paid to cement Unity of Sudan right after 1947 Juba Conference. More than two million lives lost and four million others languishing all over the world looking for settlement in peace that is denied to them in their ancestral land. Five decades of agony and dehumanisation is enough. I think the best solution to this issue is to live independently. SPLM as a party is standing for Unity of Sudan but then the referendum is a matter for individuals of South Sudan to decide on their destiny. As southerners Sudan was created without our clear view on its status. I believe 2011 will be the year for the views of Southerners on the matter of Unity and Independence. It is a time to tell the world that Religion and Politics should be separate. After all there is nothing for Northerners or Southerners to loose if they part since the two regions will at peace. A thing Sudan has lacked since its creation. I hope this will enable the two work for their developments. So please Kemeir support separation of South from your Islamic, arab Sudan.

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    • 24 January 2010 05:25, by ojok s. ojok

      Mr. Osman, did you forget the notion you guys have in the north, why worry about the south that is dark or for black people. Leave us alone so you guys can celebrate your Islamic culture freely b/c that is what you deserve.

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