Deconstructing South Sudan: why the process there ought to be the emerging Africa Solutions Doctrine

Category: Commentary
Published on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 04:28
Written by Oguchi Nkwocha, MD, The New Sudan Vision (NSV),
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WHILE THE much celebrated, venerated (well deserved, too) and most desirable “Mandela-way” is the most beatific solution for a most horrible African problem, it is not the South Africa experience which defines or even typifies Africa. That “honor” goes to Sudan / Southern Sudan. It is only logical that a programmatic and systemic attack of the problem of Africa should borrow from, or copy and apply the principles and practice that worked in Sudan / Southern Sudan, even while we still admire and place the Mandela-way on a pedestal. What Mandela does so well for aspiring leaders and individuals serious to make a lasting positive difference, Southern Sudan does for the African collective looking for a methodology and pathway to solve its hithertofore intractable problems. That Methodology is Self-Determinism, embodied in the principle of Self Determination, supported by the UN General Assembly Self Determination Resolution A/61/295 of 2007, ( ) and also by the OAU / AU AFRICAN (BANJUL) CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES' RIGHTS of 1986. ( )

Basic Problem, same problem all over Africa

Sudan is a product of a “bad relationship,” an exploitative relationship put together deliberately to serve the sole interest of the colonial master, and especially NOT to benefit the parties to the relationship. Moreover, to make sure that the originally non-consenting and unwilling parties in this pathologic relationship never close ranks and turn against their common enemy-master, a certain tone of inter-group and internecine friction was engineered into the relationship by the clever colonial master. Thus, groups with nothing in common, or groups with mutual distrust, are yoked together into a “union” by the colonial master. Even where only one predominant group is corralled, the colonialist went to work methodically sowing discontent by grooming a subset to be “superior,” or at least, “favored” as such (remember Rwanda?). There is in fact no better meaning and working of the term “Balkanization,” with all its ugly malignant intent, than suchlike structured relationship. Is this story Sudan's alone? No: it is the same story played out all over Africa anywhere the colonial masters set foot.

It does not matter that almost all the “colonies” in Africa started as “interests” of greedy, so-called “Trading Companies” with heavy profiteering in mind. If civility had prevailed, the Africans would have been just trading partners, or clients, in this “relationship.” Perhaps, it was this fact or promise of benevolent commercial exchange and intent which first lured and then, lulled African groups into a false sense of propriety or normalcy in their participation. Sooner or later, as history and facts show, the Trading Company transferred its by now “ownership” to its respective State / country of origin or “Crown,” as “Protectorates”, actually colonies—now mere Crown property which could be literally traded, transferred, acquired and or seized, as the fortunes of the Crowns rose and fell—and those fortunes did rise and fall; what with the numerous wars and conquests waged among and between the Colonial Powers, producing changing losers and winners. By the time of the Berlin Conference of 1844/45, colonial ownership and proprietorship of Africa was complete, such that, sitting comfortably thousands of miles and oceans and deserts away, the European Colonial masters would, without the consent or representation of African groups, carve up Africa among themselves, establish boundaries, determine what type of colonial government would be in place and what colonial language would be used by the “natives” and what sole monetary currency would be allowed.

For the reckoning, thus far, what have African groups lost in this colonial “game”? What were the Africans robbed of by colonization? First is the natural sovereignty of the respective ethnic groups. Second is the individual political Independence of these respective ethnic groups. Third is their basic Human Rights, as colonialism became Slavery where a tiny minority of foreign individuals would control the day-to-day living and also, the destiny of whole indigenous populations, all forcibly employed in the sole purpose of enriching the colonial / slave master. Of course, the Africans also lost their Human Dignity for sure—or rather, it was stripped off them by the colonialists who insisted on the master's foreign language, foreign religion, foreign culture, allegiance and loyalty to a far-away foreign Crown, and even imposed pseudo-citizenship (no, the “natives” were mere “subjects,” not qualified to be real “citizens” in the proper sense of it) of the alien Crown. Africans lost their lands and natural resources and or the control and management thereof to the Colonial Masters. The colonialists tried, and for the most part, succeeded in erasing the African's sense of natural identity, where the African was pejoratively referred to as “a Tribalist” (from the English language expression, a “tribe of monkeys”) if he had the natural inclination of identifying with his own tribe, rather than adopt the forced identity with the abstraction created and preferred by the colonial master. This last point resulted in the injection of a psychological conflict and disease—“Identity Crisis”—a continent-wide, indelible psychic affliction of the Africans.

