By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD
March 8, 2010 (SSNA) -- As Sudan’s comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south approaches its last station, many dubious concerns surprisingly enough begin to emerge as if some quarters within the so-called international community are just waking up from what seems like a deep sleep that they no doubt succumbed to immediately following the signature on the truce in 2005. Not to say much, but whatever are the motives, it is obvious that some regional and international powers are seriously at work to change the course of the CPA, our “Peace Ship”, right in the middle of the ocean, thus altogether gambling with the a possibility of dragging this region back to another unrest.
Following the negative comments that came from the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon and followed by his UA counterpart Jean Ping where the two are on record to have warned against what they called the ‘rush’ for an independent state in south Sudan which is largely expected to be the ultimate outcome of the referendum scheduled for January 2011, the level of alertness and vigilance amongst our people who genuinely favour our secession, have been raised a million folds.
This same negative trend was later taken up by the Egyptian government whose opposition to south Sudan’s independence had never been a secret. Locally and in consistence with their declared policies, the national Umma party of Sadiq Al Mahdi, had called for the postponement of the general elections in response to the latest Darfur agreement reached at Doha between the NCP and the JEM faction of Dr. Khalil Ibrahim and on the other hand, Maulana al Mirghani of the DUP voiced his concern by saying that he will do his level best to maintain the unity of the Sudan. “Neither Khartoum nor Juba will see peace if the south is allowed to break away.” said Al Mirghani.
The relationship between the Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki and the SPLM movement can be traced back to the second half of the 1990’s when this newly independent African nation which lies along the Indian Ocean coast, accepted to offer a safe haven to Sudan’s opposition groups that were by then operating under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). However how the SPLM which begun under late Mengistu Heile Mariam of Ethiopia final got acceptance from the Eritrean regime clearly says it all, that in politics, there are no permanent friends nor permanent enemies, but there exists permanent interests.
However Eretria like many of its friends of the Sudanese NDA were so much disappointed with the way how the late Dr. Garang de Mabior went and sealed the agreement with the Khartoum Islamic regime with the central theme based on the right of the south to self determination. Obviously late Garang himself was under stern pressure from the southern separatists as well as the US administration of George W Bush to sign the truce; otherwise his position in the whole setting could possibly have been jeopardized.
It cannot skip anyone’s mind that the NDA which had a declared agenda of regime change in Khartoum didn’t take it well when finally the SPLM/A accepted to join Khartoum as a junior partner in a government of national unity (GoNU), thus leaving the rest of the group too weak to achieve any of its agenda in the absence of the much reckoned military might of the SPLA fighters.
President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea had earlier however criticized the government of south Sudan (GoSS) under President Salva Kiir Mayardit for the rampant corruption that struck this abjectly impoverished part of the world. According to president Afewerki, the total sum of 6 billion dollars that was wasted by the corrupt administration in Juba, was too much to go without being criticized. His comments no doubt were met with great disapproval and disappointments from those who once identified themselves with him as fellow comrades. Yet the criticism was a constructive one.
Though south Sudanese have nothing to persuade them to look at comrade Afewerki as an enemy, but his continuous interferences in the south Sudanese politics have recently drawn some circles to question his long term plans and intensions.
The recent statements to the media that Asmara is working hard to bring about the postponement of Sudan’s much anticipated general elections currently scheduled for April 2010, was at large received with much frustration amongst a cross section of the southern population for both its content and timing.
Abdullah Jabir, the Eritrean presidential adviser was quoted on the London based Arabic daily , Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on the 6th of March 2010, that his government fears the April elections could deepen the rift in the country adding that polls are a tool and “not a goal in themselves”.
“Two years ago we proposed to the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) a two year postponement to the elections and the South Sudan referendum to prepare the environment and clean the field for all Sudanese parties” Jabir said.
He suggested that the NCP would not object to delaying the elections on the condition that the referendum would be pushed back as well.
The Eritrean official revealed that they gave a specific suggestion to conduct the referendum first and if it comes in favour of unity then elections can be held in the entire country otherwise they will take place in two separate states.
Whatever is the motive behind the current Eritrean move, I would first of all want to pass my heartfelt gratitude to the people and government of Eritrea for their historical help to the people of south Sudan during their struggle against the racially motivate injustices practiced against them from time immemorial, by the successive governments in Khartoum. However we regret to point out that any moves from their side to delay or derail our march towards independence is destined not to go well.
However broadly speaking it can be concluded that the loud cries of the poor masses in south Sudan is finally getting listening ears, thanks to all the writers, journalists and activities who continue to dedicate their time to keep our struggle for independence alive in the international media headlines.
Our people continue to relentlessly cry out for free and fair elections and as a proof that all is not in vain, it was last week, 1st March 2010, that the African Union Sudan Panel responded by organising the much anticipated south Sudan political parties’ submit meeting in Juba, the capital.
