Malwal: "I wish to step aside from active South Sudan party politics"

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Sunday, 26 June 2011 08:32
Written by Bona Malwal, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), newsudanvision.com
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(Khartoum) - As the people and the government of South Sudan prepare to declare and celebrate their independence on 9th July 2011, I wish to declare by this public statement, that as from that date, 9th July 2011, I will step aside from active South Sudan party politics.  At over 70 years of age now and 46 years of active politics, it is time to diversify into other areas of my professional training, such as research and writing.

Although I had been somehow a political activist since my very young days, I was really thrust into active politics since the events of October 1964.  At that time, I had just returned from a professional training in the United States of America, thanks to the American Aid Programme (USAID) to Sudan, which awarded me a generous scholarship to study Journalism in America.

On retuning to Sudan in 1964, the country was ripe for a popular revolution.  Without really thinking about it seriously, I was prompted by events of the 1964 October Popular Revolution into becoming a political activist.  The Abboud military regime had been in power already for six years and the rebellion in South Sudan against the rulers of Sudan was crucible. With terms like genocide and atrocities against civilian population not part of the political vocabulary at the time, the Abboud regime inflicted untold atrocities on the people of South Sudan, in the name of ending rebellion and of maintaining law and order.

Usually, all repressive regimes take advantage of situations, such as that which existed in South Sudan, to muzzle political dissent elsewhere in the country.  So, Northern Sudan too, was not happy with its own political lot under the Abboud military regime. In such circumstances, I found myself becoming an activist politician during the October 1964 popular uprising.  I never really had a chance or an opportunity to look back.  South Sudan was in the throes of rebellion. Atrocities were being committed by Khartoum openly against the people of South Sudan.

The Southern Front Movement was founded in Khartoum, during the October 1964 popular uprising.  I was very much in the centre of the founding of that new South Sudan Political Movement.

Most educated South Sudanese were exiled to Northern Sudan, by the way of a mass transfer of all the South Sudanese civil servants to the North. This was done, to deny the young Anya-Nya Liberation Movement of South Sudan, both the brain and the material support. It proved rather easy, in the circumstances, for the massive numbers of South Sudanese in Khartoum, to form themselves into the Southern Front Movement, which demanded the exclusive representation of the South in the new interim civilian government that was being planned to take over power in the country from the Abboud military regime.

Within 8 hours of rallying the huge South Sudanese population in Khartoum to a founding meeting, nearly 500,000 South Sudanese gathered in an empty public space, immediately south of Khartoum Airport and proclaimed the birth of the Southern Front Movement. I was proclaimed the First Secretary-General of that new South Sudan political movement.

As The Southern Front occupied all the three portfolios in the new civilian interim government of Prime Minister Sir Al Khatim Al Khalifa, The Southern Front also insisted that there would be no political business as usual, without a political resolution of the conflict in South Sudan.

So heavily pressurized by the events in South Sudan and by The Southern Front that the new government in Khartoum accepted to hold The Round-Table Conference in Khartoum, in March 1965. This was only two months before the general elections were due to take place in the North, without the South.  The Southern Front had already successfully decreed an election boycott in South Sudan, demanding first a political resolution of the conflict there!

At its first National Convention in Malakal, in February 1965, to prepare for The Round- Table Conference in Khartoum, I was confirmed the first elected Secretary-General of The Southern Front.  I was also chosen as one of the delegates of The Southern Front to The Round-Table Conference, to come to Khartoum. At this point, the dice seemed totally cast for me to remain in political activism in South Sudan for what is now 46 years later.

One of the most momentous decisions taken by the South at the Southern Front National Convention at Malakal, in February 1965, was to table at The Round-Table Conference in Khartoum, for the first time in the history of politics in Sudan, the right of the people of South Sudan to Self-determination.  The North did not like it, calling the demand for Self-determination “treason”.  But The Southern Front persisted and persevered on with this noble political demand.

Since the 1947 Juba Conference, called by the British colonial power, only to inform the representatives of the South at that 1947 Juba Conference, that they- the British had decided- on behalf of the people of South Sudan, to unite the South with the North, the political debate between Northern Sudan and the people of South Sudan has really been about Self-determination and nothing else. The atrocities and the human rights abuses that have been inflicted on the South over the long years, were only intended to deter the South from continuing to demand its right of Self-determination.

While my first involvement since October 1964 was political, my own professional training as a journalist and writer, imposed on me a very special responsibility that I hope I have been able to fulfill to the satisfaction of my country and community.  In June 1965, it was not my having been elected the first Secretary General of The Southern Front Movement that compelled me to resign my civil service position to devote my time to politics.  It was more the need for South Sudan to have a voice in the media that imposed 46 years of duty and responsibility on me.  As Publisher and Editor-in- Chief of The Vigilant Newspaper, I ran The Vigilant as the mouth piece of South Sudan.  The Vigilant was closed down by the Nimeiri’s military regime at the onset of the military coup in May 1969. When the Nimeiri regime was overthrown in another popular uprising in the country in April 1985, I again established The Sudan Times Newspaper in 1986, for the same purpose.

