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1- Taban Lo Liyong’s Paper Presented in 2008 in Khartoum
Paper Presented by Prof. Taban Lo Liyong, May 2008
NATION BUILDING DOCUMENT NUMBER TW0 OF 2008
THE BIG SUDANESE PROBLEM OF ALL TIMES: ARAB COLONISTS
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH SUDAN
Paper Presented by Prof. Taban Lo Liyong (01 May 2008 – 06 May 2008)
A lawyer, Dinka by tribe, in 2005 told a gathering in Khartoum where we were having a seminar on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), that every group of human beings wants to have a land to call their own, a land they own. That is, the desire to exercise territoriality is imbedded in all creatures, human beings included. That piece of land they would have inherited from their ancestors, patri-archs, both immediate and legendary. So that when they say patri-mony, they mean fathers’ endowment, a bequest to be treasured and hopefully safely handed over to the next generation. That would be their bequest, the piece of land to which they give their total allegiance, their patri-otism. In their defiance of it they would be called patriots.
Now, any member of Sudan’s autochthonous people, that is those who have been here from time immemorial, be they Didinga, people of Kachepo, Moru, Nubians, Nuba, Kuku, etc. incontestably have their ancestral lands used by the individual families but held in custody by generations to come by the clans on behalf of the big tribe. And their most definite identifying features are the possessions of a language, a territory, and other aspects of material and spiritual culture.
Now, as we all know, during the time of European expansion, they came and carved up all African lands and made us their colonies. They even subjugated other colonizing pretenders here and there. This state of affairs went on till it was folded back by our forces of decolonization. In the case of the Sudan, Ismail el Azhari got the reins of power from the combined English and Egyptian imperialists in 1956. At independence, all of us in Southern Sudan became the masters of our various territorial inheritances. Or should have become so. At independence too a new compact should have been entered into by all the tribes of the Sudan so that we would have worked out just terms for the independence dispensation.
As far as Southern Sudanese were concerned, our badge of identification was the ‘Closed Districts Ordinance‘ which had kept us penned into enclaves of non-development till independence. However undeveloped we were we were still left as masters of our ancestral lands. Another badge of solidarity amongst us was the memory of Arab slavery in Southern Sudan. A chapter that still rankles in the mind and makes us suspicious of the deeds and plans of the Northerners. Fears of being preyed on, of being duped at every twist and turn, exist in the mind. But most times we see them perpetrated. These common experiences we have suffered from the same sources. These fears were brought by our chiefs and leaders to the attention of the departing English and Egyptian colonizers in the 1948 Juba Conference but with little attention from the British administrators who had a definite programme of their own to ram through our throats. At times of uncertainty or suspicion we have reacted adversely. One year before independence, in 1955 that is, the so-called Torit Mutiny broke out underlining the suspicions and fears Southerners held. But there was never a compact concerning our living together in the same country with Northerners at any time of our English, Egyptian or Mahdist colonial and later ‘independence’ life. The eminent Southern Sudanese veteran politician, Uncle Ezboni Mondiri had, it is true, tabled the motion concerning federalism before independence. And that motion, which sought to establish federalism as the most appropriate new modus vivendi concerning the arrangements for Southerners and Northerners to live amicably in the future independent Sudan, as we all know, was postponed before independence but finally rejected by the Northerners after independence.
Now, claims by the Shilluk nation, as well as the Dinkas and Nuers to former existence in Khartoum and other parts of the present Northern Sudan are so distant in the past that they may safely be kept legendary. In history there has to be a cut off point. Otherwise we continue contesting territories up to the days when we occupied the same areas and had incurred the wrath of prophet Isaiah so much so that he hurled anathemas against us. For expediency’s sake, the decisions European imperialist powers reached in their Berlin Conference of 1884-5 concerning colonial boundaries, seem to be the binding ones that the independent African leaders have settled for, unsatisfactory though they are. They are good to work from, for a start.
Now, in 1954 there was the last national census in the whole Sudan, carried out meticulously by the departing colonizers. The census was very detailed with regard to the origins of the people of the Sudan. As well as migrants from the adjoining countries who had come and resided in the Sudan. That is, ‘tribe’ and ‘tribal origin’ were on the form. And they were answered faithfully. Perhaps too faithfully, some tribes later realized as the twists and turns of the history of the Sudan was to demonstrate. This state of affairs extends up to now.
