Attended a briefing this morning given by John Ashworth, a 30year veteran of Sudan.
He pointed out a number of important lenses through which to view Sudan and South Sudan.
Firstly, from tomorrow at Noon, Sudan and South Sudan will be separate countries. This is a game-changer. Thus the issues of border demarcation becomes an international issues between two sovereign states. This applies to the Abeyei border issue.
Other issues, such as Darfur, South Kordofan, the Nuba mountains and Blue Nile remain issues for Sudan, but are not integral to the South Sudan/ Sudan border issue. Two countries, different issues.
Secondly, Sudan’s history as a united country is dominated by the politics of Identity and Centralization.
Identity is a tension between an Arab and Islamist identity on one hand and the diversity of tribal identities. The extreme Islamist tendencies of the Khartoum regime in the last 50 years has resulted in centralization of administration in Khartoum – and an increasingly conformist pressure to be of one identity.
The history of this united country has been one where 60% of the top jobs have been held by 5% of the population, coming from four smaller ethnic groups.
As a South African, I understand some of the resentment this can cause – somehow managing diversity and tolerating difference is something that is so difficult to do in practice especially for government. Even a government that wishes to do so.
And Khartoum doesn’t seem to be a government that wishes anything like that…
The Khartoum government under Al Bashir is not the root cause of the conflicts, but a ruthless exploiter of the anteceedants of conflict that they have mastered through fear and favour.
By imposing by force the idea of Islam in it’s most ruthless and militant form – unrecognizable to many other moslems – the government has increased the political value to intolerance to a dark art form.
In Africa, relationships are key. Trust, integrity and help are characteristics of how relationships are built in Africa. Very often, ‘Corruption’ can be seen as merely the building of relationships. Of course, this can also be exploited not for community but for personal gain.
The Islamicisation of Sudan reaching it’s zenith under Al Bashir has caused the breakdown of relationships. By not recognising age old customs and agreements between agriculturalists and pastoralists, the Government has created a fertile keg of conflict, something that was exploited with horrific consequence.
Does this exonerate the Government of Sudan? Al Bashir? I doubt it – but it does place some perspective on how a cunning government can exploit identity, religion, tribe and history to try to destroy a whole society. This destabilization serves the purpose of imposing a ‘new world order’. We all crave stability in chaos – and this type of ‘Islam’ offers such.
The Republic of South Sudan challenges that new world order in a vibrant way. It is not a cure to it and won’t be the a solution to everything – but as one of the examples of how a border country of the new world order (a euphemism for this radical islamicization/ arabicization that Africa is increasingly on the front line of) can become a respecter of diversity.
I am so happy to be here. This is the future for Africa. It might sound over dramatic – but so many issues come to a head with tomorrow’s celebration.