The Slogan of "New Sudan" and Unity

The principle behind advertising commodities in commerce is persuasion through repetition.

By Bona Malwal 

The principle behind advertising commodities in commerce is persuasion through repetition. Products repeatedly advertised have a better chance of catching the attention of the consumer, even though the quality of the product may not be as good as advertised.

The leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) may have over-absorbed this principle of advertisement - to the detriment of the political interest of South Sudan.

Now that the peace talks on the South have become overshadowed by Darfur, there may be some room to publicly clarify some of these issues. This writer believes that is time to openly debate the issues, so that the people of South Sudan do not sleepwalk into another war without definition of the objectives.

When the 1983 war started, most South Sudanese were utterly angry with the way general Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri abrogated the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement that had given the whole country ten years of peace.

Most South Sudanese took Nimeiri's action not only as another dishonouring of an agreement with the South by the North, but as the last straw. It is not up to someone who was never a soldier - who never fought the cause of my people with arms - to make a value judgement on what that war has achieved.

But most South Sudanese had hoped that the SPLA would make both a political and a military difference in their relationship with the governments in Khartoum.

Many had hoped that if it came to negotiating with the government, as indeed these matters must ultimately come to be negotiated, South Sudan would be negotiating sitting on its own geographical territory as those borders with Northern Sudan stood on 1st January 1956 and never be accused of being expansionist.

Again, what happened and why South Sudan is today negotiating without being militarily in control of geographical South Sudan must remain a debate between the military leaders and the fighting forces of South Sudan. I will confine myself only to the political issues on which I claim to have a legitimate right to a personal opinion.

The main and first duty of any liberation movement, to my mind, is to articulate and widely publicise the political cause for which the people must take up arms to fight and to die. Only a persuasive articulation of the objectives of the war rallies a community to that cause.

Fortunately for the leadership of the SPLA, anger within South Sudan against the North was so strong that it was good enough to cloak a personal agenda under it. The SPLA leader boasts that he was merely organising an angry mob of South Sudanese into a fighting force.

That much of the SPLA support in South Sudan regards "New Sudan" as one and the same thing as the political aspiration of the South is a mark of how successful this political deception has been.

While the idea of a "New Sudan" was to rally the non Arab group within the larger Sudan in order to capture power from the Arabs, that could only be done through war. There is no way one is going to rally people on racial basis to capture power without war.

Unless it is done through a democratic process which needs a very different type of organisation and mobilisation from that of war. Organising democratically is not possible if the leader of the movement is averse to the political process the way the leader of the SPLA clearly is. "New Sudan" is therefore a recipe for war; perpetual war.

Even if one allows for the fact that the former Ethiopian military ruler, Mengistu Haile Mariam, universally credited with providing the SPLA with an overwhelming military and logistical support, could not have been persuaded to support a separatist movement of South Sudan; assuming that that is what the majority of the young South Sudanese who became soldiers of the SPLA thought they were going to fight for, it was possible to persuade Mengistu to assist. 

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