25 Nov 2020


Why Division Of The Sudan Is A Bad Idea

"While I respect the choice of South Sudanese to vote for separation, I just wish that both the NCP and SPLM had made better choices on behalf of their citizens."

By Leon Nyerere*

To the Editor, Gurtong.

I know you are for separation of Sudan, but it will be nice to post a different perspective about the referendum from south Sudanese like myself.

No rational justification for the separation of South Sudan. It is widely expected that people of South Sudan will overwhelmingly cast their votes for separation. But most of the reasons that the people of South Sudan have given as to why they are voting for separation, from my vintage point, are valid.

However, these reasons are not rational enough to justify separation of the South from the north especially, when one considers political and social changes sweeping across the Sudan.

One of the theories that have been advanced to explicate why most African countries have remained economically stagnant is that African governments make irrational decisions. The decades of civil wars in Sudan, which have unfortunately resulted to the current situation taking place in Sudan as we speak, is due to irrational socio-economic policies made by the minority Sudanese Arab elites in the centre. Likewise, the decision, which is being taken by the South Sudanese and which is likely to lead to a creation of another nation-state in African, follows the same irrational path of reasoning.

The gross mistakes Khartoum has made since 1956 are well known. I don’t want to spend time discussing them. This mini article is not meant to condemn SPLM nor is it about putting blame on any ethnic group in the South. This article is also not meant to influence South Sudanese to vote for unity, after all it is all but certain that the referendum result will be for separation. The purpose of this article is to inject the voice of reasoning that is missing in the South Sudan referendum discourse.

South Sudanese decision to opt for separation is influenced more by emotions than by rational thinking. These emotions are based on years of suppression of Black Sudanese. For over half a century, Sudanese who claim Arab pedigree have ruled over Black Africans including the people of South Sudan. Sudanese who don’t claim Arab identity are treated as second-class citizens. Non-Arab Sudanese and Southerners in particular, continued to be called slaves. Although the so-called Arab Sudanese are also called slaves when they travel to the Middle East.

Second, South Sudanese have been denied access to the national wealth. Today, South Sudan has earned the title of being the most “underdeveloped” part of the world because of such inequality. Third, South Sudanese have been disallowed to practice their believes of choice in a non-judgmental free environment.

Fourth, during the civil wars, Southerners were massacred and up to date, they have not been given the justice they deserve. These are obviously gross injustices committed against Southerners and they ought to be angry. But is separation of the South from the North the best option for these past injustices? Will separation bring long lasting peace? I don’t think so.
When you ask South Sudanese why they want another nation, most likely you will hear these rehearsed answers that they have heard from their leaders without necessarily understanding the complexities of the topics they are discussing. Marginalization makes the top list of these answers followed by Islamization and Arabization.

Looking at the Sudanese history, particularly the relationship between the minority Sudanese Arabs in the North and the Black Africans in the South, it is emphatically that South Sudanese have been the most marginalized group in Sudan.

But this doesn’t mean that Southerners are the only marginalized group. People of the Nuba Mountains took up arms and fought together with SPLA against Khartoum government because they were and still are marginalized.

 Darfurians continue to stage rebellions against the central government because of marginalization. People from Eastern Sudan are equally dissatisfied with the Khartoum government because they are not being given equal share of the national wealth.

Even some of the Sudanese Arabs, who are blamed for marginalization of the Black Africans, are marginalized. For instance, it is alleged that only three Arab tribes hold the vast majority of government positions in Khartoum, from cabinet ministers to their drivers and all the bureaucracy in between.

So, while marginalization claim being made by the people of South Sudan are legitimate, they are not the only marginalized group. Marginalization cannot be used to justify separation of the South because it doesn’t affect only people of South Sudan but virtually everyone in Sudan.

In addition, the new South Sudan nation to be will not be free from marginalization problem. South Sudanese are already complaining of domination by their fellow Southerners on both regional and national levels.

About the issue of Islamization and Arabization, which is related to the question of identity, South Sudanese shouldn’t worry too much about them considering the socio-political changes sweeping across North Sudan. All signs are showing that it is only a matter of time before Sudan switches its identity from that of Arab to black Africa. For instance, in the past people of Darfur didn’t empress their Blackness.

They were close to Arab Sudanese than to Black Sudanese. In fact, they fought a long side with the Sudanese Arabs against South Sudanese. But today things have changed. Darfurians now identify more with Southerners/Blacks than with Arabs.

Due to globalization, Sudanese Arabs too, are becoming uncomfortable with the self-given Arab identity. According to academic literature, Sudanese Arabs who have travelled to the outside world have begun to identify themselves with Black Africans, thanks to the Middle East and the Western world. It is said that the vast majority of Sudanese Arabs who have worked in the Arab World have had the bad experience of being called slave.

In the Western World, they are not classified as Arabs but as Blacks. These kinds of experiences have created resentment among Sudanese Arabs and have made them to realize that no one outside Sudanese borders endorses their self-imposed identity.

The only group that endorses Sudanese Arab identity ironically is Black Sudanese and they do it for political reasons. Considering these changes, South Sudanese shouldn’t feel threaten about their African identity and should stop seeking for a separate nation to protect it. The CPA stipulated that making unity attractive is the first option for both the NCP and SPLM.