The Berlin Conference formalized these losses and robbery; but, when the Europeans later decided that the quartering of Africa as such would determine the permanent demarcations, borders and boundaries of later-to-emerge African so-called Independent countries, the African losses were permanently sealed. Balkanization of Africa was thus irreversible, by colonial fiat. That's where the root of Africa's problems today lies. That's why, Africa's “Sudan / Southern Sudan's” of the day.

Thus, of what real benefit was Independence when it finally came to any African so-called country as a largess from its Colonial lord and master, starting about half a century ago? All that such “Independence” did was to change or transfer the rulership from a colonial governor to an indigenous ruler, with the colonial master retaining the strings, and the “Independent country” retaining the colonial boundaries, same pernicious colonial program, same parasitic colonial engine, and the same non-gelled groups long deprived of, and short on, goodwill among them, as originally forcefully configured by the colonialists. The world and Africans actually expected this to work, or to work out? Especially when Independence did not restore any of the primal African losses mentioned above, but would actually eternalize such losses, particularly now that the so-made African country found pride and necessity in the use of all the coercive organs of State—same colonial weapons—to maintain this flawed structure?

At the notion of Independence for Sudan in pre-1956, the Southern Sudanese showed insight and foresight: they balked, because it was inherently unworkable to yoke them tightly together with practically alien Arab Northern Sudan as and in one country. After Independence, this fact was eventually borne out and has since played out, at the cost of the lives of over 2 million Southern Sudanese, as we are brought up to the present. Too bad they had to fight for almost half a century before it would come to this more workable and desirable end. Elsewhere and earlier, India / Pakistan had also done the smart thing to break-up, overcoming the deference they had for their tireless Independence Champion, Gandhi, a Saint who wanted one India at Independence: imagine if India and Pakistan were continuing to be forced to be one today?

Most African countries were blackmailed at Independence; many would have recouped the losses to colonialism as stated above at the Independence transition, by picking up their respective sovereignties and ethnic independence, and walking away—their respective ways—and later perhaps, deciding how to interrelate with one another. But they were blackmailed by the colonial masters: “stay together as we put you and where we placed you, or, we won't give you Independence.” Elsewhere, the euphoria attending Independence attainment drugged African activists and leaders of the day: they couldn't or wouldn't see reality—the unworkable and broken teleguided vessel they were soon to receive from cunning retiring colonialism. The colonial masters, up till today, are still insisting on the borders they drew for Africa at that arrogant meeting in Berlin, Germany, one-and-a-half centuries ago: imagine that! Africans succumbed to the blackmail. Other African countries were so excited about Independence that it became: “Independence, no matter what.” Unthinkingly, Africans accepted the flawed structures and imposed borders, without question. Nigeria is one African “country” which is still paying those costs, which of course, is going to result in imminent separation, going the way of Sudan, eventually.

It is pitiful to hear the world ask why Africa is still retrogressing even after “Independence.” So, I ask: which one of you, either individually or as a collective, as may apply, would progress if

1) you have your natural identity taken away, and you are ridiculed when you want to exercise it?

2) you are forced to pretend that your natural identity is not important; but your identity with an abstraction created without your consent called “State” is all that matters or all there is?

3) you have your natural sovereignty taken away, and you are forced into an alien State?

4) you have your natural Independence taken away?

5) you have your land and resources taken away, and you cannot manage or control the same?

6) you are deliberately stripped of your Human Dignity?

7) your Human Rights are trampled and trashed, as if you are not a human being?

8) you are forced into an unworkable and brutal relationship, and you are forcibly prevented from changing the conditions or nature of the relationship, and prevented from leaving such a relationship?

But, this is exactly the situation in Africa, for which the Southern Sudanese have implemented a desirable and workable solution. It is pitiable that, but a few, Africans still wonder why Africa has continued to wade backwards into the backwaters of existence on Earth, in spite of Independence, and in spite of abundance of human and material resources, when in fact, the facts above stare them in the face. It is only to be hoped that the Southern Sudan example will now rock their witlessness and case a change of thinking and a change of “doing.”

