Separation is not a recipe for another war in Sudan

 

(Washington DC) - As we approach the waning days of the interim period as prescribed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the people of Southern Sudan are faced with a choice that will comprehensively shape the future of their country. They finally have the choice to determine their destiny after an arduous struggle against successive regimes in the center bent on marginalizing them and denying them their proper place as equal citizens in their country. At this very late hour, and as the fateful referendum day looms, much debate and rancor is swirling around about what they should do and why.seperation

The choice of the people of Southern Sudan will be surely informed by the memories of state perpetrated violence, religious persecution, cultural and political marginalization and all manner of injustices meted out to them throughout the modern history of Sudan. But those are not the only factors that will loom large in the minds of the voters as they contemplate whether to secede or confirm unity early next year. They will not be making a choice because of vindictiveness as if they are captives of the past, but they will actually be making a sophisticated assessment of the future prospects of this country called Sudan as it is assembled right now. The likely vote for separation is therefore a clear articulation of the view that the maintenance of the current arrangement is a recipe for protracted grievances and conflict, and that the only way to actually usher in some semblance of future stability in the area is to establish a sovereign state in Southern Sudan.

The people of Southern Sudan know that a singular theocratic clique masquerading as a political party by the name of NCP now dominates the levers of power in their country. They know that this ruling party is remorseful for having allowed itself to be forced to sign this agreement, and is bent on repeating the old charade of dishonoring agreements. They also know that the other political parties in Northern Sudan have a sordid history of shortchanging the people of Southern Sudan whenever they ascend to power, and can therefore not be counted on to actually help usher in a different arrangement in the future.

The people of Southern Sudan also know that the reforms that they have proposed since the 1960’s to institute an actual unity based on equal citizenship have been continuously rejected, and they can only review the experience of the SPLM over the last six years as a stark reminder of that. They are jolted back to reality about any prospects for unity now when they see the shenanigans by the authorities in the North working hard to foment rebellion against the government and aggravate tribal fault lines. When they contemplate giving this unity another chance, they remember that it will mean more of the dodgy antics of the central bank shortchanging the regional government; the security forces funneling arms to militias; their sisters getting harassed and caned by public order police in their capital; and so many other injustices small and large.

So they fundamentally reach the conclusion that this unity is untenable, and is actually begging to be put to bed. It has utterly failed and is on its last legs, and most importantly, cannot be resuscitated.  The threads of this unity are coming apart at the seams, not only in Southern Sudan, but also in other hotbeds in the West and the East. Prudence compels the people of Southern Sudan to do what is only viable, and that is to move on and diligently work to build a true nation-state in Southern Sudan, with the hope that the warmongers and connivers in the NCP will accept a peaceful co-existence with their brothers and sisters next door.

The prevailing wisdom that we are bombarded with by experts and officials in and outside Sudan tends to stack all on the side of warning about the potential negative effects of secession on Sudan and the whole region. These views certainly have some merit, because a new dynamic that a sovereign state in Southern Sudan represents will certainly have its unsettling effects. But what is also true is that an affirmation of the current unity, either through derailment of the referendum or its manipulation, will also mean incalculable damage to the prevailing relative peace in the South, and even greater instability in the region.

The climate of anticipation for the vote in Southern Sudan is so charged that it can only be managed through an orderly conduct of that vote. This anticipation is linked directly with a preference for separation, and it is high time that people recognize that an imposed unity will only ensure a return to war. At the very least, separation is manageable if the leaders of the NCP accept the choice of the people of Southern Sudan, but an imposed unity will certainly instigate another war in the South, even if the entire leadership of the SPLM sides with it. It is therefore important that all players in the international community see this explosive powder keg that could be triggered by reneging or disallowing the choice of the people of Southern Sudan, and actually resolve to help the two parties see this process through. The South will certainly be amenable to striking deals on oil and other issues to help stabilize the North after the referendum, and that should be commended as a price for ensuring stability in the future. The same reckoning with reality must be impressed upon the NCP, because it must also realize that the obstacles and games it's playing with the whole process cannot stop the inevitable and might actually unleash a firestorm that will leave no one standing at the end.

*Parek Maduot is a contributor to The New Sudan Vision. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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