Monday, December 6, 2021

Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Referendum debate is an internal affair

By John Agou Wuoi

A few days ago a Canadian-based newspaper the Globe and Mail published on its website (www.thelobeandglobe.com) an article titled “Africa poised to give birth to a new nation, South Sudan” criticizing the United States for supporting the secession of Southern Sudan in order to “create a military ally” and the Government of Southern Sudan for “failing to provide basic services to citizens”. The writer of the article also quoted the so-called experts on Sudan, activists and the Director of UNICEF Programs in Southern Sudan, Peter Crowley who said, “Why fight to preserve a peace that’s not bringing you any benefit”. Yes, Peter Crowley of UNICEF.

It is not therefore a coincidence to hear heads of NGOs suddenly transforming them into “political analysts” and forgetting their humanitarian work that gives them mandate to stay in Southern Sudan. Early this year a group of international non-governmental organisations operating in Southern Sudan (UNICEF included) issued a report strongly criticising the Government of Southern Sudan and painted Southern Sudan as a “failed state”. The report was an attempt to portray Southern Sudan as a “weak state” that cannot hold democratic elections and by extension successful referendum on self-determination.

The same NGOs may have been surprised that the people of Southern Sudan could exercise their democratic right to vote in a landmark general elections without or least violence reported in many parts of Southern Sudan. Reacting to these reports, GOSS Internal Affairs Minister Maj. Gen. Gier Chuang Aluong dismissed this reports in a speech he gave a few weeks before the April elections. “Around the world people are watching waiting to see whether or not we can manage democracy. Some are spreading rumours that we cannot do it. They say all we know how to do is fight among ourselves. They are prophets of doom who would like us to fail, but we will not”. Southern Sudanese voted peacefully during the elections and no major cases of breach of security or voting exercise were reported.

Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the Government of Southern Sudan has struggled with money received from oil revenues and limited funding from the international community to provide basic services such water, education, health, food and security. Certainly the situation now is not as bad as it used to be five years ago. There are a lot of changes that even a visitor to Southern Sudan can spot. The number of children going to school has increased tremendously. The government is slowly putting up health facilities across the region.

Security continues to remains a challenge for most parts of Southern Sudan due to tribal conflicts over natural resources but important measures to address this are ongoing. For example, the government of Southern Sudan is currently training more police as well as building the capacity of the existing police force to proactively respond to cases of tribal conflicts or other insecurity issues.

The history of ethnic divisions did not start yesterday in Southern Sudan. The so-called ethnics divisions were more pronounced in the 90’s during the liberation struggle against arabs-dominated government in Khartoum. The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement survived the test of ethnic divisions and managed to work out a peaceful settlement with the National Congress Party, formerly referred to as NIF and signed the CPA. Under the CPA, the Chairman of SPLM and the President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir has united the people of Southern Sudan. No leader has ever done that in the history of the Sudan.

The government has embarked on infrastructural development across Southern Sudan. Almost all major roads have been tarmacked in Juba capital and other leading towns in Southern Sudan. Some of these projects are ongoing. The electricity is available now and many households have subsidised government electricity.

Unfortunately, non-governmental organisations have failed to see these changes but continue to criticise government and incite citizens against the government without providing the necessary support to help the government to provide basic services to the people through development. They continue to issue statements that are clearly meant to undermine the legitimacy of the government and its responsibility to citizens. This is not the mandate of NGOs, it simply amounts to interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state (soon become one). It’s surprising too to notice that these NGOs do not even care to seek opinion of the government on different issues before issuing their one-sided “reports” or humanitarian appeal to international media that always portray Africa negatively. We know this increase the amount of money received by NGOs from donors but rarely spent on people whose appeal is made on their behalf.

Worst still, NGOs are trying to create a relationship between the independence of Southern Sudan and perceived “failure” of the government to provide services to citizens. They assumed that Southern Sudan currently ranked among the poorest countries on earth will depend on aid to be able to manage its own affairs. The government of Southern Sudan has prove itself worthy of ruling Southern Sudan and it is evident that no amount of criticism labelled against the government will stop it from exercising its legitimate right to govern. Some NGOs seems not to realise that Southern Sudan was declared an independent state as soon as the protocol of self-determination was signed. All that is remaining to formalise the formation of a new state or “baby nation” as NGOs would like to call it. The will of people of Southern Sudan to have their own state was summarised by the late Chairman of SPLM, Dr. John Garang De Mabior when he spoke in Rumbek in May 2005; “”I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years, have brought to you CPA in a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience bush life. When time comes to vote at referendum, it is your golden choice to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second class citizens in your own country? It is absolutely your choice”

The resolved of the people of Southern Sudan to have their own state where they will be treated as first class citizen is insurmountable. It was a decision taken at the infamous paramount chiefs’ conference of 1947 when some of them walk out after realising that they were being duped into accepting unity of Sudan against their will. I do not really know when some people in the Western world and their agents in Southern Sudan will realise that the two decades armed struggle against the North were not about sharing power and wealth, it was a fight for what is rightfully ours; our resources, our land, our soil, our country , our Southern Sudan nation.

It is high time the Government of Southern Sudan start cracking whip on some of these so called NGOS but infact agents of their countries just as they do in Northern Sudan. The work of NGOs is purely humanitarian and to provide assistance where government has failed to do so. In an essence, the relationship between NGOs and government should be mutually beneficial to the two parties and no one party should antagonise the work of the other.

The Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission should closely monitor activities of NGOs to determine if they amount to espionage because it appears they have abandoned their humanitarian work and resorted to inciting the citizens against government as well as contradicting official position of the government on policy matters. The SSRRC together with security organs should thoroughly vet the so-called expatriates posted every month to take up leadership of some of the NGOs, all of them should have their backgrounds investigated thoroughly and made known to them that they need to respect the institutions of governance and the people. They need to follow laid down procedures when expressing their disappointments with one or two things through responsible government agencies but not rushing to the media, a move that portrays the government as having failed in discharging its lawful duties.

Finally, I wish to state that majority of people in Southern Sudan are still in need of an urgent humanitarian aid and both international and local non-governmental organisations are doing a great work to alleviate the suffering of ordinary people. The Government of Southern Sudan has not failed to provide for her people after waging war against marginalisation, repression and oppression in order to create decent and better living standards for them.

It is time that the referendum debate is left to the people of Southern Sudan, who will make that ultimate decision during their date with the ballot box on the 9th January, 2011. The time for debate as to whether Southern Sudan can or cannot govern themselves is long gone. We know that the Government of Southern Sudan under the leadership of President Salva Kiir Mayardit has delivered, it can deliver and it will always continue to deliver. Make no mistakes about that. Southern Sudanese are grateful to the western countries that have always stood with them during the times of war and during the times of peace, your continued support is highly appreciated. But please it is time for us to make a historic decision on our future, a future we defended with our blood and the lives of our fallen heroes and heroines; we may or may not need you but until then, please stay out of internal affairs!

The author is a Sudanese journalist he can be reached at [email protected]