Southern Sudanese Will Not Be Voting on “What If” History
Ustadh Abd-al Wahab is a good example of a well-known trend among Sudanese intellectuals, who prefer to describe an ideal Sudan as the “true” Sudan and dismiss the reality as a deviation from the reality. It is as though the last 21 years (or in Abd al-Wahab’s case, the last 40 years) are a dream and we will wake up and find ourselves in the “real” Sudan. Just remove the NCP and we will achieve democracy, justice and unity.
The well-known leaders from the civil society and the democratic parties tell the Southerners, “what if” stories – “what if we do so and so” – and each one ends with the moral, “then you will see that unity is the best option!” These colleagues explain that the Southerners are not really opposed to the north as such but only to certain policies of the north, and that whenever the Sudanese people have come together under a democratic system then the Islamists have been cut down to their real size and a democratic government has made all Sudanese feel at home in Khartoum.
I agree that the elections were rigged and politicians of the north are not interested in the needs of the people and they are oppressing and exploiting Sudanese in all corners of the country and not only the South. I dearly wish that all the Sudanese people could rise up and overthrow the NCP and usher in an age of democracy, peace, justice and voluntary unity. I believe that these are our rights and we can achieve them and that when free and fair elections are held we will see the real character of the Sudanese people and the real vision for the future of our country. I also wish our brothers and sisters in the South would be just a bit more patient and allow us to try one more time for unity, because in fact they have got everything they really need in terms of rights in the CPA and separation will not give them substantially more. In my view the day of separation will be a very sad day for the Sudanese nation and its people.
Notwithstanding all of these assertions, I also submit anyone who believes that the Southerners will be ready to wait a single day longer than they are required to under the CPA to exercise their right of separation, is fooling himself. The Southerners will not be voting on whether to unite with a Sudanese Utopia of tolerance and equality! They are not voting for or against a Sudan that might one day be created by a future President Yasir Arman just as they are not voting just on the record of the Inqaz regime. The sad truth is that when each and every Southern voter goes into that voting booth they will ask themselves, what is my experience of this unity and do I believe that it will change for the better if I vote for it?, and mark their ballot accordingly.
Sudanese intellectuals are past masters at clutching at straws. I have heard some say that the Southerners are secretly clamouring for unity and this is why they voted for Yasir Arman, even after he had been officially withdrawn. They see hope in the strong stand against separatism taken by the Deputy Chairman of the SPLM and governor of Blue Nile, Malik Aggar. The speeches of Dr John Garang are another straw, because his case for unity was persuasive to Northerners and Southerners alike, but resurrecting the ghost of the late leader is but another example of “what if” history.
The vote of the Southerners will first and foremost be a verdict on the NCP and its rule, but we the civil society and democrats of Sudan must look inside ourselves and ask what did we do ourselves to make unity attractive, because it will be a verdict on us too.