By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD
February 25, 2010 (SSNA) -- Since the 19th century the Arabs of Middle East have together with the world’s leading imperialists have always reached to south Sudan for slaves and natural resources like elephant tusks, gold, leopard skins, horns of the rhinos and other exotic items. Unfortunately this relationship as can be seen was loaded with a lot of injustices and inhuman degradation and the main goal was to dominate south Sudan both politically and socially.
However our history has documented very well how the people of south Sudan persistently resisted the cultural invasions originating from the Middle East, especially the Capitals of Cairo, Kuwait, Bagdad, Damascus, Beirut , Khartoum and Riyadh and will continue to do so. There is a great deal of documentations in the Pan Afrikan literature highlighting the detrimental effects of the unbalanced relationship between black Afrika and the Arab Middle East, where millions of Afrikans were taken as slaves and spent all their lives as domestic workers all over the Arab world.
But around the time of the independence of the Sudan in 1956, Egyptian government was much worried by the emergence of the rebellion movement that started on 18th August 1955 in the southern Town of Torit, roughly four months ahead of the so-called independence. This is no better captured than in the well known statement always referred to by the Egyptian politicians that south Sudan is their lost heaven.
Following the peace agreement in 1972, known as the Addis Ababa Agreement, South Sudanese became conscious of the wider Arab concerns over the region. Unfortunately much of the perceptions have been negative, and our people sooner than later understood that the Arabs are in fact much interested in having the land and the resources more than ever thinking of any real developing as such.
A disturbing example in this complex relationship is the way the Egyptian interest is being perceived in south Sudan and especially so amongst the southern elites, so much so to include all those who received their education in the Egyptian Institutions of Higher Learning. In south Sudan when locals talk about Egypt’s involvement in the Sudan, the first thing that comes to mind is the former’s interest in constructing not only the Jonglei Canal but also its limitless yearns to control the While Nile.
Thus looking at the role of the Arab Investment in south Sudan which is welcomed by some narrow minded local politicians and ministers alike it leaves one to think that our fellows have so quickly forgotten how cunning the entire Arab community can be. How can anyone, given the historical facts in the relationship assume rightly as to whether there never exist other hidden agendas. Who can at this particular time rule out the cultural, religious and linguistic assimilations that have always existed in the Arab minds?
It was since time immemorial, that the Sudan has been looked at as the future bread basket of the Middle East by these very Arabs of the Arab League, which is nothing but an organisation with expansionist tendencies. But as we have come to see, this has been a matter of a huge political slogan than any really economic projection at the time.
The latest move by honourable Amr Moussa the secretary general of the Arab League in his attempt to engage the organisation in south Sudan, is an issue that must be well debate amongst concerned south Sudanese. The real concerns come from the fact that despite the presence of the Arab League as an observer at the Comprehensive peace Agreement that was signed in Naivasha in 2005, it took the organisation too long to respond to the developmental needs of south Sudan. This is by all standards contrary to most people’s expectations who thought the organisation’s involvement would have helped to make Unity of the Sudan an attractive option for the south. As such this timing raises serious alarms.
We have also come to learn that the conference which was held under the auspices of Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), has opened the doors to the Arab investors to come and invest in its vast lands and they will never regret for their money.
However some observers argued that the delays from the Arab league could have been attributed to the insecurity as well as the true political future of the region. As the league failed to capitalize on an early opportunity where their investments in south Sudan would have played to consolidate the unity of the country, it is making others to conclude that the Arab League investors are more comfortable to invest in an independent south Sudan. But who in there sound minds can buy to such a weird reasoning
Egyptians can be smelt in the whole deal and it is their last attempt to block the independence of south Sudan. This part of the world can never ever be any secured and stable than the current situation as long as the two ruling parties continue to be on one another’s neck, with a possibility of returning to war any time. There are no any indications on the horizon to signify that there still exist chances for maintaining any unity between the south and the north. Unity is practically zero, and waiting for it to happen would be a waste of time.
An important message to these Arab investors is that south Sudan is going to vote and become and independent country come 2011, and any attempts at blackmailing to become thereafter a member of the Arab League is never ever going to be accepted by the southern masses. The world is now a global village and we quite well understand that, so why can we remain as members of the East African Community and still do business with the Middle East?
At any rate whether the Arab Investors are really going to live up there words and put their money in south Sudan is still to be seen. One such investor was a Kuwaiti business which was supposed to have built a five stars hotel in Juba the capital city, but for unknown reasons until now the site is empty. We can only say that since investment is meant to benefit both sides, our people don’t really have to rush into agreements that may adversely affect the future economy of the country.
South Sudan is in need of basic infrastructure more than anything else. Our people should have learnt their lessons on how the northern Sudanese traders have all through resorted to projects that only earned them quick money without contributing in addressing the root causes of our backwards and in which case it was they (the northerners- investors) who got the riches while the local population was rapidly pulled into abject poverty.
On the other hand given the vast virgin land and countless natural resources in south Sudan, I don’t think that the Arabs should be the only or even the best investors for that matter. Our people should not be deceived to believe that anything can be dashed to us by these Arabs for free.
Whoever wants to invest in south Sudan needs to know that we are not for sale. Right now our priority is to concentrate on tackling the more vital issues such as the elections, the referendum and the post independence arrangements which if successfully done, can enable us to negotiate contracts in better terms and under national institutions that are typical of democratic establishments and are transparently run and audited. Otherwise only trying to impress the visitors with a big animal to human ratio may not be the most impressive.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” King Jr Martin Luther