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

"It is only in an independent Southern Sudan that the prevailing poverty in Southern Sudan will begin to be seriously addressed," argues Professor Yongo Bure, a Southern Sudanese developmental economist and occasional contributor to New Sudan Vision, in this last installment (Read part one here). 

(Flint, Michigan) - For the Mundukurat leadership, Southern Sudan is a gateway to spreading Islam and Arabism in Africa; and if they fail in Southern Sudan, then their mission is completely defeated. This position was made clear to the IGAD heads of State in 1994, during the negotiations of the CPA, by Ghazi Salah El Din, then lead negotiator of the Khartoum Government. Ghazi Salah El Din has been a key leader of the Islamists for decades and is currently in overall charge of peace  in Darfur. In a lecture in Omdurman Islamic University after their 1977 Port Sudan Agreement, Sadiq Al Mahdi made a similar position; and gave five strategies of how they will divide Southern Sudanese for the success of their Islamization and Arabization strategy in Southern Sudan and beyond (See a recent similar call by an Imam on Aljazeera TV).

Hence, if Southern Sudan does not separate from Khartoum, it will never develop as has been the case since 1954. It is only in an independent Southern Sudan that the prevailing poverty in Southern Sudan will begin to be seriously addressed. Therefore, anybody genuinely concerned about poverty and underdevelopment in Southern Sudan should seriously work for Southern Sudan’s detachment from Khartoum’s control under any regime.

The conflicts within communities in Southern Sudan are similar to conflicts over resources, especially among neighboring pastoral communities all over the underdeveloped world. This happens in the pastoral communities in Northern Sudan and other predominantly nomadic pastoral communities, whether within countries or trans-boundary in neighboring countries. Many of these incidences are well known to many, but only Southern Sudan has become the center of focus. With development, these unfortunate tragedies will be overcome. But left to Khartoum, such problems will never be addressed instead they will be encouraged to serve the strategy of divide-and-rule.

Moreover, these conflicts have been attributed wrongly to ethnicity per see. Some of these conflicts occur within the same ethnic groups with the purpose of acquiring more cattle, over grazing land, or watering points. If these concerns of the pastoralists are addressed, such conflicts can be minimized. Other short-term strategies will include alternative productive activities for the youth involved in cattle raiding. Such activities include construction of rural infrastructure, attending school, etc. Over time, with development the outlook of the people will change and relate to each other differently. With development and expanding opportunities, the competition over limited resources will be reduced and tensions will also be reduced. But without development and expanding opportunities such conflicts become endemic. What is happening now is a reflection of Khartoum’s failure to bring development to the country in over fifty years of independent Sudan. Many pseudo-experts do not bother to look at such conflicts in broader context. They have always looked at African issues as being ethnic in nature and are content that ethnicity is all that can explain African conflicts. This includes Africans grilled in such training or too lazy to explore for alternative and/or additional explanatory variables.

The concern about ethnic differences in Southern Sudan was the same concern about most African countries as they became independent. But most African countries have stood the test of time. Moreover, it must be understood that there is no country, developed or underdeveloped, where there are no inter-ethnic, inter-racial, inter-religious, etc tensions. An independent Southern Sudan should not be expected to be born an angel, devoid of such shortcomings. What is important is for the leadership to be aware of their responsibilities and be able to live up to the challenges. Sectarian leadership, as abounds in Khartoum, can encourage violence out of such circumstances as it serves their narrow sectarian interests.

Southern Sudan is multi-ethnic. Tensions between any two ethnicities will be diffused by the other ethnic groups not involved in a particular conflict. Of course, the South has the problem of large verses small ethnicities and over reliance on government jobs. Over time, many people will come to appreciate looking at things in relative rather than absolute terms. For example, an ethnicity of 10,000 people should not expect the same representation as an ethnicity of a million people. With development many individuals will go into private business, either as entrepreneurs or employees. This will reduce the tensions over limited employment opportunities and thus the use of ethnicity. Furthermore, as the youth mix in schools, colleges, and universities, they will become more familiar with the variety of cultures in Southern Sudan and may become more tolerant. Southern Sudanese soldiers are more cohesive because of their common experiences together during the wars. The youth and other civilians will become more and more familiar with each other as they interact as neighbors in cities, and as they study in the same schools and universities.

In fact, although Sudan is multi-ethnic, the use of Islam and Arabism has reduced it effectively into a bipolar state with the North being “Arab-Islamic” and the South being “African- nonIslamic.” A separated Northern Sudan may be more polarized than a separate Southern Sudan as long as Khartoum continues with its strategy of Arab hegemony. With most groups in the North being moslems, Northern Sudan may become polarized along Arab-nonArab moslems.

Anyway whatever the opponents of Southern Sudan’s independence say, most Southern Sudanese are going for an independent country. Over 50 years under Khartoum with nothing positive to show for will never deter most Southerners from getting rid of Khartoum over their backs. Moreover, there are no indications from Khartoum that they are ready to abandon their old ways of doing things. Why anyone who cares about the welfare of Southern Sudanese wants Southern Sudan to continue under an unchanged Khartoum mindset is impossible to understand. Why worry about a hypothetical future civil war in an independent Southern Sudan instead of being horrified by the actual perpetual civil war in a united Sudan?

*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. .