How Sudan can mitigate the negative consequences of partition – PART I

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Wednesday, 26 January 2011 09:38
Written by Dr. Elwathig Kameir, The New Sudan Vision (NSV),
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The separation of the south, even if it is a curse, it remains to be a perceptible political reality that could be turned positively, while transforming its cons into pros, and its liabilities into assets, through the perseverance to continue the struggle to achieve the ultimate goal of building a true citizenship-state," argues Dr. Elwathig Kameir in this series.

(Tunis, Tunisia) - This article examines the status and future of "northerners" in the SPLM in light of the criticism and disapproval to which they have lately been exposed to, whether motivated by retribution and "gloat", or out of compassion and support, and in view of the confusion and uncertainty experienced by the northerners themselves, at a time when secession of the south has become almost a fait accompli.

On the one hand, many believe (erroneously) that the establishment of an independent state in southern Sudan will implicitly put an end to the political future of northerners in the SPLM, while some have gone even more extreme to explicitly call for banning and outlawing their political activities in northern Sudan, and on top of that holding them responsible for the separation of the south. It is both naïve and dangerous to call for or promote such wishful thinking, obnoxious as it may sound, which does not stand on a firm footing and defies the truth!
Those critics seem to mix between, and confuse the "northern sector", as an organizational structure, dictated by the nature of the historical development of the SPLM to regulate the political work of the Movement in the thirteen States of the north, with northern Sudan as a "geographical" concept, which we have come to understand since independence in 1956 to include all of northern Sudan except for the three southern Provinces (Upper Nile, Bahr Elghazal, and Equatoria). Thus, not all northerners in the SPLM are organizationally attached to the "northern sector", while the membership of the "sector" is not confined to northerners from the centre and riverain areas only, but constitutes an organizational structure that accommodates all the membership of the Movement in the thirteen northern states, including all residents in these states from the South, the Nuba Mountains, and Inqesna, except those residing in the south or these two regions, as they organizationally belong to the SPLM "southern sector".

Therefore, the Movement has two essential pillars in the "geographic" north of Sudan, (Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile), as substantial areas of these two regions had formed part of the land controlled by the SPLA during the war period, however, the constituencies and social bases of the SPLM in these two states will remain in northern Sudan, following the separation of the south. So, do the quarters that repeatedly make reference to the "northerners" in the SPLM harbor an ethnic definition of the concept, and are skeptical of the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile affiliation and belongingness to the north of Sudan? This is merely an innocent question! What reasoning, argument, right or law, do these quarters advance to justify their vehement call for banning (for that matter, the sheer thinking of) the political activities of all northerners in their own country on the pretext of separation, and the democratic and constitutional right of southerners in the SPLM to choose secession and independence of the south as their preferable option in the self-determination referendum? The issue, in my opinion, is not the future of the northerners in the SPLM following the separation of the south, rather the most urgent and important question is the fate of all northerners who will remain in the north, in particular the northern "nationalists"? As a corollary, the million-dollar question, however, is: what are the long-term strategies of the various sectors of the forces of change in the north in the aftermath of separation? What is the nature of the state they will be aspiring to build in the north?

On the other hand, the SPLM grassroots and supporters of the country’s unity among northerners (ethnically and geographically) and southerners harbor many questions searching for answers, and find themselves helpless, and feel embarrassed in responding to the endless queries of both friends and foes about the position of the Movement on issues of unity and separation, self determination and the referendum, and the fate of the two transitional areas (Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile). Indeed, in the wake of the predicted separation of the south an intricate and complex situation has transpired, resulting in an observed confusion and ambiguity in the vision of some northerners in the Movement, which in turn have pushed them to   narrowly restrict the challenges they face, and confine their concerns, only in the SPLM leadership's position on whether southerners should vote for unity or secession! In terms of the approach and proposed solutions, they look at things from the perspective of a "zero-sum" game that only tolerates the victory/gain of one party (advocates of unity), and the defeat/loss of the other party (advocates of separation), and vice versa. Thus, it seems as if they do not contemplate a solution save for the SPLM leadership to unambiguously instruct the southerners, especially the Movement's members and supporters, to vote in favor of "unity", otherwise this leadership deserves to be stigmatized by betrayal and breach of promises, which calls for severing any sort of links between northerners and this leadership.  

