Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 8 November 2010

A Southerner in North Sudan


By Karen Ringuette

November 7, 2010 — Two months before a referendum on self determination in south Sudan threatens to split the country in two, a million or more southerners living in north Sudan are wondering what their fate will be. One southern man who has made his life in Khartoum tells of his concerns and of the waiting.

Modi was born in Juba, the capital of south Sudan, where his father comes from. His a Muslim and belongs to the Bari tribe, one of several that make up the largest tribe in the Juba area. His mother comes from Uganda, several hours south of the border. In this part of Sudan mixed parentage is common and people move back and forth between the two countries without any problem.

In 1992 Modi was working and living in Juba with his small family when the war intensified. By that time Uganda had become inaccessible and southerners from all over were congregating in the city. Life had become particularly crowded and difficult there, and with the bombings the airport was besieged by people wanting to board one of the three daily Khartoum-bound humanitarian flights. Most passengers were women, children and the elderly, in addition to relatives of Sudanese army personnel. It was then that Modi sent his wife and two children to safety in the north.

Only in 1997 was Modi able to join them and begin the difficult task of making his life in the north. He was obliged to take any job to survive, so he carried bricks at construction sites and did casual labour in factories. Eventually he got a decent job and the family settled in well here where most of his children have been born and raised.

In the south, he said, it was only after the 2005 peace agreement, when the SPLA came out of the bush, that people started moving freely again.

Thinking back to five years ago, he said: “People were relieved when the peace agreement was signed. Since then, many of us have only just started to enjoy our lives and peace. But it seems suddenly the referendum is upon us and we have to ask ourselves: What is our fate as southerners in the north? How will the referendum be carried out? And if the country separates, how will it be? If there was no referendum we would not be thinking of going south.”

He said there had not been an information campaign for southerners living in the north and a lot of them did not know what was going on. As for those who were trying to stay informed, many questions remained unanswered.

“If there is separation,” Modi said, “Can I remain in the north and under what citizenship? What will the conditions be for those southerners who want to acquire northern citizenship? Imagine, today I am a southern Sudanese and tomorrow I am a northerner. But if I don’t return to the south now, southerners might look at me as someone who did not stand with them during the struggle. And if I return later to the south, will I be eligible for citizenship? It is a complicated situation already, but for some of us it is especially difficult, as we will have to turn our lives upside down once again.”

With regard to the politics back home, Modi said: “If we talk of the south, there are different political parties and these parties need to come together as a united force, but until now they have not. It would have been best if they had sat down and come up with one agenda, then if we voted for separation we would know where we stand.”

As for Abyei, the disputed, oil-rich area at the centre of the contentious and never-ending border demarcation process, Modi says, “If they don’t reach an agreement for Abyei, and there is war, it is the common man who will pay the price, no politician will die there.”

He continued: “If given the freedom to express his desire the common person will vote for peace, but it is the politicians in Sudan who are dictating what will happen. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) dominates the south as much as the National Congress Party (NCP) dominates the north.”

And while differences in Sudan are often portrayed as marked by an Arab-Muslim dominated north and a largely Christian south, Modi says: “The issue is purely about power sharing and wealth sharing. What is taking place has nothing to do with religion, religion is a cover up issue.”

He continued, “People are divided - you either vote for separation or you vote for unity. Today, as southerners in the north our main concern is if the outcome of the referendum is unity, then there will probably be a reaction in the south and they might attack northerners there. And if northerners are attacked in the south there will be revenge attacks in the north.” The reverse scenario could play out if the vote is for separation.

Modi said: “While I am not part of these problems, how do I defend myself in the street? I cannot say I am not part of this or that. So, I will send my family to Juba because that is probably the safest place for them, and in a worst-case scenario there may not be any flights south. Meanwhile I will continue to work here, and wait.

The way I see it, people have fought for twenty years but the peace agreement is only five years old, so, it is premature for southerners to claim we want to separate, especially given the time frame and all the complexities.

But now we are left with only two months, and politicians on both sides have not convinced the public that they have taken enough steps to ensure this process takes place as best as possible. Now, the most important thing is for the parties to resolve the Abyei issue and ensure the smooth running of the referendum. They need to sit down and come up with an agreement.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum it should be peaceful. We are all like brothers, we were born into one family, and even when we move to different houses - at the end of the day we are still brothers.


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  • 8 November 2010 10:16, by AAMA

    Dear Southern brother,

    I don’t know why your fellow southerners are not sharing with you your concerns while they are commenting everywhere in this forum.