The NCP obviously didn’t work hard enough to make unity attractive. The reason being, the NCP political strategists thought, due to weakness of South Sudanese, the SPLM would break down before the interim period ends hence the demise of the CPA.

In the last few months when NCP realized that their dream was not materializing, they began to make big promises of investment in the South.

SPLM on the other hand, instead of taking a proactive role in making unity attractive, it took a back seat approach and left national issues entirely in the hands of the NCP. SPLM abandoned its project of restructuring old Sudanese political system to reflect diversity of people of Sudan. SPLM has forgotten that it has the moral obligation to fight for a united new Sudan on behalf of all marginalized Sudanese citizens.

Separation of South Sudan is a quick fix but not necessarily a permanent solution to social problems that people of South Sudan are trying to get rid of. Take for example the issue of domination; in Eastern and Western Equatoria states, for instance, complaints about domination are emerging in these states. Certain ethnic groups are being accused of occupying more civil servants’ positions more than others.

On the national (South Sudan) level, the same problem exists. On top of the internal domination that the South Sudanese government should brace itself to fight, there is also the external domination issue, which is worse than the internal domination.

Since CPA was signed in 2005, foreigners have benefited more than the average South Sudanese nationals. The expatriates hired from Kenya and Uganda by the humanitarian organizations have hired their own relatives from their respective countries. This problem will persist for long time since the South Sudan government to be has no capacity to regulate such gross mistakes.

While I respect the choice of South Sudanese to vote for separation, I just wish that both the NCP and SPLM had made better choices on behalf of their citizens. If problems of Sudan were tackled rationally, the world wouldn’t be witnessing breaking up of the Sudan.

By Leon Nyerere

Sudanese living Canada


RSS comment feed
17/01/2011, 6:28 PM
 - Posted by Anonymous User
South Sudanese vote for secession is not coming out of irrationality as you put it. Its a reality. Its not a knee-jerk emotional response based on fictitious claims, rather, its a normal reaction to an oppressive regime. Many of us Southerners who voted, actually experienced the full pangs of the Khartoum regime fast hand - the shellings, the discrimination, the forced arabization and islamization, forced asylum..etc

The kind of response the Southerners are giving, is the type of response any rational human being with respect for freedom and self determination should expect and should embrace. You do not plant oranges, expecting mangoes. A will always be A. Everything is following a logical pattern. If you discriminate a particular group, you should expect the normal logical sequence from such action - violence or self determination. That is exactly the way the South responded, and that is what most groups in history have done too. East Pakistan Separated from the West to form Bangladesh, for the same reasons us Southerners are seceding for. Its the same with the Ethiopians and the Eritreans, and the other marginalized groups in Europe as well.

The reasons as to whether the South should opt for unity or not, depends alot on the North's often unreliable, untrustworthy promises(proven by its track records). Now, before you consider unity, you should ask yourself these questions;

1. How long should the Southerners wait for the North to change? 10 years? 15 years? 20? Should they continue living under economic subjugation while waiting for the North to embrace some kind of democracy? Then what?

2. Which one is better: Dealing with our own internal conflict issues while still under an oppressive Northern regime(which is by the way, still at war with Darfur), or opting for our own platforms, where we could exercise our own freedoms in dealing with these issues?

3. which is better: Thriving under heavy economic sanctions, or escaping that to join a more thriving, more bigger east African market, and a world market eagerly waiting for secession?

You also mention external domination as an issue, as if that is something that will solve itself under unity. Its a well known fact that majority of the Southern population is poor and illiteracy level is high So the expected result is that the South will have to rely on external companies to help offset some of its developmental needs. But you forget to add that GOSS has measures which restrict the operations of some of these companies and helps to empower the locals with employment. The labour office is especially doing a great job with regards to capacity development. Together with ILO(International labour Organization), they are offering training opportunities and preparing the South for its inevitable future as a stable state. You ar also forgetting that the South has millions of diaspora in various countries around the world, who are either in schools, or are working and looking to invest in the South. The diaspora community is more economically and intellectually empowered, so expect a change in power differentials pretty soon, and.....

Let the Northerners solve their problems of sharia, sanctions, oppressive leadership, identity issues, religion, etc. For us Southerners, we want a secular state without the extra baggage that comes with it. There is certainly a chance for future unity, even with a Southern leader in the North, so all is not lost. but the wisest thing for NCP to do now, is to look for another leader with a kinder face to the international community. In the meanwhile, the South shall continue enjoying its new found freedom.
Add Comment

Name (required)

Email (required)


Enter the code shown above in the box below
Featured Videos
  • What is The National Dialogue?South Sudan Peace Process
  • Expectations of the National DialogueSouth Sudan Peace Process
  • Gurtong Mobile Cinema
What is The National Dialogue?1 Expectations of the National Dialogue2 Gurtong Mobile Cinema3



Gurtong Radio

Peace Efforts Earn Bishop Paride Taban Top UN Award

 English Programs     |      برامج اللغة العربية