2011: The Making of a (South Sudan) Nation - II

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Tuesday, 05 May 2009 04:56
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Jok Gai is a NSV columnist

 

(Victoria, Canada) - - In my last article, I alluded to the future of South Sudan being two-lane: declaring unilateral Independence or voting for Independence through the Referendum. In this article, I will assume that [the] Government of South Sudan (GoSS) takes the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) lane. I will discuss what the people of South Sudan and their government need to do in the run-up to the UDI.

Aggressive and persistent diplomacy

It goes without emphasizing how important diplomacy is across borders and/or internationally. As things stand now, GoSS' diplomatic skills are wanting. Let's dissect this diplomatic deficiency based on the recent arrest warrant against Omar Beshir, the "president" of Sudan.

Upon the issuance of the warrant, Khartoum dispatched high level delegations to major African countries and countries that matter outside the continent, even to France, a country that has very uneasy relations with Sudan after the United States!

The result? Don't be surprised that the Government of Sudan may get away with what they want: international support for Article 16 resolution at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to suspend the ICC arrest warrant against Beshir. There are worrying signs that USA is softening up to Khartoum as talks are under way to normalize relations. Don't ask me about what has prompted this change of attitude in Washington. In Africa, Sudan has the support of Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Djibouti, Ethiopia (seemingly after the ICC issue), among others, and they are working so hard to get Nigeria. At the security council, they have the support of China, Qatar and Russia. If they add the US and France, you can imagine the consequence.

And this begs the question: What has GoSS done to counter Khartoum's aggressiveness?

At the time of the warrant, GoSS commissioned a three-week long tour of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda "to brief African countries on the current political developments in Sudan."

However, there has also been a number of delegations to the US. That was a good beginning but I think more needs to be done. I don't know what the "briefing" entailed but it should be more than that: it ought to be an opportunity to sell our vision for the region, Africa and the world.

On the domestic front, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia are our traditional allies. South Africa falls into this category by virtue of our shared history. It's the only country that understands the experience of South Sudanese without much ado. Libya and Egypt have been supporting us perennially, subject to whether or not they like the leader in Khartoum. Internationally, we have the US and some lukewarm support from other Western nations, mostly on humanitarian grounds.

So what exactly should GoSS do?

Setting up a coherent communication strategy

We live in an information age and so nothing is more important than regular communication with supporters and potential supporters. Currently, Khartoum has a very strong propaganda machinery which, therefore, requires a counter-strategy to break it. If it is already formed, GoSS should strengthen its directorate of communication by employing tech-savvy South Sudanese to dig up and monitor the flow of information. Within this group of civil servants, there could be researchers and data analysts. The world lives on the internet, so why should our government be left behind?

Taking the cue from the ICC case, the same scenario will be replicated when it comes to the question of the Southern Sudan Independence. It is a given that we owe the strong support from the US to the quiet and often unacknowledged diplomacy from the Lost Boys/Girls. They have lived their lives with integrity among American families. Americans are then justified to believe that the problems these young men and women faced in Sudan were not of their own making, thus the inspiration to do more so that nobody should ever suffer again.

Any meaningful communication strategy must therefore include the South Sudanese Diaspora in North America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia. The more people know about us, the better for the future of our country.

Strong media, independent and/or GoSS friendly

To counter Khartoum's propaganda, there is need for a vibrant media; one that is quick to respond to any distortion of information. There is a good signal that the SPLM has been responding to information circulating on the internet. The SPLM ought to work harder in that direction. South Sudanese also have an increasing presence in online media, which is great. It is my suggestion that the SPLM, and GoSS by extension, provide financial incentives and an environment free of intimidation to independent media practitioners.

In concluding, I have focused mainly on communication and diplomacy as prerequisites for an effective UDI. International diplomacy is a multivariable equation, sensitive to slight changes. For those of us who live abroad, we know how difficult it gets to explain African problems. We do not want our quest for independence to be passed off as "another African problem" because it is not. It is our duty to make it known to others the way we know it. Our communication strategy must be based on maintaining the friendly countries on our side as well as winning over those sitting on the fence. This strategy can also serve as a deterrent to any premature change of attitude in Washington in favour of the Sudanese government. In the next article, I will talk about the aftermath of the UDI.

*The author can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\',this)">'+addy_text67017+'<\/a>'; //-->