By Abdullahi A. Gallab, The Deseret Morning News
March 24, 2005 — Sudan’s war with itself is not over yet. The peace agreement which was signed on Jan. 9 in neighboring Kenya is only one step in the right direction. Bringing the ugly and costly war in the southern Sudan to an end is, in itself, an important development. However, while the Sudanese celebrate a long-awaited peace, important reservations need to be made.
Sudan needs more than a bilateral agreement between the government and the SPLA/M or what could be described as a form of perestroika.
In its half century of order-building explorations, the country has never been fully independent. It has been struggling with the constant hazards of reproductions born out of the socio-political realities and imagined communities constructed from the condominium regime.
From its first day and through the experimentations of its military founding fathers, the condominium regime established an oppressive state that bred, incubated and nurtured difference and conflict-ridden stratification through the most violent means of coercion. The condominium experience left behind an oppressive state maintained by manufactured sets of elites and dissenters.
For the past 50 years, the Sudanese people have not been able to talk to each other with their own voices as this state has always looked upon them not as citizens but as invisible beings.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the intellectual fatigue of the state-manufactured elites and dissenters has made a social contract based on the Sudanese propensity and spontaneity to create bonds of togetherness, an unthought-of endeavor. Instead, those power elites – as groups and individuals – have continued to contract the military to resolve their political conflict through the mode of the coup or violence. Behind every military coup in the Sudan – successful or aborted – there was a civilian political party or a group of conspirators, while within every military regime there were groups of civilian collaborators and service men and women.
Since the military action of staging a coup is in its essence an exercise of violence, the transformation of the coup into a regime is a progressive programming of violence into oppressive practices. In turn, each regime ends up failing to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens, who have to pay a terrible price as the system turns oppressive, politically violent and morally bankrupt.
Thus, the multiplications of such exasperating parts of the story represent an intellectual and civil genocide at its highest level. We have seen how such violence reached its climax under the current regime when its terror machine along with its brutal parallel army of the mujahideen of the Popular Defense Forces and their subcontactors from the militias of the murahaleen, fursan and jinjaweed pillaged physical, material and human life in different parts of the country to repress the tribulations they and other different regimes of governance have planted. It is shameful that thepast 50 years in the Sudanese life were exhausted in violence and counter-violence.
It is shameful that the Sudan has the largest displaced population in the world. It is more shameful that in order for any group of the population to be heard they have to take arms as the state has nothing for its grieved citizens but brute force as evidenced by most recent Port Sudan bloody events. And, indeed, the Darfur insurgence is strong example that the state understands nothing but violence.
Too much Sudanese blood has been shed since 1956. There is a window of opportunity now to mobilize the Sudan’s capital as reflected in its political, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity for the promotion of a social contract that would create a nation that can celebrate the liberty of a broad-based multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious existence.
In March 1965 the Sudanese on all sides of the north-south political spectrum met in a roundtable in Khartoum and deliberated with fundamentally different views and opposing visions of the country: its past, present and future. The most significant element of that conference was reflected in the fact that it was the first time that northern and southern politicians were to debate the depth of political disagreements and grievances as equals.
But alas, there was not an involved brain-trust group of social scientists and personalities of special wisdom to offer advice to the conference when such an advice was desperately needed.
It is time now for a new roundtable. This time it should include all sides of the Sudanese political, regional, intellectual and ethnic spectrum to write down such a contract for their way of existence as a nation.
Abdullahi A. Gallab, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. He is the editor of Sudan Studies for North America Newsletter. He is writing a book about violence in the Sudan titled “A Civil Society Deferred: The Tertiary Grip of Violence in the Sudan.”