3 Aug 2020


Independence for Southern Sudan a Natural Progression

The time for a united Sudan is past gone and millions of miles away.The North should be reminded to repent for the pain it has caused the South for its callous treatment of the people of the South as sub humans

Independence for Southern Sudan a Natural Progression

By Jacob K. Lupai

Sudan is one of the most ethnically, geographically and culturally diverse countries in Africa. With due respect since independence from colonial rule some 53 years ago all successive Sudanese governments have struggled to evolve a vision of a united Sudan in the face of its seemingly irreconcilable ethnic and cultural diversities. However, the flaw of the vision of a united Sudan was evident from day one of independence because the successive governments were insensitive to the aspirations of their southern fellow countrymen. There was no fair play. Racism and religious bigotry corrupted the vision.

North-South dichotomy is the issue here. It is fair to say that Sudan would have been truly a united country for centuries to come if racial superiority or inferiority complex and religious bigotry had taken the back seat. Unfortunately when Sudan got its independence in 1956 it was immediately polarized into Arab Islamic and non-Arab Islamic camps. Northern Sudan is predominantly populated by Arabs and Muslims who have dominated the successive governments of Sudan since independence. The South is populated mainly by non Arabs although there are some non-Arab Muslims too. There are also in the North non-Arab but Muslims in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. In Abyei which is in the North the people are similar in all aspects to those in the South. Religion should not have been an issue. However, it seems when people run out of ideas they turn to religion for control of what may likely slip off their hands in normal circumstances. The late Jaafer Mohamed El Nimeiri of 25th May 1969 revolution was a typical example.

To understand the concept of independence to Southern Sudan as a natural progression it is necessary to put it into a historical perspective or context. There was no existence of a single political entity known as Sudan in the first quarter of the 19th century. The kingdoms of Sennar and Darfur between them controlled what is now Northern Sudan. The Dinka, Shilluk, Annuak, Nuer and the Bari in the South who controlled the rivers and the adjoining pastures and plains had maintained their own independence by resisting raids and invasions from the northern kingdoms. However, they offered refuge to neighbouring Arabic speaking pastoralists escaping the power of local kings. In this way the people in Southern Sudan helped to limit the power and territory of the northern kingdoms.

The conquest and occupation of Sudan by Mohamed Ali, the Viceroy of Egypt, as the beginning of Turco-Egyptian administration brought a new power to the land. Mohamed Ali’s conquest of Sudan from Wadi Halfa to the Blue Nile and Kordofan restricted the political ambitions of the northern kingdoms. His appetite for gold and slaves drove the Turco-Egyptian administration further south to open up lands which had previously lain beyond the reach of the old northern kingdoms. In this effort the Turco-Egyptian colonial power enlisted the support of its northern subjects.

The Sudd barrier of the Nile was penetrated and the river was opened up as far as Kondokoro and Rejaf in Equatoria. Northern Sudanese came to the South to obtain ivory and slaves for export to the north through a combination of trade and raiding. One northern Sudanese, Zubeir Rahma Mansour, uprooted the Fertit tribes in Bahr El Ghazal, developing and expanding slave routes to Darfur and Kordofan. It was here that Southerners saw Northerners as nothing but exploiters and plunderers. To add salt to injury this notorious slave trader was given honour of having a street in Khartoum named after him at independence in 1956.

The Mahdist revolution of 1881-98 which was intended to free Northern Sudan from the political and economic control of Egypt did not make the situation any better for the people of Southern Sudan. The Mahdi’s most influential supporters came from the families of merchants whose livelihood had depended on slavery activities in the South. The Mahdist army continued to use slave riflemen captured from the South as the occupation army of Turco-Egyptian administration had done before.

The Shilluk, Dinka, Bari, Latuko and the Azande as well as many others had all been subjected mercilessly to devastating raids from Mahdist garrisons established inside their territories. When Anglo-Egyptian army captured Omdurman in 1898 to start the Anglo-Egyptian condominium in Sudan the Anglo-Egyptian administration found a population distrustful of any foreign intrusion. The administration faced regular and sustained opposition. The Turco-Egyptian administration, the slave traders, Mahdia activities and the suppression of independence of the people of Southern that were all abhorred, suggested a natural progression to stiff resistance and freedom.

Not only did the South resist courageously the Turco-Egyptian administration, slave traders and Mahdia activities but it also put up a strenuous resistance to the Anglo-Egyptian administration. Resistance to foreign occupation and plunder of southern resources was led by two categories of leaders in Southern Sudan. Leaders with spiritual powers gained following in the community. Such leaders also became temporal leaders, able by their great following to guide the community in times of war and peace.

It was therefore obvious that such leaders with spiritual powers led community forces against what were perceived as external aggressors. Persons such as Ngundeng in Upper Nile put up a stiff resistance to the Mahdia and the Anglo-Egyptian administration. In Bahr El Ghazal one Awuou Kon kept the Atwot free of the Mahdia and also kept the Anglo-Egyptian administration  out of Atwot land till he was killed resisting. Mayen Mathiang of the Agar rose against the Anglo-Egyptian administration of Rumbek. There are many examples of heroism of Southerners against provocative external aggressors. This reinforces the belief that Southerners will always resist what they perceive as unfair treatment.

The second category of leaders of resistance against foreign aggressors gained community following through a variety of actions. Some gained community following through bravery and courage. In this second category one of the leaders was King Gbudue Basingi of the Azande in Equatoria who fought courageously against the Turco-Egyptian administration, slave traders, Mahdia and the Anglo-Egyptian administration. Another leader in this category was King Akwei of the Annuak in Upper Nile who also fought with courage the Anglo-Egyptian administration till he died.

