Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 7 June 2006

South Sudan: A divided people


By Nyuol Justin Yaac*

June 6, 2006 — Why can’t all southerners be on the same side when looking at the current dispute regarding secession or unity of the Sudan? As days go by and referendum day closes in, the heated moot about the future of the nation becomes more complex, at times confusing.

The differences in opinion have created three contra-distinct cleavages in the South. In one camp are those who believe that the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, this group advocates that, the full potential of the state can only be realized under a “United” Sudan. They also claim, Sudan’s uniqueness and identity is built on its multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual propensities; and therefore, losing all these rich traditions is not in the best interest of the nation. On the other side are those better known as the separatist or secessionists-better known as the radicals in the nation’s capital, Khartoum, or heroes in the South. This coterie does not only believe that the developmental progress of the South has been inhibited by the presence of the domineering northern elite which controls the states’ apparatus, it also deems perpetual primacy of the northern elite will continue to stymie and sabotage advancement in the south. As a result they are fully convinced the inexorable proficiency of the south is only conceivable if the south is fully autonomous and free from northern manipulation; thus, their predilection is secession from the north. In the third camp are the laissez-faire, they are neither secessionists nor unionists; they hope to swing along the movements’ (SPLM) pendulum. Their plane is whatever side the movement will adopt, or opt for-come campaign period.

Most southerners expect the movement to lead them and deliver desideratum, and that only makes a lot of sense given the fact that the SPLM is the biggest, most admired, and most coherent political faction in the south-at least hitherto. The SPLM knows this, and hopes that the southern populace will in return support and vote en masse for its agenda. While the movements’ optimism and contemplations are upbeat, they are also disappointing because “hope” per se is not a plan. More deleterious, is the movements’ stance as a “centrist” powerhouse: it straddles the realms of Southern aspiration-which is the full autonomy of the south (with a 98% opting for secession), and that of the NCP-which is unity of the country, and by doing so, the SPLM has created a political conundrum amongst its supporters, southerners, and most importantly its leadership, because the two spectrums it straddles happen to be antithetical to one another.

On a grass-root level, the movement is yet to recognize the fact that the southern society/public is a paternalistic one from a political standpoint, and despite the mosaic of rationale thought amongst southern hordes, the movement has an obligation and mandate to synchronize a common vision for its supporters, because failure to do so is likely to result into political manipulation. In order to address the issue of southern susceptibility, the SPLM will have to begin by stating in the most lucid terms what its political bent is.

It’s been a little over a year since the peace agreement, and the fact that only modest improvement has been made by the dominant protagonist-the NCP-causes ambiguity in the southern front, a times leading Junubin to believe that the CPA is a subterfuge to pave way for an eminent usurpation or, a subtle Arab hegemony. In response to this ambivalence the movements’ pundits have assured the southerners that, they will make sure all citizens are granted their rights as specified by the CPA; this assertion has been construed by most southerners as an empty rhetoric by the SPLM to protect the agreement. But we all know, or at least most of us know that good things come to those who are patient and whether the tolerance on the movements’ side is a weakness or strength is not certain: what is certain is that the movement is yet to face the difficult task of getting their partners in peace to fully implement the CPA, partly because of NCPs’ masochistic nature, and partly because the SPLM lacks the political leverage that will prompt the implementation of modalities.

As grim and indignant as it may be, the good news is, the movement can and has to spin off the inconsistencies in the CPA by formulating a doctrine pertinent to its schema, if it is to maintain its subsistence in the contemporary hostile political environment. As of yet, there is a disfranchisement between the movement and its support base, each side has prodded the other for a limited demonstration of south’s overall goal: but the truth of the matter is the government is for the people and the people themselves are the government; therefore, in order to succeed, the bickering will have to be preceded by pragmatism. The technocrats, bureaucrats, as well as other skilled citizens will have to compromise their individual preferences for that of their nation; on the other hand the government will have to provide the needs, and security its citizens demand-because the incentive for southerners to head back home and help in the rebuilding is deeply rooted in south Sudan’s serenity-and most importantly, it will have to find a mechanism of communicating and connecting with the masses, especially those in the Diaspora.

Does the government know the importance and implications of capitalizing on those in the Diaspora to clinch its victory? Does a normal or a legitimate Sudanese voter comprehend the impact of his vote? No, probably not. Because only if the government knew the profound impact the 3 million legit voters out of an estimated 5 million Sudanese émigrés that would have on the outcome of referendum, then only will they orchestrate a technique that would involve the Diasporic in the political process that affects their daily lives, be it ephemeral or in the long run, failure to do so is likely to result into a loss of the cause by miscalculation or ignorance -a colossal mistake and a hefty price to pay at this Rubicon. More aggravating is the fact that not much voters understand the corollary of the choices they make in relation to their lives: and even more worse is the fact that no initiative is in place to enlighten voters on how their vision can be realized by voting wisely in the electoral process.

Neglecting this simple yet indispensable initiative will put the southerners in an awkward locus, a position which is difficult if not impossible to exit because for one, the result of a fair election can not be rescinded. Two, if the result of the referendum is contrary to their aspiration, then the only option the southerners will be left with is the long, tedious and tumultuous one of trying to get another referendum bill passed in parliament, a bill which will be impossible to pass due to a northern dominated parliament, and secondly, due to the scorn resistance it will meet from unionist filibusters.

So, if the movement wants to move the south and the state forward they need to get everyone on the same side with a common vision and a clear plan and strategy for the future.

* Nyuol Justin is a sudanese residing in Canada, he can be reached at gitbongdit@yahoo.com

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