Monday, February 4, 2008

Separation as an Option in South Sudan Versus the Dangers Presented by Kenya and Need for Confederation

Kenya, a neighbour to South Sudan, has been going through very serious ethnic clashes and bloodletting that resulted from the disputed December/January election results. This crisis has affected the supplies of foodstuff and other essential items that usually passed through the Kenyan Port of Mombassa to countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the DR Congo and entities like South Sudan.

South Sudan, the subject of this news analysis, has now turned north for help, something its leaders truly believed was not necessary at least initially. Its leaders are the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) and their allies from other political parties in the South who are currently running the Government of South Sudan (GoSS).

This news analysis looks at separation as an option in South Sudan – landlocked as it were – and the dangers presented by Kenya as a country with a useful port, Mombassa, accessed by GoSS and the people of the South. It supports confederation of the Sudan as an alternative option to maintaining the unity of the Sudan as envisaged by Lt-Gen. Malik Agar, the Governor of Southern Blue Nile State (SBNS).

Lt-Gen. Agar was attacked by various political groups in the South, including his own SPLM/A colleagues. They accused him of trying to undermine the right of South Sudanese people to self-determination. This proposal is meant to undermine the right to self-determination for the people of South Sudan and its implementation in an internationally-supervised referendum in the year 2011, (

Lt-Gen. Agar understand the CPA and cannot work to abrogate it, but it appears that he is reading into the signs of time and trends through which separatists in the Sudan are going and identifies a serious danger: a possible fragmentation of the Sudan.

Sudan is facing a lot of pressures from separatists who have no hidden agenda on their intentions to breakaway from Sudan. This includes the majority within the SPLM/A and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur. The head of one of the three rebel groups in Darfur has mentioned the possibility of his group seeking independence for the western Sudanese region after it failed to sign up to the recent peace deal, (

As mentioned above, the separatists in the Sudan both from South and North have never hidden their intention to break away from each other. A good number of Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) from the South voice their intention to break away and as such have influenced the GoSS to operate independently from the federal government in Khartoum. They call the South or SPLM/A-controlled areas of Southern Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Abyei as "The New Sudan." This group of separatist South Sudanese argues that they have tried unity and it did not work, because the northerners are intransigent. Now, it says, it is time to try separation.

Meanwhile, separatists from the North like Al Tayib Mustafa, the Editor-in-Chief of the Al Intibahah daily newspaper, and others like Sherif Al Hindi, a factional leader of the breakaway Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), say South Sudanese must take their bad habits of alcohol drinking and others back to the South once and for all. Sherif Al-Hindi, the leader of the DUP here in Khartoum was quoted in one of the dailies as saying that "those who want to drink alcohol should go and do that in Juba, ( Some northerners who do not want to be identified say there is a plot against the minority Arabs in the Sudan and express genuine fears that they may become homeless like Palestinians if they don't breakaway the North from the South. Other extreme Muslims say the faith, Islam, is endangered and would prefer the South to go instead.

Given a critical look at the reasons given above by each of the separatists group, one would clearly understand that they are in a very serious situation of mistrust. This mistrust originates from a serious resistance to accept the status-quo. It requires dialogue to address the reasons for resisting the status-quo because it was a choice made within which the CPA is based – it doesn't require continuous conflict, which may wrongly be aimed at victory that cannot be achieved.

South Sudanese do have a good reason to mistrust the North Sudanese. The North Sudanese who previously led this country, including some in the current government but hiding underneath their official desks, did more harm to the people of the South than good. One needs not to discuss what the South suffered from as a result of bad governance in the central government in Khartoum. However, the SPLM/A did present those very sufferings in form of grievances as reasons for ending the conflict on the negotiation table.

The former Inqaz government (now the National Congress Party (NCP)), under the leadership of H.E. President Omar Hasan Ahmad Al Bashir, for the first time in the history of the Sudan, did agree that indeed there were problems in the Sudan that need its own sons and daughters to resolve them once and for all. This was Inqaz's priority programme: finding a lasting solution to all the problems in the country. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in order to demonstrate that seriousness of finding a lasting peace in the Sudan to the Sudanese people.

The separatists in the South may only be a little unfair to those it signed the CPA with; because they failed to consider the living reality of the CPA; in that without the NCP there would be no peace and certainly CPA in the Sudan. Instead of giving the NCP the benefit of the doubt as any good-willed person would in a situation like that of the Sudan, the majority in the SPLM/A did call for separation ahead of the agreed upon plebiscite after the Interim Period (IP).

The question one would seriously like to ask is: do the separatists in the South know that the South would be in an economically-awkward position if it decides to breakaway from the North? The IP is nearing end and surely concerned politicians would always envisage the future correctly and make wise decisions.

Another important question is: does the South have wise politicians? Well given the trend in which the GoSS is going through, it is easy to say; may be that there are wise politicians in the South but not in decision-making elite team. Wisdom, in the simplest traditional understanding, is known to fight corruption and encourages the distribution of God-given natural or other resources equally. Wisdom is usually accompanied by other virtues like moderation, courage and justice. The four cardinal virtues — justice, wisdom (prudence), courage (fortitude), and moderation (self-control, temperance) — come not just from Plato or Greek philosophy. You will find them in Scripture. They are knowable by human nature, which God designed, not Plato. Plato first formulated them, but he did for virtue only what Newton did for motion: he discovered and tabulated its own inherent foundational laws, (

Even though GoSS has been fighting corruption unabated, it appears that corruption itself is entrenched in GoSS and unless fought, it cannot go – it is a disease that spreads easily and it attacks vulnerable members of the public: the greedy and the poverty-stricken ones. South Sudan's anti-corruption commission will launch a wide-ranging probe into the semi-autonomous government's contracts after allegations arose that millions of Sudanese dinars had disappeared, ( It should also be noted that even the idea to separate the South from the North may be influenced by greed rather than patriotism, in that those who are fighting for it have seen how easy it has become to access money and enjoy leadership benefits and perhaps say; why quit the habit?

