South Sudan: New State, its name and secularity

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Sunday, 16 January 2011 19:36
Written by Kuir ë Garang, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), newsudanvision.com
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(Calgary AB) - A new year, a new state, perhaps, new resolutions. The question I'll be asking is: will we have a leadership with new uniting governing methods. I know the government in the South has tried its best given the realities of transitioning from a rebel organization to a conventional government. However, the leadership has to know now that the struggle is starting in a new light. I'll address two things in this article: the relationship between religion and the state and the name of the would-be new state.

South Sudanese have voted and the choice is clear even to the most sceptical of all. As we wait for he official results of the plebiscite, we have to remember that 'traditionalizing' or conventionalizing governance in South Sudan should be seen as a task not easier than the 37 years of struggle. Second, grass roots political enlightenment and social evangelism of why South Sudanese should value individual values rather than assumed greatness of given tribes as exceptional collectivism. Third, Mr. President should shake up the ministries to make sure that ministerial employees are not from a single tribe.

South Sudanese have shown that they can vote with civility; something not always seen in Africa. If South Sudanese, as people struggling to form to new state, vote with such civility, then I believe there is hope for South Sudan. I do believe challenges will be enormous but I don't believe in the supposed collapse of South Sudan as a nation (Part 1:http://www.rcinet.ca/english/program/the-link/archives/episode/09-01_2011-01-12-/ ). Referendum is a good testimony of a united spirit of South Sudanese.

We have tried democracy, however, democracy is meaningless and self-defeating if elected leadership is associated with tribal collective exceptionalism rather than ideological sublimity and greatness of personal values. If we identify leaders by values and ideological refinement, then democracy makes sense, or else 'democracy risks being a dictatorship of the majority' as Dr. Francis Mading Deng once wrote. This is a reality that needs personal efforts in meaningfully appreciating the value of democracy.

Now, what saddens me the most is an attempt to defeat the purpose many South Sudanese died for. Many died to see into it that religion is kept at personal level. Whether to believe in god or not should be restricted to individual spheres. Trying to bring religion into state governance issues is disastrous to individual liberties and free spirit of discussion required in nascent democracies. Why should we fight to separate state an religion only to reinstate the same monstrosity. Religious influence in the government is the same whether it is Christianity, Islam or Judaism.

While we should respect religious leaders and their contribution to the struggle to liberate our people, we should also be mindful of the dangers of religious dogmatism. The use of word like god in our national anthem is a shame to the so called poets who wrote what is to be the face of the new nation. These poets have brought to shame both their intellect and national responsibility. Yes, for those who believe in god, there is god's sphere of influence, and yes, there are functions and writings were god's connotation is relevant. However, to have 'oh god' as the start of our national anthem is the same naivety and political weakness of will that suffocated us in Kenya's national anthem when we were in High School.

South Sudan should distinguish itself as a secular government in the name of those who died in the name of the same. I thought we had poets and singers of intellectual importance in South Sudan. I didn't know we had priests and religious apologist masquerading as poets with intellectual independence. However, political naivety continues.

Many have called for historically vague names like Cush which has been invoked naively in the national anthem. While Cush falls geographically inside Sudan, it would be a naive thing to name the new nation Cush. Historically and presently, Cushiest are mostly in Ethiopia, Somalia and part of Sudan (such as Beja). Cush as a kingdom spanned a wide area that included part of present day Egypt, Ethiopian, Sudan and Chad. This is a name others can legitimately claim. The ground under which we are trying to use it is both historically and logically naive. A little study of history will help our leaders appreciate the laughability of the name Cush. Yes, we can use Cush to name cities or roads or any other infrastructure, but not a country.

I don't, however, have any problem with the name South Sudan as I explained in my interview with CBC radio Canada international (part 2:http://www.rcinet.ca/english/program/the-link/archives/episode/16-17_2011-01-14-/ ). We have been identified as South Sudanese for a long time. Even with the united Sudan, we've always been South Sudanese. Leaving the same Sudan would be like a complete defeat. North and South also share a history that will not go away that easily. Yes, the oil is in the South, but the pipe lines are in the north. To foster political stability and fair economic relations, maintaining something of commonality will foster sound economic cooperation that South Sudan (as an independent nation) direly needs.

Trade and economic developmental needs transcend our emotional myopia. We don't have to only think about having our own state, we also have to think about how to economically sustain such a state. Since 98% of South economy is tied to oil, we have to think twice about our economic choices. Diversifying the economy will require sound and knowledgeable leadership in the South. This might take decades. Unwise choices in terms of oil production and economical cooperation might lead to collapse of the Southern Economy. Cooperation with the North should be regarded with economic profundity.

I don't have any problem with South Sudan being called The Nile Republic, or Nile Democratic Republic, or Democratic Republic of Nile. The people can of course be called Nileans. While the choice of the name can be left to the people to decide, we have to let people know the facts before they decide. The same mentality of Tahlimaat (orders) still exist in South Sudan. Cush would stamp our naivity.

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