This article has been forwarded to “Sudan Mirror” for publication. (www.sudanmirror.com). It is published here for the Gurtong readers. As usual, comments can be either send directly to the editor or posted on the discussion board for discussion.
Do Bashir and Garang Deserve a Nobel Like De Klerk and Mandela?
By Jacob J. Akol
The simple answer to the above question is “yes” with a very big ‘but’. A big “but” because, unlike Mandela and De Klerk, President Bashir of Sudan and Col. Garang, Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Peoples Liberation/Army, SPLM/A, have snookered themselves behind their own goal posts, where it is impossible for them to score a lasting peace. I will explain shortly.
Meanwhile, it is reasonable to assume that the day a comprehensive peace agreement is signed either in Kenya or in Washington DC, there will be celebrations from Nimule to Wahdi Halfa. In spite of the reported food shortages in the South, banana and sorghum brews will flow freely from the forests and hills of Equatoria to the savannah and the swamps of Bhar el Ghazal and Upper Nile.
Southerners and Northerners will be celebrating for opposing reasons: Southerners will be celebrating in the belief that they are six years and six months away from their own independent South Sudan. Northerners will be celebrating in the belief that President Bashir has secured the unity of the country with the consent of John Garang and the SPLM/A as he keeps telling them.
Sudanese are not known for prolonged hero-worshipping but, “insecurity men” permitting, it is safe to assume that both Garang and Bashir will be carried shoulder-high in public gatherings by peace-loving Sudanese, provided the duo choose to bolster the peace (or suspension of war) agreement they have signed by touring the country as soon as possible.
Should they be late as Sudanese are prone to be, the realities of what they agreed to and signed would become widely and distortedly known to the Sudanese populace whom they have deliberately kept ignorant throughout the duration of the long negotiations.
To be charitable then, one would expect the popularity of the peace duo to wane almost fatally within the first six months of the interim period if they continue to handle the public as offhandedly as they have been doing during the peace negotiations. They both have fought gallantly and recklessly for decades but have they got any clue how to manage peace? The current peace process in Sudan has few, if any, precedents to enlighten them.
Take a closer look. The now more than thirty years of war between Northern and Southern Sudan is unlike any other in the recent history of liberation and rebel movements on the African continent. The Sudanese war is essentially a southern rebellion against unjust governments in Khartoum as much as it is a war of liberation from what they see as domination or colonialism from the Arab North.
Garang and the movement he leads are in some ways like those of contemporary rebels/liberators, but in many ways very unlike them. These include Afwerki of Eritrea, Zenawi of Ethiopia, Museveni of Uganda, Kagame of Rwanda, the late Kabila (Senior) of DRC, Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mbeki of South Africa and the now deposed Taylor of Liberia. Forget the similarities – which are rather obvious.
The difference between Garang and the rest is best illustrated by the decisive quality of goals scored by each of these men to end the war and what may turn out to be an own goal for Dr. Garang, just like his prodigal brothers before him: Dr. Lam Akol and Dr. Riek Machar, whose peace agreements with Gen. Bashir ended in a cul-de-sac.
Leaving Mbeki aside for the moment, each of the rebels/liberators above scored the golden goal they and their movements set out to achieve in the first place.