    Anyways my friend, I think it’s a good idea to send your family back to Juba and plan for yourself something there in the near future. Division is hard and heart breaking but most of your fellow southerners living in the south or abroad are blinded from such facts when it comes to people in your situation. The SPLM wants to just take the oil and raise a flag and haaaaay, Salva became a president and that’s it (keep the people mixed and life as usual and the north shall take care of the IDPs because they don’t want any additional burden) and that’s one of the things they are trying to negotiate with the NCP right now in the form of oil deals together with Abyei.

    The problem that nobody is thinking of right now and which is infact the most important part of the whole thing and especially for the NCP is the majority of the northern public opinion (collectively). And from what I see now, the northern public opinion wants no middle grey areas, its either we stay united (any reform needs to be done should be done) or complete separation (the south take all its oil and pump it through Kenya and all IDPs in the north shall go back to the south and the northerners in the south come back northwards) and we move forward as two completely separated different countries. This scenario is unlikely to happen because it does not suit both NCP and SPLM and their personal interests causing more frustration in both directions but in a more drastic way in the north which can cause the NCP their throne.

    So may god be with you my friend as you and other in your situation are the main victims of this 21st century nonsence.


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  • 8 November 2010 10:24, by Adam

    Oh! Cry my beloved country.

    I hope the tyrant SPLA/M - NCP read this article. It reflects their failure to care for their citizens. Now what?.

    I am personally facing this problem at a different level. I am lost in Kansas working very hard to get money to send to my family, which is scattered. Some of them are in Kenya, while others are in Egypt. I’ve a house in Khartoum taken care by some relatives. My wife is teaching in a village school in the South and taking care of the property there. She is moving up and down between Kenya, Egypt and Khartoum. One day she will die in an air accident for sure. Thanks to nuts Sudanese politics.

    I want SPLA/M - NCP to answer the questions raised in the article above, as well as mine.

    Why don’t you crazy people work together for the benefit and prosperous of the majority of Sudanese people?. Is it fair that Southerners should suffer this much and for this long?. I am even informed by some relatives who recently moved from Khartoum to the South that they were terribly wrong. The GoSS is not ready and there are no signs that it would ever be for such a return. They also told me that SPLA is taking the youth by force to join its units. Our kids should not be sacrificed for the greediness of the SPLA/M and selfish tribal interests. They want to push the young to be the fuel of their wars.

    For the politicians in the South and North, go to hell. Do you know what the children and elderly of the South and North feel? You have destroyed the CPA and all the hopes and visions.

    Quick and unprepared for separation is a suicide - an Armageddon. Regular citizens in the South and the North know this. The politicians for sure know more, but unfortunately and arrogantly they are working hard for their own selfish ends. They are enjoying the oil money, while all others are treated like animals or even less. All must perish for the beautiful eyes of SPLM/NCP. Ha.

    It is high time for a coup in Juba and there in Khartoum to maintain the civic peace, harmony and development.

    We need Southerner and Northerner patriots to save the situation as soon as possible. We’re at the edge of a nasty death.

    Adam Milawaki, Kansas City

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    • 8 November 2010 15:30, by Lual Garang De Lual

      Adam Milawaki

      You must be the most foolish citizen of Sudan I ever heard, you fled Sudan for your own safety to the United States. Your family is scattered around the globe for the reasons not from the SPLM/A but from the National Criminal Party of Bashire.
      Answer this; Do you accept Bashire as a leader or not? If you accept, we Southerners don’t and if you don’t then do not blame as for the secession, it is not the SPLM that is looking for separation but the NCP. SPLM manifesto calls for united Sudan on non racial discrimination like what has happened to you. I know an American citizen who is happy in their country can not come to Sudan like you did for the USA. What makes you to flee to the US is what making the Southerners to leave the North.
      Take also the story of Modi that was concocted by the so called wise media guys in Khartoum to try to manipulate the mind of Southerners who are humanitarian hearted to vote for unity to save their brothers in the Lion den of the North. It will not happen b’se 2.5 million people have died for this course and if the Southerners now remaining in the North don’t want to come back home for their safety, then they nare not much than the 2.5 milion dead. Here, we assumpt they are dead like our commrades who died during the war.

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      • 8 November 2010 17:47, by Gatwech

        Brother Modi in Khartoum,

        Start moving to the South as quickly as possible together with your family while there is time for you to do that safely, otherwise, the D-Day is so near and you will regret being in Khartoum in the next sixty days.