Even when I became a minister in the Nimeiri’s regime, following The Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972, I established and edited The Sudanow Magazine in 1975, while remaining a minister in the government.  I did not flinch from advocating the political cause of South Sudan on the pages of that government of Sudan publication.

When the present regime of General Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir seized power, in yet another military coup, in June 1989, closing down The Sudan Times in the process, I became a wanted political dissident and had to live in exile in the United Kingdom. Again, I established and ran, for more than 14 years in London, The Sudan Democratic Gazette.

I leave the judgment of the value of the contribution that I made to the cause of South Sudan with all these publications to others to make.  I merely want to document the record here.

The nature of politics of the developing world, is that anyone who serves in the government of their country, is presumed to be for personal gains.  That may well be the case.  I have had the very peculiar record of having served as a minister in only two different military regimes in Sudan.  This has been so, because only those military regimes were able to end the civil wars in South Sudan and to bring peace to Sudan. It is perhaps sad, to have had a country like Sudan, in which peace is only possible under military regimes and never under civilian regimes.

I joined the Nimeiri regime after it had signed a peace agreement with the South, in March 1972.  I personally believe that no public service is more noble than serving in one’s country’s government during peace time.  Sudanese civilian regimes are better known for using the nation’s army to repress the people of South Sudan, while getting on with the misrule of the country and inviting, through their incompetence, the next military coup in the process.

However, when Nimeiri had his own very peculiar dreams and abrogated the peace agreement he signed with the South in 1972, thereby triggering the 1983 – 2005 civil war, my personal actions and record are also clear.  I resigned from Nimeiri’s regime in protest.  I am proud to have spent some time in that regime’s jail, 1983 – 1984.

I have been in General Al Bashir’s government, as one of his personal advisors in the politics of our country, since The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).  General Al Bashir has distinguished himself from all other political leaders of Sudan, because he has persisted and persevered, in seeing to it that the people of South Sudan had their own say in the exercise of their right of Self-determination.  This is a unique record, which President Al Bashir shares with nobody else in the history of Sudan.

The South has spoken in its referendum last January, in a very clear and very civilized way.  President Al Bashir has clearly recognized the outcome of that vote.  He says he wants to celebrate with the people of the South, on 9 July.  I have no reason to doubt the President’s commitment to the independence of the people of South Sudan.

As someone who has spent the last seven years watching President Al Bashir agonizing through the process of the implementation of the CPA, I commend his wisdom, fortitude, perseverance and statesmanship and applaud him and thank him for this.

The last seven years have been a very trying time for the President personally and for our country.  His personal wisdom and calm have seen the country through.  The time now remaining for the South to proclaim its independence and celebrate on 9 July is short, but it is still a long time in politics.  Anything can still happen in this remaining short time.  I trust that the President will see the country through this time in peace.

To the new leadership of the new independent state of South Sudan, I wish to volunteer a small piece of advice:  Firstly, I know you know it all! But for what it is worth, I wish you look more seriously to the public wellbeing of the ordinary citizen of South Sudan.  They too, have suffered enormously from the effects of the long 55 year civil war in our country, if not more than anyone else.  The people of South Sudan deserve an enduring peace; better public services, now that providence has endowed them with resources they never had before; they deserve better education, better health care, clean drinking water and accelerated development; rule of law, human rights protection and all the freedoms that many communities, who did not suffer and toiled for such a long time like the people of South Sudan, take for granted.

Secondly, the numerous tribes of South Sudan need a special political programme for “National Unity”.  Only the government of the newly independent South Sudan can offer that programme to the people of South Sudan.  At present, South Sudanese, even the very well educated amongst them, look at one another as members of their many tribes, not of one nation.  This is an attitude that can only change through a deliberate and conscious programme of fairness and equity amongst our people.  Only a fair and just government can achieve that for the people of South Sudan.  Without such a fair, just and equitable government, I fear that South Sudan could end up as a very divided new state, fragmented into the number of the many tribes we now have.

Finally, South Sudan’s relations with all our neighbours are as important as our relations with one another as South Sudanese.  We need to take those relations seriously and to be as mutual about them as we possibly can.

Particularly, our relations with Northern Sudan need to remain very special.  We will have borders with Northern Sudan that are larger and longer than we will have with any other neighbours- more than 2,200 kilometers long borders.  Only mutual respect and the preservation of mutual interest can police such borders between the new state of South Sudan and Northern Sudan.  Nothing else can successfully police such long borders between the South and the North.  We owe it to our people, in both the South and the North, to be mutually good and friendly, in maintaining this most important border for our two peoples.

Now that Self-determination has finally resulted in the choice of the people of South Sudan for independence, I have decided to put out this personal public statement, three weeks in advance of South Sudan declaring and celebrating its well deserved and well won Independence, on 9th July 2011.  From that day, the day of the actual coming into constitutional being of the Republic of South Sudan, I wish to step aside from active South Sudan party politics.  It has been a special personal pride to have served and to have paid my personal price for the freedom of my people.

It is time to give myself, my country and the new political leadership of South Sudan, the space and the leeway they certainly need, for them to get on with the momentous task of building our new nation.  I wish them well and offer them my continuous prayers for their success.

Bona Malwal

Khartoum, 21 June 2011