Sudan: “Let Us Make It A Peaceful Divorce”
Today, the Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor spoke to an audience at the end of a two day seminar in Khartoum and said that the last hopes for unity were being extinguished. Sharia, he said, had destroyed the last chance for unity, and the CPA was not being implemented the way it was supposed to have been. Southern voters had already made up their minds, many of them twenty or thirty years ago, Deng explained and added, “the new generation brought up in the north is more hostile to the idea of unity” than those who had remained in the south, without having direct contact with the Arabs. “Let us make it a peaceful divorce,” he said, “let us part ways peacefully and remain as neighbours and friends.”
Along with First Vice President Salva Kiir’s statement at the weekend that a vote for unity was voting to be a second class citizen, Deng Alor’s speech represented the clearest declaration by the SPLM leadership that the CPA had failed in its aspiration to be Sudan’s last chance for unity. Both Deng Alor and Salva Kiir made nods in support of unity, but they seemed formalities, spoken without conviction. Deng said, “we still have some time to go and we have to be optimistic” and added that if people vote for unity it would not be under the current state of affairs.
The inescapable conclusion is that the main task remaining is to make secession into a legitimate, orderly and consensual process.
Responding to Deng Alor, Presidential Advisor Ghazi Salah el Din Attabani disputed his depiction of NCP bad faith and non-implementation of the CPA. “It is not in our interest to be paranoid, despondent, and calling for secession…. There is no need for the southern Sudanese to live in victimhood.” He continued, “we are waiting to see the New Sudan, in south Sudan,” and pointedly said that the people of southern Sudan need good governance. Ghazi said that it was he who signed the Machakos Protocol that recognized the south’s right to self-determination, saying that he would stand before history to justify his action. We have agreed to the referendum, he said, and we will honour the outcome, and continued: “we must have elections before the referendum, mark my words.” And he agreed with Deng Alor in saying, “if our conduct leads us to war, we have betrayed the basic premise of the CPA, which is peace.”
During the earlier sessions of the symposium, the same theme was repeatedly made: Sudan is entering its last days as a single nation. Among the northerners, there was immense regret, but also acceptance of the inevitability of the split. One well-known Islamist said that secession was coming and the important thing was to make it smooth. Others drew attention to the need to deal with post-referendum issues and especially the need to ensure that ordinary people were protected, and their relationships were not sundered by the division. When the south “goes”, it will still be in the same location and a neighbour to the north. Some participants appealed for the two Sudanese nations to accept the four freedoms of citizens””freedom of residence, work, citizenship and movement.
Much of the time, discussion of the CPA consisted of rehearsing the arguments for why the CPA had failed, with each party blaming the other. There was no common narrative for why the CPA was in trouble. The NCP argued that it had made sacrifices and met the SPLM halfway, and had found no reciprocity. The SPLM argued that there was no good faith from the NCP from the outset. Among many northerners there was a sense of shock even denial trying to rationalize and re-interpret what the southerners were saying instead of asking why they were saying it, and what its import might be.
Reflecting on the successes and failures of the separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia, one participant said that in exceptional times, we need exceptional leadership, and that the ordinary citizens should not suffer adverse consequences of political decisions.
What is needed now is leadership to ensure that there is a roadmap towards a peaceable partition. This is not a decision that can be taken by default, by allowing the momentum of events to take their course. The statements by Deng Alor and Salva Kiir may have made secession inevitable, but they have not made it easy. A huge amount of work needs to be done. For the political leaders of south and north, secession entails a huge amount of hard work, organization and leadership.