Very many of these separatists do not know economy works, as trying to visualize and articulate the economic variables that make any country prosper is not an easy exercise to venture into. The few within the SPLM/A who understand how economy works scientifically do not care because if they do, many openings through which they survive may be closed. Another question avails itself: how does the leadership in the South aspire to improve the economy of the South?

To answer the question above in the affirmative would be an understatement. That is because from taking over the South, SPLM/A discouraged GoSS, State governments and the people, including the traders from cooperating with the Northern Sudan people and government. This could be seen true in the GoSS' decision to use the Port of Mombassa in Kenya to get into the South its imports, especially heavy machinery and vehicles civil and military. Today, 80% of the goods in Juba come from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and very soon, may be the DR Congo. This is possible because once there is an identified market that demands there will always be supplies coming from all corners of the world.

This perhaps was a choice given to GoSS by the CPA, but is it necessary to apply it, and how practical is it economically? Using the ports of Dar El Salaam and Mombassa need hard currency – may be payable exorbitantly compared to Port Sudan, which either takes something symbolic for, or absolutely nothing, in terms of levies from government goods and other stuff like heavy machinery, including vehicles destined for South Sudan. The hard currency paid in any of the above ports, if calculated annually, could be a lot of money intentionally lost due to misunderstanding of the CPA itself. The CPA allows economic interaction with the neighbouring countries but it doesn't distort a wise mapping out of a sound economic planning. The usage of such foreign ports in economic terms has two major economic consequences on the South.

The first one is that these ports need hard currency to serve the people and GoSS; and this hard currency must come out of the reserves in the Bank of South Sudan (BoSS). Using hard currency to access Dar El Salaam or Mombassa ports drains hard currency and such drainage of hard currency makes continued international transactions very limited if not impossible, especially in the absence of industrial development, which is the case in the South.

The second one is that instead of saving the money spent in the use of the two parts, Port Sudan could be used and the money saved to help in the development of the South, especially in putting in place light and heavy industry machineries. Even though it requires quite a lot of hard currency to develop light and heavy industries, once they are operational, the products they would supply throughout the South would reduce lots of hard currency that would otherwise be spent on importing items produced by the light and heavy industries elsewhere in the countries neighbouring South Sudan and across the world.

The other important aspect of using Port Sudan is that the CPA partners are in control of the Government of National Unity (GoNU). This means that GoNU, GoSS, State governments and the Sudanese people will have no interruption in importing their items as it is the case in the South currently. It should be noted that the political crisis in Kenya has affected many neighbouring countries like Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. The South, which is being steered towards separation from the rest of the Sudan by its current leadership, has turned north.

In January GoSS had made an official request to the Northern Sudanese leadership to help rescue the South from serious shortages of many essential commodities being faced by the GoSS and people of the South as a result of the election crisis in Kenya. Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan and DR Congo economies have also been adversely affected by the chaos, which is likely to affect their turnover this year, (

It seems that the separation of the South from the North would plunge the people of South Sudan into being helpless dependents. Giving it a hypothetical approach that the South is an independent state that seriously favours no relations with Northern Sudan, and taking the current situation in Kenya into consideration, seeing how blocked are the Kenyan and Ugandan roads that lead to important ports of Dar El Salaam and Mombassa, what would the situation of the people in the South be? Miserable, one should imagine. This is a fact which can now be seen very clearly by those advocating for the separation of the South. Therefore, those advocating for the separation of the South need to know that work has to be done in order to tackle some problems, including reconsidering the confederation as an alternative before it is too late.

The South Sudanese who are interested in separating the South from the rest of the Sudan should now see some sense in what was earlier stated by the Governor of Blue Nile State, H.E. Lt-Gen. Malik Agar. Agar, the Deputy Chairman of SPLM, Northern Sector and Governor of SBNS, proposed that confederation is the only solution to unify the Sudan which is standing in a crossroad and is facing dangers against its unity, (

Instead of fighting for personal interests and egos, SPLM/A leadership holds the card that would either unite or disunite the Sudan. This should not be misunderstood by cheap politicians as strength and thus a reason to separate. It should be considered as strength that is likely to offer the people of this country what they truly deserve: unity based on new basis. This new basis should not be searched from afar – it is confederation which is the new basis, which wise leaders like Lt-Gen. Agar have seen as the only viable alternative for the unity of the Sudanese people.

Even if separation is what is popular amongst those from the South in the SPLM/A, it really doesn't mean that once the South separates it would be difficult to confederate with the rest of the Sudan, should confederation be accepted by the political forces in the Sudan.

South Sudan can separate but such separation needs to be preceded by serious renegotiations that should prepare the people of this country to confederal arrangements, because such would truly ensure the unity of this country based on confederation as a new basis for coexistence between all the peoples, races, religions and cultures in the Sudan.

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