Almost without (thorough) thinking, African elite are quick to blame Africa's problems on “poor leadership,” parroting the same old colonial excuse. This argument is an unfortunate waste of energy and time: Africa's main problem has never been about leadership—there are more potential Mandela's out there; Africa's main problem is “Structure”—and the programming supporting and sustaining such an unworkable and unnatural structure originally imposed by the colonialists and inherited in toto at Independence. Next to be blamed is “tribalism.” Where the leadership argument is a waste, the tribalism argument is totally ignorant. The Tribe or Ethnic Group is a natural sociopolitical unit that never has to demand or coax identity with it, or allegiance and loyalty from its members: it is based on the same Biology that makes us who we really are and even who we are going to be. We belong each to his or her own tribe, naturally. Even though we need to watch and avoid the anti-social traps of racism and chauvinism, how silly it is to walk up to an African and inform the one that because (s)he naturally identifies with his or her own tribe, that somehow, (s)he is the source of the problem of Africa! On the contrary, it is forcing and trying to coerce the African to give up a normal, natural, healthy, Biological disposition, in favor of an abstraction called “State”—an ab initio incompatible structure, and functionally failing entity for that matter, that is at the heart of Africa's problem. Finally, perhaps trying to be hip, we now hear about “the world turning into a global village; why then, should Africa not want to be one continent-size village or even “villager”?” The proponents of this argument fail to understand that no Nation—no matter how tiny—has ever given up, or has had to give up, its Sovereignty and or Independence, or Self-Determinism for the privilege or trend of going “global village.” In any case, unworkable, dysfunctional and failed States, many of which are found in Africa, have no healthy place in a healthy global village. This is exactly why the much parroted, so-called “Pan Africanism” is a mere pipe-dream. A Self Deterministic restructuring of Africa has a better chance at forging a consenting and mutually beneficial continent-wide interrelationship, better so than the current non-functioning dysfunctional structure which has already proven its worthlessness in that respect. Forcing unhealthy people together would never result in a healthy union or village.

Solution: Self Determination

Self Determination in its purest essence is the exercise of the Right of an Ethnic Group to determine its own political status, regardless of the current subtending State, to control and manage its own affairs and resources; in short, the right of a people to be in full control and in full charge of its own social, economic and political Destiny. In some interpretative circles, Self Determination may apply strictly to “Indigenous Ethnic Nations” as a way to protect them from predatory subtending States. The current process in Southern Sudan is Self-Determination. The US President, Barack Obama, has emphatically used that term to characterize what is happening in Sudan / Southern Sudan today, a process and events which he has supported and praised. This is significant. During the voting in September of 2007 for the UN General Assembly Resolution on Self Determination of Indigenous peoples cited earlier, the US was one of only four nations which voted against it (eleven others abstained): that was before Obama's administration. Since then, Obama has reversed the US vote to a Yes; and has made supportive official presidential visit to Self Determination activities of the Native American Indians in the US. (It was for the reason of the potential implications of the exercise of Self Determination rights by the Native [Indigenous] American Indians that the previous US administrations failed to support it in the UN; similar reasoning in Australia, New Zealand and Canada—the other “nay-votes”—countries with significant and active indigenous nations issues, prompted their negative votes against the UN Self Determination Resolution.)

The guiding principle in solving the Sudan / Southern Sudan (aka, Africa-) problem is Self Determination: the right of an indigenous people to choose their own politics—no matter what. The process: —agreement on this principle; cessation of hostilities, cooling-off period during which there is pseudo-separation in the form of real political autonomy for the aggrieved parties for a duration; a binding credible Referendum after the stipulated period, to determine the will and intent of the people regarding their desired status; and finally, the principled implementation of the Referendum results. The entire process has the support, and is under the supervision, of most if not all stakeholders, including the UN and various other regional and multilateral organizations. Of course, the principal parties have to be cooperative, determined and committed to the entire process.

