By Justin Ambago Ramba
October 2, 2010 (SSNA) -- It was unfortunate that many people across the African continent had in the past displayed a negative attitude towards south Sudan’s just struggle for freedom. But as the CPA approaches its end, concerns of a possible resumption of Sudan’s south-north war became more of a reality worldwide and across the continent; much of the negativity has changed. The international community that brokered the peace agreement wasn’t exactly right when it thought that the CPA on its own – without putting pressure on Khartoum - was enough to start off the wheel of political transformation in this vast African country. This is also changing.
It is important that the African leaders and the policy makers learn to listen to the sincere Sudanese point of view - the people in the streets – who knew from the first moments that the much talked about CPA would be a subject of political manipulations by those who signed it in order to monopolise power and achieve narrow partisan as well as personal interests ......as opposed to attaining a long lasting peace in the country, which can only come about through a wider political and social inclusion. Whatever that was the Sudan won’t be the same again.
If you’re one of those who find it hard to come to grasps with the nature of the Sudanese North- South conflict, you will do well to understand that none of these sentiments just suddenly appeared. They did not come into existence over the past five years, but these are the accumulated results of bitter relationships and historical miss-happenings dating back to the mid fifties. They have been made worse over the last 20 years, especially after the current NIF/NCP government fuelled feelings of hostility and division when it declared ‘Jihad’ [against Southern Sudan in 1989], and sent young men and militias to fight under the banner of a religious war.
And if anyone of you wonders as to why the Sudan has failed to address its conflicts, you will as well need to acknowledge that many opportunities were deliberately undermined during the last half a century, in a series of wars and incomplete peace deals. The ‘Southern Sudan issue’ became a favourite pretext for political maneuvers by the northern elites and military generals alike, which resulted in the manipulation of a whole nation’s fate. And today they stand shamelessly claiming innocence.
The UN sponsored New York Summit on the Sudan has brought to the fore-front the readiness of its member states to recognise the inevitable secession of south Sudan should the people chose to vote for its own independent state in accordance with the provisions of the internationally brokered comprehensive peace agreement [CPA] - a topic much avoided in the League of Nations barely a decade ago.
“The referendum offers the last opportunity to peacefully settle the north – south conflict once and for all. There should never be pre-conditions by anybody who could be seen to undermine the holding and recognition of the referendum. "The international community has clear expectations for this process," Mr. Ban told the gathering. "We expect the referenda to be peaceful, carried out in an environment free of intimidation or other infringements of rights. We expect both parties to accept the results, and to plan for the consequences.
"And finally, we expect the parties to adhere to the CPA, without unilateral acts on either side, North or South." he added.
The UN position on any unilateral acts is one of disapproval – these are essential to deter the voices of unilateral derailing of the CPA by the northern National Congress Party [NCP] of President al Bashir or the possibility of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence [UDI] by the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] prior to the 9th of January 2011 – the agreed date for the south Sudan and Abyei referenda.
We appreciate the position declared by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders who expressed their concerns during the current U.N. General Assembly session that preparations for the referendum votes are lagging and their demand for an urged, timely and peaceful ballot be secured so as to ensure that a possible transition, and smooth takes place without the ignition of a new civil war. Yet we remain worried as all the signs on the ground continue to point to the opposite.
Internationally it is also understood that the north as represented by the NCP is not an enthusiastic participant in the implementation of the referendum, as categorically stated by the US state Secretary Clinton when she said that:
"And if you’re in the north and all of a sudden you think a line’s going to be drawn and you’re going to lose 80 percent of the oil revenues, you’re not a very enthusiastic participant”.
This explains partly why the NCP is extremely reluctant to cooperate, however it is no longer a secret that Ali Osman Taha’s latest attempts at the UN was to solicit ways to save Omer Bashir’s neck. This has not worked out and the US’s detailed plans on how to normalize relationship with Khartoum which is connected to the full implementation of the CPA, the referendum, recognizing its out-come and finding a peaceful settlement to Darfur crisis – all seem to be a long way to go, before Khartoum can ever see normality with the US.
And as the NCP’s intentions to spoil the votes are no longer a secret to the international community as well as the fact that a yes vote for the south’s secession is considered the likely result, diplomatic pressures must be maintained and a strong signal need to be sent to both to the Khartoum government and Southern Sudan that the referenda must be staged on Jan the 9th, and must be peaceful and credible. But how credible, I cannot say given the criteria used in the April general elections where both the NCP and the SPLM cooked their ways back to power.
Now we are facing a reality on the ground where the popular sentiment in the South overwhelmingly favours secession, as such there exist only two conceivable scenarios: the South secedes peacefully through a credible referendum process, or the CPA collapses and the South fights for independence. There is no scenario in which the South remains peacefully united with the North beyond 2011.
My final humble appeal to fellow Africans is that, though a secession victory for South Sudan is considered the likely result of the coming referendum, there is a need for the continent to play a greater role in this settlement. The old view that portrayed the Sudan’s south - north conflict as if it were a conflict between two African communities is a fallacy. There is much of human rights abuse and violations as well as racial and religious prejudices in play. Sub Saharan Africa must show its solidarity to the people of south Sudan as they sacrifice all that they have to defend the continent from the 21st century Arab neo-colonialism.
Last but not least I take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to one of the well known Pan-Afrikanists of our time – Bankie .F. Bankie of Windhoek, Namibia. I would like to acknowledge his great work in the Sudan Sensitisation Project (SSP). Through his works and communiqués many were able to understand the issues of liberation in South Sudan in their right context. We look forwards to hear more voices like his, throughout the Sub Saharan Africa and the Afrikan Diaspora.