Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 26 June 2017

South Sudan: Lament of diminished hopes


By Dennis Lissa

In the lonely town of Buggari in Western Bahr El Ghazel, stands a flag in the middle of government square. The flag is fading in colour and partially torn. It waves sadly wherever the wind blows. It no longer has the strength to carry the weight of the meaning of colours it bears. From far, it looks weary and ready to give up on itself. But this was once the flag —the flag of South Sudan—under which the hope for the future was echoed; the flag under which the school children stand and chorused with one accord, “Land of great abundance”. But to people’s disbelief, it has turned to be the land of hunger, chaos, and broken dreams. It no longer produces fruits of hope and prosperity. It has turned to be a land where tribes are divided by streams of blood rather than water.

Looking back on soaring hopes, revolutionary ideals, and dream of equality, one will pause and ask what has happened to South Sudan? Was the separation of South Sudan from Sudan a bad idea? Is it too late to claim unity with Sudan again? To answer these questions, it is worthy to explore the revolutionary ideas that sprang out of South Sudan and juxtapose them against the National Islamic Front ideals of the 1990s; and the dynamics of events on the international theatre during the time of referendum.

The SPLA, which became a dominant force in South Sudan, started with a quest of why Sudan has been at war with itself since its independence. According to John Garang, Sudan has failed to find a formula that unites all its ethnic groups. He pointed out that elites in the north aspired to create a theocratic state by excluding other parameters that make up Sudan. This, Garang warned, will lead to the total breakup of the Sudan. For Sudan to be intact, he suggested, a creation of secular “New Sudan” where all the religions and ethnic groups are recognised. Contrary to popular belief, Garang did not aspire to have independent South Sudan. According to him, Africanism in opposition to Arabism will only lead to more poverty and misery.

Despite the strength of the “New Sudan” ideology which has afforded Garang regional and international recognition, it wasn’t fully understood my Southerners. To them, it was like a pie in the sky. A dream that was too big for them! As a result, most Southerners took up arms for other reasons that are not based on the “New Sudan” ideology. It became clear that the idea that came out of South Sudan was stronger than Southerners themselves!

Unlike South Sudan, in the north where ideological affiliation is stronger, elites here embraced a weaker ideological bent based on religion. The National Islamic Front (NIF), throughout its tenure in power, believed that Islam is the only solution to Sudanese’s predicaments. In fact, the party went as far as promoting global Jihad, create instabilities in neighbouring countries, and imposed Islam on Sudanese citizens by coercion. However, the NIF’s ideology did not reflect the reality of Sudan. By all standards, it could not hold Sudan together. It became a prime recipe for session as Arabism and Islam, and unity are mutually exclusive.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, it became clear to the international community that Sudan was emerging as a threat to global security. It was in the interest of the West to ensure that the Islamists in Khartoum were ousted or at least weakened. South Sudan by default became a political pressure point. Most of these countries did not care whether South Sudan was ready for independence or not. It was all about their security. Thus, when South Sudanese were going for the referendum, most of these countries ensured independence was the ultimate outcome. Sadly, the Southern Sudanese people’s choice of sovereignty has unearthed harsh realities whose imprint on the country will remain for many years to come.

In the ghost town of Buggari, a boy came out of hiding. He looks pale, hungry, and weary. There was nobody to comfort him. He looked at the flag but it was weary too. Above the flag, there was a thick smoke of cloud. Suddenly, a relief plane appears. But it could not land or drop food because of the thick cloud. It seems like all the hopes are hanging up in the air! He looked down and remembered Garang’s speech he and his father heard over the radio many years ago; that “peace will bless us once more with hearing the happy giggling of children and the enchanting ululation of women who are excited in happiness for one reason or another.” But these dreams have departed him. He then sadly looked up in the cloudy sky and prayed with all his might” Oh God, bless South Sudan!”

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