Within such a context the aim of this modest contribution, therefore, is: first, to clarify that such a perspective would only lead to disillusionment, frustration, and the feeling of disappointment and defeat. The separation of the south, even if it is a curse, it remains to be a perceptible political reality that could be turned positively, while transforming its cons into pros, and its liabilities into assets, through the perseverance to continue the struggle to achieve the ultimate goal of building a true citizenship-state. Indeed, this is an objective that is not precluded by the aspirations of southerners in the establishment of their own independent and sovereign political entity, a challenge that they themselves have to confront!

However, sincerity and objectivity of the analysis obliges one not to overlook the objective criticism of the SPLM leadership regarding its retreat from steadfastly moving forward with building the united Sudan on new bases, its disappointing political performance at the national level, lack of strategy, and disregard of the Movement's institutions in the decision-making process. Secondly, the exercise of all northerners, who are a part of the overall organizational structure of the SPLM, of their political activity, represents an added–value that would enrich the pluralistic political life in the context of a viable, coherent, and stable, "new" political entity in northern Sudan. Thus, the separation of the south should by no means distract our attention from the overriding objective of achieving sustainable peace and building the citizenship state both in the south and the north.

The SPLM: A lost opportunity!

During the past three years, I wrote a series of articles that dwelt on the Vision of the New Sudan and the call of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) for building the Sudanese citizenship state, and the Movement’s strategies for translating this “theoretical” concept into reality whether at the federal, or regional level in southern Sudan. The conclusion reached in these contributions was that the actual political practice of the SPLM following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), particularly after the departure of its historical leader in late July 2005, carried many indicators of the Movement’s observed retreat from the Vision it had been preaching for more than two decades. Furthermore, it has abandoned the struggle for achieving the ultimate objective of realizing the country’s unity on new bases preferring separation and the establishment of an independent state in the South. I also underlined in these writings the disillusionment of the northern members of the SPLM, and all its supporters in the north, who had pinned their hopes on the Movement to lead the process of the long-awaited change by moving forward the post-CPA situation (dubbed by the late SPLM Chairman as the “minimum New Sudan”) for achieving voluntary unity. In a nutshell, it seems as if the SPLM has substituted or replaced the Vision with the CPA and its literal implementation, thus withdrawing into a cocoon, waiting for secession of the South, instead of taking it as a drawing board, which in reality is all that it is, in achieving its declared objective of achieving the Sudanese citizenship state! Indeed, The CPA incorporates several aspects of the New Sudan Vision. Although it is essentially a political compromise between the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP), the CPA provides us with the required framework for the continued pursuit of the objective of the New Sudan through purely political means as opposed to the pre-CPA combination of political and military methods. Thus, the leadership of the Movement is obliged, both politically and morally, to subject the issue of reconciling the objectives of self-determination and New Sudan (unity on new bases) to serious dialogue and open discussion inside its institutions due to a mixed blend of objective and subjective factors (The Imperatives of Internal Dialogue: The SPLM and Returning to the Drawing Board. The New Sudan Vision, 22 December 2009).

On the other hand, following the completion of the organizational structure of the Northern Sector, in its first phase, it was hoped that the SPLM Second National Convention would provide the opportunity for the fair representation of the "northern sector" in the leading organs, and its active participation in the formulation of strategies, programs and policies of the Movement, particularly in relation to reconciling the twin objectives of unity and self-determination. The Convention presented a long awaited opportunity to which the movement's grassroots, especially supporters of unity whether northerners or southerners, aspired in order to participate in a serious and transparent dialogue on the critical issues related to the evolution of the movement and its transition from a military-based organization into a political party, that can lead economic, social and cultural transformation, and achieve the country's unity on a new bases.

*Dr. Elwathig Kameir is a member of the SPLM National Liberation Council. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..