In the 1954 census, 23% of the counted Sudanese had declared that they were Arabs. Or belonged to Arabian tribal origins. We know that along the Nile, around Shendi, there are two major Arab tribes: the Shaggiya and the Jahalliyin.These are the Riverain Arabs. They later fanned out into other urban areas of the Sudan. There are also sprinklings of other Arab tribes here and there in Northern Sudan. We also know that all these Arabs are very proud of their Arab origins, their Arab culture, their Arab language, and their ties to Arabia and what is called the ‘Arab nation’.
Now, over the years, the dominant groups of people who have been holding political power in independent Sudan, and exercising it over us all have been these Arabs. That is, from l956 up to now, a group that had before independence declared itself to be proudly of having a foreign origin (and as it has been demonstrating over the years, having also a foreign based or foreign leaning ideology) has been wielding power in their own interest and over the autochthonous peoples (that is those of us who are natives here and speak, or used to speak a Sudanese rutana) of the Sudan without even minding that it was an anomaly. ‘With impunity’, as others would say, was and is the way they wielded power..
At one time, a Dongolawi (an autochthonous tribesman), Jaafer al Nimeiri, who had grown up in one of the houses of these Arab rulers and who was also in the army with powerful riverain tribesmen as his allies, took over power through the barrel of the gun. He held power and used it more differently from the real Arabs. But when the purist among the ‘Arab domination of the autochthonous Sudanese’ ideologues wanted ‘their’ power back, they pushed him aside. His eleventh hour attempt to put into operation his version of their extreme policies against Southerners could not even save him.
Now, that item: ‘tribal origin’ or ‘tribal identification’, was it introduced into Sudanese colonial census for the first time in 1954? Or had it been there in all past censuses? Was it an item dreamt up by the colonizers: Egypt and Britain? Or was it put there by the request of the Arabs, proud of their distinctive heritage, because they had felt that they belonged to a ‘higher’ culture (in comparison with the others), or had they a superiority complex? In other words, did these Arabs shun the real Sudanese and did not want to be mixed up or confused with the rest of us? So they wanted to stand out and be counted as non-Sudanese but Arabs?
Whether by foreign design or by the decision of the ‘Arab’ oligarchs of the Sudan, all the problems the autochthonous Sudanese have been facing, even before colonization by the British, stem from the distinct position the ‘Arabs’ have given themselves, have upheld, have exercised and are still exercising up to now. Southern Sudanese have been rebelling against this attempt of theirs at colonizing us. At putting us under their feet. Whenever we rebel or repulse their attempted superimposition of themselves over us, our attempts have been characterized derogatively or diminutively as muskila junub, ‘Southern problem’. This attempted overturning of facts Southerners have never bought. For what had happened is that an ideology of dominance has been orchestrated and taught to all their children. With every political party safeguarding it regardless of party affiliations or differences. Even though it has sometimes succeeded in getting these Northerners the financial help they hunted for in the real Arab world.
How can the horses you have decided to appropriate and are busy enjoying riding, but that you poorly look after, be characterized the aggressor when they feel uncomfortable under your massive weight? Especially too, when they are deprived of sustenance and have little or no energy for going forward? Or when they cannot use their milk for feeding their own children? Furthermore, when you characterise yourselves as thoroughbred horses and do not want any relationship with the donkeys, the beasts of burden, beasts of the lowest class? Especially again, when you consider any family relationships between your children and theirs as abominations that would lead to the births of the despised mulatto?
Two Northern ideologues of the permanent Arab dominance of Sudanese political affairs would know exactly what I am talking about. Professor Yusuf Fadl Hassan, a long time professor in Khartoum University, and Dr.Hassan al Turabi. (A third diasporan Arab, the Kenyan academic Professor Ali el Amin Mazrui, whose ancestral home is in Oman, keeps on flitting in and out of here advising Republican Palace against us. The imposition of Arabic all over autochthonous Sudanese is mainly his work.) Since Professor Yusuf, being an historian, knows the power of ideas in shaping the fate of a nation, for better or worse, I am sure he knows that the deaths of some of the most idealistic northern compatriots and civil servants, teachers and soldiers who had come to the South at independence can be attributed to historical circumstances which should have been settled through ‘peace and reconciliation’ ceremonies prior to the coming of independence. If a nation-to-be that was divided in many ways had needed a ceremony of remembrance, forgiveness and reconciliation at independence it was the Sudan. If a nation that had come into being had needed a ceremony of cleansing and forgiveness after Addis Ababa Agreement, what the Acholi call mato oput, it was the Sudan after independence. It is now the Sudan after CPA. Rwanda and Burundi also had needed this sort of cleansing. Instead the Mwamis slept through it all. And the young Tutsis thought military power would shield them from it. It never worked. (Lately we have seen the killings by the Kalenjins in the Kenyan Rift Valley of the Kikuyu settlers.) Which goes to adumbrate the lesson that you should deal fairly with a person in his hour of weakness. Then when he becomes strong he will say proudly: ‘I owe my life to you‘. Otherwise you are urging him to store up grudges against you which may one day explode with the least provocation when the hay that broke the camel’s back is at last added to the burden.