In the opening speech of that historical meeting, the panel’s representative, President Pierre Boyuya of Burundi said that, “Holding free and fair elections after so many decades of division and destruction is a huge task. The columns of newspapers are filled with the writings of sceptics who say that it cannot be done. Those sceptics are wrong. It can be done. It was done in my country, Burundi. It was done in the country of the Chairman of our Panel, President Thabo Mbeki. It can be done here.”
This particular meeting came as a relief to most south Sudanese political parties, election candidates and citizens alike for the fact that the most part of the past month of February 2010 had seen many political upheavals of accusations and counter accusation from most of the political parties. We are also aware of the fact that there existed serious accusations that were openly traded between the SPLM and its splinter sister the SPLM – DC, too intense that they had to resort to court rulings, but that’s what democracy and justices are all about.
If some of the negative voices that keep underrating our ability to hold a free, fair and non violent elections are based on the widespread news about the insecurity, tribalism and other negative behaviours from our security forces and government alike, we are still to pride ourselves of the fact that the African continent as it stands, is a home to the most forgiving people in the world. On many occasions local solutions to local problems have always been the remedies of choice.
Now that the continent has started to take strides towards multi-party politics as opposed to the traditional chiefdoms and tribal kingdoms or even totalitarian liberation movements which went on to establish one party dictatorships as is the case in Eretria, and to some extent in Zimbabwe....... etc. No surprise many things have always come up to challenge this nestling nation building. And the most difficult of all these challenges have far been Africa’s unsettled position on ethnically engineered politics.
Do we blame God for having created us as tribes? Of course not, but we can do best to ask for the wisdom on how to turn our many tribes from forces of repulsion into a one that enriches our struggle against poverty, injustices and domination.
South Sudan’s case provides AFRICA with a fresh opportunity to participate in building a twenty first century African nation from the ashes of its five decades civil war. It is here that Africa should come together to experience what it is like to freshly start a post conflict democracy while reflecting on recent events in the continent, especially those violent events that engulfed the last Kenyan elections, or how the Zimbabweans’ failed to honour their election results and refused to accept the others or how a country like Eritrea found itself stuck in a non democratic one party state and perpetually meddling in subversions here and there.
South Sudan offers the black African people another opportunity to see yet another 12 million Nelson Mandelas walking out into freedom. It offers us all without exception that the human race has not yet done with the global injustice, when in the 21st century 98% of its population still cannot read and write....etc.
In defiance of the sceptic voices, there is a need to prove to the world as it stands that south Sudan is right there like any other part of the world to participate in a democratic system of governance of the most superior type. It is for this reason that our people will be proudly facing the ballots in April 2010 to cast their votes in an election considered the most complex even by international standards.
We shall remain grateful to all those who have come forwards to assist us to sort out the complex bits before we finally reach our destination. However the primary responsibility obviously rests upon our shoulders, hence with the CPA serving as a torch in our hands we need to gather all the courage it takes and wisely engage the available avenues.
It hasn’t come as a surprise that most of those running today for public offices in south Sudan are the same people who once put their lives in the line so that the marginalised people can at last have this opportunity to freely and independently walk to the ballot box and vote for who should the serve them best. Unfortunately these very processes are not without worries.
Elections as they are, they remain very crucial in any democracy as they provide the only peaceful means for the transfer of power from one group to another based on free, fair and informed choices by the citizens. And to have new faces come up in any place or position is only natural in the sense that nothing is permanent in life. Each night has to pass away to give way for a new day and vice versa.
Understandably when it comes to making changes, it is no surprise that a wide range of motives immediately come into play, and as such it will be completely irrational to set up an exact or an ideal list of values that may appeal to the electorates. The struggle between good and bad has always dominated the human history since time immemorial, yet what constitutes both differs from one person to the other or from one group of people to the other. But nevertheless if we are to see beyond our immediate selves, we can come to appreciate the value of a society, a community, and eventually a nation.
The best would have been for all politicians to come up with programs that can strike an optimum balance of appeal to wider electorates. Such programs would highlight issues where individuals can see their personal interests, their community’s interest and the broadest interest that they considers the highest and the noblest, which would be the national interest. The only difference here is that some have already been tried and failed badly, while others are asking to be given an opportunity to try.
At this particular time in our history, it is to our national interest as south Sudanese to have the last say on our people’s destiny. Our destiny is ours and not what appeals to Afewerki, Hosni Mubarak, Gaddafi, Bashir, Mirghani or Al Mahdi. It is what appeals to us that matters. As an undisputable priority now we need to establish a democratic tradition and creditable national institutions on which to build our future independent state. And only when we are done, then we can come and talk the rest of the hobby politics with whoever is in business with us, otherwise first things first.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” King Jr. Martin Luther