Why the naysayers are wrong about Southern Sudan (PART 1 OF 2)

unitybyforce"If Southern Sudan comes under direct control from Khartoum, it will never progress beyond what it has started since 2005; and even whatever it has embarked on will come to a halt under Khartoum," writes Southern Sudanese developmental economist Professor Yongo Bure, in this two part series. 

(Flint, Michigan USA) - For various reasons, many pseudo-experts on Southern Sudan have spread a lot of false alarms about an independent Southern Sudan. While I do not want to go into all of these pessimistic predictions, I want to focus on a wrong question these experts have always posed. That is: “Can Southern Sudan be a viable independent state? Where are its infrastructure, developed human resources, industry, etc.?” This is the wrong question to ask because anybody who knows anything on Southern Sudan should be aware of the tremendous resources Southern Sudan possess, ranging from agricultural, animal, forestry, power, mineral, and human resources. Therefore, the right questions these supposed experts should be asking are: “Why haven’t these resources been tapped for the benefit of the people of Southern Sudan?” Under what political arrangements can Southern Sudan begin to utilize these resources for the benefit of its people: under continued domination and marginalization by Khartoum or by becoming independent of Khartoum?”

It is a known fact that the British colonialists did not undertake any development in Southern Sudan (1898-1954) until they handed the territory to the Sudanese “Arabs” (Mundukurat, as most Southern Sudanese call them). Although Sudan formally became independent in January 1956, the country attained self-government in January 1954. Since the first government of Mundukuru (singular) Ismail Al Azahari in 1954, following the British/Egyptian/Mundukurat Cairo Conference of 1953 (where the South was excluded), the Mundukurat have pursued the same policies in the South, although with different intensities. These policies are Islamization, Arabization, and marginalization.

All the major Mundukurat political parties have been in power one time or another (from 1954 to present) and all have pursued their twin policies of Islamization and Arabization of Southern Sudan. Marginalization has been an implicit policy to all non-Mundukurat areas of Sudan. All Khartoum governments have pursued war in Southern Sudan, whether under civilian or military rule. Even the Sudan Communist Party, which brought Nimeiri to power in 1969, intensified the war in the South. It was after Nimeiri parted with the communists that he became serious with peace, and hence the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 was signed. The same Nimeri abrogated the Addis Ababa Agreement under pressure from the Umma (Sadiq Al Mahdi), DUP (Shariff Al Hindi), and the Islamic Charter (Hassan Al Turabi) under their 1977 Port Sudan Agreement. Sariff Al Hindi did not trust Nimeiri, so he did not sign the Port Sudan Agreement. However, Sadiq Al Mahdi and Turabi joined the Nimeiri regime. Niemeri made Turabi his Attorney General to make Sudan’s laws consistent with Sharia (Islamic Law). Hence, even though Niemeri imposed Sharia Law in 1983, it was clear that, the decision was taken in 1977 when the Mundukurat signed their Port Sudan Agreement. While there are a few open minded Mundukurat, their political weight is so negligible that they are unlikely to ascend to power soon.

(Flint, Michigan) - For all the years of Mundukurat rule in Sudan, there has been no development in Southern Sudan. Instead, whatever rudimentary structures that were left from the colonial times are the only ones still existing. Many of the health buildings in Southern Sudan today are what were constructed in the 1930s. Even if Southern Sudan exports oil, it imports petroleum products from East Africa. The only benefit the South derives from its oil is the revenue share enshrined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Compare all that has been done before the CPA, with what the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) has done in about five years. Despite the very difficult situation GOSS inherited in 2005, whatever it has achieved by far exceeds whatever was undertaken in Southern Sudan from 1898 to 2005. By 2005 when the CPA was signed, it was not possible to move from one town to another or from town to the countryside, as the roads had fallen into disrepair and many had been mined. Education in Southern Sudan had come to a halt except in rebel territory. But since 2005, most towns in the Southern Sudan are now linked to the countryside with some kind of road. Primary school enrollment has risen from about 750, 000 to over 1.6 million. Secondary and university education has expanded, although a great deal needs to be done. Banks have been established in many major towns. Many officials now have their salaries deposited direct to their bank accounts instead of being carried in brief cases. State and local governments are being strengthened so as to deliver more and better services to the bulk of the population all over Southern Sudan. All these are strategies Khartoum never ever thought of. Khartoum never ever wanted to listen to the concerns of Southern Sudanese on how the country can better be administered and developed.

Southern Sudan needs more time on its own to conduct its affairs without interference from Khartoum. This is absolutely necessary for Southern Sudan to consolidate and expand whatever structures it has been able to put in place since the CPA was signed. If Southern Sudan comes under direct control from Khartoum, it will never progress beyond what it has started since 2005; and even whatever it has embarked on will come to a halt under Khartoum. Khartoum fears a prosperous Southern Sudan. Khartoum believes a prosperous and self-reliant Southern Sudan will be difficult to Islamize and Arabize. Furthermore, for Khartoum, a well educated and prosperous Southern Sudanese population will change the mainly negative view the bulk of Mudukurat have about Southerners (Africans) as being inferior to them (Arabs). For the Mundukurat leadership, such a scenario will defeat Arab hegemony over the African, and will make it almost impossible for them to pursue their dream of spreading Islam and Arabism all over Africa.

*Dr. Yongo-Bure is associate professor of Social Science at Kettering University, USA. He's an occasional 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. .