By Christopher Zambakari
– With the celebration of independence slowly coming to an end, the South Sudanese citizens will start to demand the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream: freedom from oppression and domination, justice and equality, democracy and economic prosperity, peace and tranquility. The South Sudanese will soon start to demand that the fruits of liberation be shared among the people. The expectation on South Sudan to deliver basic necessities such as security, water, food, healthcare and education will only grow with time. South Sudan has seen a proliferation of consultants and international non-governmental organizations over the past several years. Professor Mahmood Mamdani, director of Makerere Institute of Social Research, observed that the tendency today in Africa is to place the emphasis on the search for solutions while neglecting the crucial role of problem formulation (Mamdani 2011). Without devoting time to understand the issues that fuel violence, it is not possible to find sustainable solutions.
In the Sudanese context, nobody understood the challenge of Sudan better than the late chair and commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A, Dr John Garang. With the inception of the SPLM/A, Garang’s first task was to define the problem. The immediate task for Garang and challenge back then – as it was for Mandela in South Africa – was to reform the colonial state and fuse the various nationalities or tribes into a nation. The solution to the crisis of citizenship was summarized in the concept of the New Sudan. The New Sudan vision presented at the Koka dam conference was a conceptual framework for a country which was inclusive of all its multiple ethnic groups, pluralistic and embracing all nationalities, races, creeds, religions and genders – a country in which all Sudanese would be equal stakeholders. Ironically, the challenge for the Republic of South Sudan today is the same as that outlined by Garang in 1986. How is the new republic going to build a democratic, all-inclusive nation out of so many ethnic groups in the nascent state? How is the country going to answer the question of citizenship?
The crisis of citizenship is rooted in the policy laid by the British in the early 20th century and inherited in the post-colonial period in Sudan. It also explains the cycle of violence in Darfur, in the west of what is now considered north Sudan, and the deadlock over the disputed regions, with Abyei being the most contested area. The problem in Abyei between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya, the conflict between the camel nomads of the north in Darfur against the agriculturalists in southern Darfur and the demand for a tribal homeland in southern Sudan all revolve around the same issues: political representation, access to pasture for cattle and claims to a tribal homeland. Without resolving those fundamental issues, the violence will not subside. Rather, new waves of violence – with higher frequency and intensity – will arise, with far more deadly consequences.
What is required in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile is not a military solution to the problem. The problem being political, the solution must be political in nature. The question of citizenship and the colonial state, which reproduces and enforces political identities, needs a political reform that will join the two demands for citizenship, one ethnic in character and the second based on residence. The challenges in both Sudans are reflective of a larger challenge facing most post-colonial African countries (Mamdani 1996). Every post-colonial African state deals with the question of building an effective plural society and managing diversity within an inclusive framework. This is because Africa is the most diverse continent in the world, populated by diverse nationalities, with a rich cultural heritage pre-dating recorded history and vibrant plural societies. Given that Sudan is the microcosm of Africa‘s promises and problems – contained within its boundaries are all major African language groups and nationalities – the problems of Sudan are reflective of the larger continental political crisis facing all African countries.
Christopher Zambakari, originally from South-Sudan, is a candidate for a Law and Policy Doctorate at the College of Professional Studies, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts. Email: [email protected]