Thursday, December 2, 2021

Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

When crossing a river in a boat do not quarrel for all may sink

By Jacob K. Lupai*

February 23, 2009 — The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 22-year old Sudan’s civil war between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) was tortuously negotiated. The chief negotiators were the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan (GOS). The former represented Southern Sudan and other marginalised areas of Sudan while the latter represented the conservative Arab Islamic Northern Sudan. However, the word comprehensive may be misleading. The peace could have been comprehensive if all the Sudanese political forces were signatories to the CPA. Nonetheless the Sudanese were left to make the best out of the situation. The response, fortunately, was positive as the other political forces were represented in the formation of the Government of National Unity (GONU) in Khartoum and in the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) in Juba.

“When crossing a river in a boat do not quarrel for all may sink” is about the pathetic situation in which the ordinary men and women in Southern Sudan find themselves. Four years on into the interim period of six years has elapsed with very few convincing tangible development outcomes that can be witnessed in a way of basic services as peace dividends. The Sudan’s civil war had a devastating toll in terms of loss of human life, displacement, and destruction of infrastructure and social fabric. It was therefore understandable that the CPA brought with it people’s high expectations for a better standard of living in overcoming the devastations of war and the neglect of human development in policies and programmes. With a vast natural resource base that would provide enormous development potential Southern Sudanese received the CPA with the highest of expectations as basic services were desperately lacking. The Sudan’s civil war was precisely fought because of unequal access to resources, economic opportunity and power. Increased concentration of political power and economic opportunities in the hands of a minority clique in the North was a fuel that perpetuated the Sudan’s civil war at the cost of millions of lives, enormous destruction of property and massive displacements of people from their ancestral lands.

The CPA ushered in an era of high expectations in development in Southern Sudan. Indeed the formation of the GOSS in July 2005 seemed to have even raised the people’s expectations higher. People were delighted that there was already a government that would take care of their welfare. The GOSS strategic focus would “support the SPLM’s vision of decentralised development and on policies and interventions designed to consolidate peace and deliver tangible benefits to the population on a broad base”. The SPLM “shall establish and base itself on the democratic path of development, which empowers and encourages active participation of all citizens at all levels…” According to the Vision of the SPLM, “the Movement system of democracy is broad based, inclusive and non-partisan, non-tribal, non-sectarian and shall conform to the principles of participatory and popular democracy, accountability and transparency …” The question to ask may be that, according to the SPLM Vision, what have the people of Southern Sudan benefited from the GOSS interventions as peace dividends in the four years of its existence. Depending on who is benefiting the most from the GOSS we may have mixed answers. Answering the question may also lead people to quarrel. However, one thing seems to be clear in that the GOSS appears to be extremely weak probably due to internal contradictions in standing up for the SPLM Vision of development. The GOSS seems to be indifferent to the Vision of the SPLM. Strangely the GOSS is predominantly SPLM according to the CPA.

With only two years to go when people have been very patient for the last four years it is not worth quarrelling now on the poor record of the GOSS in delivering basic services. It is very important, though, that the performance of the GOSS in the four years should be a lesson but not a disappointment for people to learn to perform better when given the opportunity. If the GOSS was an elected government things might have been different. It is therefore upon Southern Sudanese to be assertive for elections to take place in July 2009 for a difference. This is because an elected government that is accountable may make some difference as people through their parliament may take it to task with a vote of no-confidence being threatened. Although the situation may be intolerable we may need to be patient for the next two years. Insecurity is rampant, corruption is sky high, ethno-centrism and nepotism seem being promoted with impunity as though the war of liberation was fought by only one ethnic group, and basic public services are despicable. Safe for the protection of the CPA which is very crucial the GOSS may be the most unpopular government in Southern Sudan since the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972. In development there are no cranes dotting the skyline as a sign of development activities. Roads are very appalling. Foreign businessmen are making the most money while ordinary citizens barely make ends meet. Salaries are hardly regular with the resultant low morale among employees that commitment and efficiency may not be there.

With all the above said what is the way out. Well, patience is one way out. The other way out is a revolution. However, the latter is what I may warn against. My explanation is that when crossing a river in a boat do not quarrel for all may sink. Here the boat is a canoe dug out of a trunk of a tree popularly used by the natives along the Nile and other rivers in Southern Sudan. People squat in a canoe facing one direction. Any unnecessary commotion may unbalance the canoe and this may cause the canoe to sink and with it its passengers. Quarrelling in a canoe in the middle of a rough river infested with crocodiles is a sure way for the crocodiles to feast on the passengers. In this case it will be the enemies of the CPA feasting when southerners begin to quarrel among themselves before the end of the interim period. Hopefully after two years and with the referendum conducted as per the CPA things will never be the same again in Southern Sudan. It will be a new chapter. It is very important that elections should take place in July 2009 and the referendum in July 2011 because it will be the people’s loud and clear voice to reckon with but not a handpicked government whose weaknesses are glaringly known.

The result of the referendum will hopefully reflect the will of the majority in Southern Sudan either to confirm the unity of Sudan or opt for independence. Here independence is because Southern Sudan had been under colonial rule first by the British and them by the conservative Arab Islamists of Sudan who were worse that the British. This, however, does mean an invitation of British colonial rule once more to Southern Sudan. The British were White but the Black conservative Arab Islamists of Sudan did not treat Black Southern Sudanese as brothers but as slaves and second class citizens. Also the atrocities committed against Southern Sudanese during the civil war are unforgettable but may be forgivable as people may try to develop trade links and regional cooperation. Independence is therefore the most preferred option.

There is most likely to be mutual respect and understanding between an independent South and the North unlike what it was and is now. We must be honest to admit that there is nothing but contempt between the two parts of Sudan. People may fear that an independent South will be at war with itself. This may be partly true but this will be temporary as the South will stabilise to be a powerful nation with all its diversities. Southerners will learn to walk upright. They may need to experiment with independence instead of being scared from the outset by scaremongers.

If by accident the majority of Southern Sudanese voted for unity then they would have to make the best of the situation. Sudan may therefore be ruled as 26 United States of Sudan with probably more powers to the States. The SPLA will be absorbed into the national army and the GOSS may become irrelevant as the GONU will be representing all the States. The CPA will find its way to the dustbin as it would have lived its useful time. That would at most signal the consolidation of the Arab Islamic Republic of Sudan with all the implications.

In the Machakos Protocol signed at Machakos, Kenya on 20 July 2002, Article 2.5 says, “At the end of the six (6) year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organised jointly by the GOS and the SPLM/A, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession”. Well, in the referendum when unity of the Sudan is confirmed it will be unacceptable to have a system of government established under the Peace Agreement. What this may mean is the perpetuation of the same ethno-centric and corrupt system that Southern Sudan currently has. This may also mean that people did not truly go to the bush to fight for the celebrated SPLM Vision but for ethnic hegemony. This is most likely to be resisted by all means because people are knowledgeably aware of the SPLM Vision for Sudan. So those misguided minority ethno-centric tribalistic elements who think voting for unity is a licence for a privilege position in Southern Sudan should better think again before they get a shocking surprise of their lives.

*The author is a regular contributor to Sudan Tribune and can be reached at [email protected]