It can be seen that there was no mutual link between the geographical North and South Sudan except through foreign occupation, brute force and slavery. It therefore seems natural that the South won’t like history to repeat itself. Independence to Southern Sudan is going to be a natural progression.
As the North agitated for independence from colonial rule, the South uniqueness was ignored. In 1951 a constitutional amendment commission of 13 members was established in which Southern Sudan was only represented by one member. On his part the southern member proposed the adoption of a federal system of government. Another proposal was for the creation of a Ministry for Southern Affairs and appointment of a Southerner to lead it.
However, the proposal for the Ministry for Southern Affairs was thrown out by the Legislative Council despite the unanimous vote of southern representatives for it. In 1953 the northern political leaders and the Egyptian government reached an agreement for self-determination for the whole Sudan where there was no Southern Sudanese representing the South in that agreement. British administrators in the Sudan and the British government went along with that agreement.

The collusion between Egypt, Britain and the northern political parties on self-determination for the whole Sudan could not have been expected to contain the safeguards needed by the South as strongly expressed by the southern representatives in the Juba Conference of 1947. Southern representatives in the Juba Conference had demanded safeguards against domination by the North. In a blatant disregard of the South when Sudanisation of the civil and public service was made only six junior posts went to Southerners out of 800 posts Sudanised. This was clearly a gross under-representation of the South and a hint of worse things to come.

On 19 December 1955 when the elected parliament convened whether to endorse a motion for independence, southern members put forward a condition for supporting the motion. As expected the southern members of parliament (MPs) proposed a federal system of government that would be in keeping with the spirit of the Juba Conference. The northern political leaders in their disruptive behavior deceptively decided to go along with the southern proposal. The provision for federation was craftily inserted into the independence motion.
The leader of the Opposition, Mohamed Ahmed Mahgoub, was to remark mischievously later that it was to make Southerners happy and to make them go along with the independence motion. The tricked southerner MPs unknowingly celebrated both independence and the prospect of federation in the new year when the independence flag was hoisted replacing the Union Jack forever.

In utter disbelief the southern MPs were to find that the northern sectarian parties were no longer under pressure to accept the proposal for a federal system of government. The northern sectarian parties rejected the proposal. They instead drafted a constitution for an Arab Islamic state. A federal system of government was outlawed. Southerners either found themselves in jail or chose to leave for life in exile for supporting federation.

I wouldn’t like to bore readers by narrating historical and political events from 17 November 1958 to 9 January 2005. I trust that the readers are capable of digging out what transpired in Sudan in that period. Suffice to say that on the 9th January 2005 the South achieved a historic milestone of self-determination in a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA).

There is nothing as golden as self-determination for people who have endured throughout the ages life of utter devastation and misery. Surely independence to Southern Sudan is a natural progression. However, this can only be realized when Southerners are enthusiastic to register and turn out massively for the April 2010 elections and the referendum in 2011. This is the time Southerners have been waiting for since the disruptive behaviours of the Turco-Egyptian administration through Mahdia, Anglo-Egyptian administration to the present Arab Islamic administration of Sudan. I only pray that Southerners should not mismanage the little freedom the CPA has brought. 

May be I should conclude by quoting though briefly the greatest of Southern Sudan martyrs, Dr John Garang de Mabior who, prophetically after probably having a vision of his imminent demise, said if Southerners want to vote for unity to become second class citizens that is absolutely their choice. The implication is very clear. Independence to Southern Sudan is a natural progression after too many agreements have been dishonoured by the North that is still laboriously talking of unity of Sudan that has brought untold suffering to the people of Southern Sudan.

The North should be reminded to repent for the pain it has caused the South for its callous treatment of the people of the South as sub humans. One would prefer to be a martyr six feet below the ground to a life of plenty but of second class citizenship and slavery above ground. The North has a choice, either peaceful co-existence or disintegration of Sudan.
Scaremongering that when the South is independent the whole of Africa will be in turmoil is at best cheap or the usual deceptive politics. Eritrea is independent from Ethiopia but life is as usual in Africa.

The time for a united Sudan is past gone and millions of miles away. It is only for Southerners to reform and hopefully all will be fine. This may be easier said than done but ultimately independence is preferable because the experiment of being in a united Sudan has been very expensive indeed. Only a strange scientist would keep on repeating a very expensive experiment with the same result instead of trying a new one for a breakthrough.

I would try independence after the expensive experiment of a united Sudan for the last 53 years that has brought nothing but misery to millions of fellow Sudanese. I have no clue as to how many Northern Sudanese suffered as Southerners have suffered in trying to support the unity of Sudan by force of arms for the racists and hypocrite religious bigots who think praying daily is all that is needed and for them to enjoy a life of splendor while the majority of Sudanese languish in poverty.

I strongly believe in separation of religion and the state, and the right of the individual to be guaranteed irrespective of what one is. Religion is a mental picture of who and what is God aided by our subjective interpretation of the holy books. Don’t Christians differ with each other and so do the Muslims in their interpretations of the holy books? We should be reminded that we have a job to do in eradicating poverty from the surface of earth instead of wasting time bragging to others about relationship to God the compassionate and the merciful who anyway knows what we are and our needs. In his mercy God loves each and every one of us. So what is the problem with us as sinners pretending to be soldiers of God on earth while we cannot put our house in order?

Unity of Sudan may be possible when we all admit we are Blacks hence no ground for racial discrimination and of course dropping our hypocrisy of portraying we are the only chosen people of God while others belong to hell fire. We should all know that the name Sudan means the land of the Blacks and so let’s all be proud of who we are instead of bleaching our bodies to look Middle Eastern notwithstanding intermarriages that have produced some dark brown Sudanese.

The author can be reached at jklupai@yahoo.co.uk


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