Why is Self Determination so important and so effective? Well, it reverses all the original losses and indignities, as mentioned earlier, meted out to the Africans and the African groups by colonialism, devastating losses which were carried over at Independence. It restores their human dignity, their right of choice, their right of consent to a binding, or any kind of, relationship. It respects the natural identity and loyalties of the peoples. Self Determination has a “lost, found, and returned” effect; it returns all those things robbed from the Africans back to the Africans (except of course time spent without and implications). Self Determination is a sound basis for a civilized, equitable, mutually consenting and beneficial relationship between groups—the type that preserves goodwill and is more apt to last, with peace. This solution fits Africa like a glove: perfectly.

There are “hotspots” in Africa today that can benefit from the immediate application of Self Determination, including Nigeria / Biafra where the genocidal killings continue; Bakassi / Cameroon / Southern Cameroon, Somalia / Somaliland, the Congo's and a few others. “Simmering spots” (Ivory Coast, for example) could benefit from Self Determination; and countries approaching the threshold for a socio-political flash may never get there, their course reversed by just-in-time application of Self Determination. There is hardly any African country which will not fit within these categories.

Wider Benefits of Self Determination

When Al Bashir of Sudan recently proclaimed that if the Referendum in Southern Sudan favored secession, he would immediately turn remnant Sudan into a strictly and thoroughly Sharia Muslim Nation, he missed the point of Self Determination, proving that he does not really understand it. Although he would thus be repeating previous Sudan's putschist President Gaafar Numeiri's troublesome, secession-inciting steps, Numeiri did not have an inkling, or the benefit of the knowledge and practice, of Self Determination. If remnant Sudan is monolithically Arab and monolithically Muslim, that's one thing, but if there are other and different indigenous groups, Al Bashir would be recreating the conditions for repeating the Southern Sudan scenario and experience. Once Self Determination gets fully planted into the world's subconscious, we will see that a country which supports Self Determination will be more likely to support individual human rights and thus, thrive in individual and group pluralism. A country made up of a predominant ethnic group will have learned that the trampling of the rights of Minority groups can motivate the Minority group to exercise its Self-Determinism leading ultimately to secession, if the aggrieved group chooses to go that far. On the other hand, Self Determination reassures every Minority group that it can leverage or negotiate a better or more reasonable and consenting relationship with / within the subtending State, allowing it to have reasonable control over its chosen Destiny, certain that otherwise, it retains the exercisable right and power to choose complete dissociation from that State. A world where Self Determination is the operative principle holds the promise for a civil and civilized human existence.

To those who argue that Self Determination could be politically misused, a reasonable point, it should be clear that most of the problems encountered in the world in that line come not from the exercise of genuine rights, but from the denial and attempt to suppress those rights. For example, the problem with Human Rights is not misuse by those exercising it: it is its denial by those who have acquired or usurped the power and institution to.


When it comes to Africa, it would be fantastic and perfect were the Mandela-way (symbolized by his characteristic winning-over and charismatic smile which worked real miracles in South Africa) the salvation of Africa. The antics and crocodile-tears of the Gordon Brown's and Tony Blair's belied by their uncompromising and continuing colonial patronization of Africa are of no help, hypocritical at best. Jimmy Carter's noble ongoing efforts put some roofs over African huts and try to ingrain a culture of rule-of-law in at least one area, the Electoral process, but have not altered the troubled course of troubled Africa. Bill Clinton, the adopted “first 'African President' of the US,” full of genuine empathy and genuine sympathy for Africa, has not touched the rhythm of the African distressed heartbeat. African leaders themselves are of no help, clueless; where the African intelligentsia and elite stay their reach to only trite and effete philosophizing. Promising to change all that is Barack Obama's homing in on Self Determinism, the principle, lesson and paradigm of Southern Sudan, which throws the weight of the US behind this paradigm: Self Determination restores Africa. With the African Union (AU) formal signaling that it will be the first and wants to be the first to recognize a Self-determined Independent Nation of Southern Sudan, there is an agreement: what is needed now is a true “paradigm shift” in the thinking and in the ways of the AU and Africa in general, in favor of applying Self Determination consistently and religiously to Africa's problems. Southern Sudan has thus blazed the way, even though it is soggy with the blood, sweat and tears of their citizens: what a hallowed gift to Africa!

This paper was written and submitted on January 27, 2011 by:

Oguchi Nkwocha, MD.

Nwa Biafra

A Biafran Citizen

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The paper was carried by Modern Ghana website prior to its republication here.