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        • 9 November 2010 00:04, by Machingela gai


          I don’t see the reason why you put all these words into the mouth of homeless, Modi. This man, acording to my understanding, he is uneducated person. First of all, he doesn’t know who he is though seen outside as southerner. Second, he has no records of identity, whether he is standing for unity or seperation. But His tone is leaning towards unity, as your written language expression makes it. Modi was one time a NIF/NCP solidier and he is too old now to chase his people in the bush to make his end meets. What is wrong to admit it that he was a soldier? What was he doing in the South for Seven years in Juba, while he already sent his family to Khartoum? And who supported the family in his absence? The humanitrian flights from city to city is not our dwelling execuse for a delay. His brick work has nothing to do with unity though staying in Khartoum following the shadow of his past. There are many better jobs in the South if he really needs one. Be adviced to rush Mr. Modi and secure your destiny.

          But, Keran, you are trying to renew his long and gone road again. His servantship career is over and he retires in Khartoum while still hoping that his childern will fall into his foot steps he once had in serving his master. No, the South is the answer for him and his family now. By the way, thank you Gatwech for telling Modi to leave North before the bye-bye dawn has arrived.

          This story of Modi and his entire life is not a prerequisite for unity you are hiding behind it. It would be good to write your own thoughts about unity instead of him or anyone else. You better write what you think about seperation vs. unity and leave Modi alone. His fake story will not change anything in the end.

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          • 9 November 2010 08:49, by kuur Deng

            You real put it right brother, It is absolutely hundred percent correct that during the war no one can survive under Omaar Beshire regime as a southerner in Juba and least he/s must co-operates in fighting the SPLA. To be honest ,Modi was one of Equatoria Defence Force (EDF) and now he under gone retirement age. And so it was difficult for him to control and fills his account should the south separate from the north. Modi ’’the future is called "perhaps," which is the only possible thing to call the future’’ And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you. Just view it this way, you are now in terrible confusion and dilemmas whether the south Sudanese will accepte you to join your normal life fully as citizen before or they may disappointed you because of your wrong doings in the past. That is nothing to worry about simply because SPLA fought many war of tribellism in the south because of misinformation about movement farbricated by Jalaaba and yet they recently becomes it desciples when they understood the vision and facts. I would like to assure brother Modi that you should think about the future of your children.Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful and smart in mind. Nothing will happens in the south after independent those are just plans tactics by Arabs to scare southerners not to choose separation inoder to determine their fate.

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            • 9 November 2010 15:41, by marie

              Why do people stick over history of accusing Equatoria Defence Force as being allies of Khartoum up to this moment. After the signing of the CPA, all the so called militias were integrated into SPLA;Equatoria Defence Force, millitias of Ismail Konyi, Gatluak, you name it. Recently, those who took arm against GOSS, like those of George Athor, etc have been reconciled. I do not think going back to old accusations would help us. If people are being judged by their past actions, Riak Machar, the vice president of GOSS should be the first to face guillotine, since he contributed tremendously in the death of Southerners and derailing of the movement. We should stick to what is ahead of us instead of diverting the topic under discussion

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              • 9 November 2010 22:05, by Machingela gai


                No one is fighting the truth about the past. We forgave those who made mess to us like you said in the past. The issue here is however with Karen’s article and Modi’s life in Khartoum, which brought the past back under review. Now, we are sticking with the story of freedom and live like mankind again in our own birthright place. We don’t want to hear fabricated nonsense all day around the clock because of where we are going with no twist stories that will reflect the weak past. We are pulling our lives straight with what will make South a different place, the hope to seperate it from the North. But those who are trying to confuse us towards the goal set are the enemies who work against Southern’s will. You calm yourself down and make sure you speak up for your right when your family member is on undsignated walk roadside. Don’t try to take a stand against the nowhere to be found lie like that of Modi’s story. Southerners and the SPLM are not rejecting any form of militia branch to join them, and nothng will prevent Modi to join South at any time. And so be it the story to tell, now and in the future.

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  • 11 November 2010 04:48, by emadven

    If i was you i would either move to South Sudan, Uganda or Kenya all these politician have moved their kids away from the HOT spots if you know what i mean.. Khartoum is one.. cause the northerners will for sure go on streets with machetes and knifes randomly attacking Janubeen from all sort of walk.. It does not matter if your Muslim or Christian or support unity or speration.. Your life is at risk.. if i was you i will move.. some of my own relatives in Khartoum have already moved.. and few are gonna move by next month..

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