In what does this ideology rest? Our side of the Red Sea is better than the other side. It has been envied, even before the birth of Islam, Arabs have been eying us our side of the desert, and have been crossing and settling here and interacting with our Bedouins. So the desire to settle here has always been the dream of some Arabs. Then when Islam was young and expanding by sword, ruse, and conversion more Arabs came here as agents of the new religion that offered a better life and hope to its believers. The stories of Moslem missionaries and soldiers marrying daughters of chiefs and then having their children ascend the thrones of their native parents are too many to be recounted. Some are true, others are apocryphal. But, however the relationship was established, the identification with one or the other of the Arab personages and their families or clans (especially those of, or are close, to the prophet of Islam) was and is a treasured badge. Here again, truth and fiction vie with one another. Since it is not easy to establish exactly these bona fides, they had better be taken at face value, perhaps some with a pinch of salt.
No doubt, and this is not to be belittled, Islamised Arabs in those days lived a better life than their other compatriots. Sudanese Moslems too, in those days of Moslem intrusion attained a higher standard, and belonged to a larger community of believers than their compatriots who were not Islamised. I am saying, for their time, there were definite higher levels of life they enjoyed. So for a time, it was possible legitimately for the Arabs and their descendants to hold their noses up, and look down on everybody else. That is, though the Arabs loved our side of the desert, they did not, (and perhaps up to now do not), want to be identified with the local people. So they live in colonies of their own. Worse still, they live or want to live like colonisers of the native Sudanese.
It is possible to live in the Sudan without being a Sudanese or becoming a Sudanese. The English were here, and when their time was up they packed and went. It is also possible to be an Arab in the Sudan and to refuse to become a Sudanese or refuse to be identified as a Sudanese. It is possible for a Fadl Hassan or an Ahmed Gaafer to have belonged to five generations of Arab migrants in the Sudan and still to hate to be identified as a Sudanese, as such. Perhaps grudgingly he could concede to being referred to as an Arab Sudanese, but not Sudanese Arab. In international circles of Arabs of course he would wallow in the status of a diasporan Arab. Though to the Middle Easterners, especially the people of Arab stock, they would not see the difference between him and the next Southerner. Perhaps his shortness would be the difference. Though not a big one, since some Sudanese ‘Arabs’ have Nilotic blood running in their veins.
With wealth from oil, no doubt, in modern time the overall Arab rating in the world has gone up. And if the Arab rulers were as mindful in using the resources of their countries in developing their lands and peoples as Muamer el Gadafi has been in taking care of the ordinary Libyans, the general rating of the ordinary Arabs everywhere would have also gone up. Unfortunately, in some cases, including ours in the Sudan, having oil under our feet has been a curse than a blessing for the ordinary people. That, notwithstanding, to be an Arab now means to be identified with possessors of mega-petro-dollars. It also means to have powerful friends or allies. And these friends and allies have been of much help to the Arab Sudanese in the promotion of their ideology. Especially in financing the earlier stages of their wars of oppression against Southern Sudanese who were resisting their aggression. When oil money was not yet available for waging the war. But to be counted among the Arab nations also means to be suspected of terrorist designs and extremism in religious matters. As well as short temperedness in matters touching on Islam. With an Iranian megalomaniac here, and a Gadafi here and a regime which defies the United Nations at home here why would any non-Arab want to be in this company?
Secondly, the distinction between a racial Arab and a speaker of Arabic has been made confusing and ambiguous. To the extent that in the Sudan to be a speaker of Arabic makes you liable to being mistaken for a racial Arab. But, if you, a black Sudanese are in England, however well you speak the Queen’s English, nobody would call you an Englishman.But it is precisely what the National Congress Party strove to do during the course of the last war: to turn the whole country over into an Arabic speaking nation. On the advice, as said before, of Ali el Amin Mazrui.The reasoning was: once you have filled their heads with Arabic they will never know how to say ‘grudge’ or ‘rebellion’ in Dinka, or Nuer or Bari.Besides they would not know enough Arabic to craft any meaningful sentences. Those who will have gained some mastery of it will have to reason with you in their imperfect Arabic. Where you will be the masters; they will be inadequate, having inferiority complex.
To a Southern Sudanese, of these two foreign languages, though our Arabic can make you get along in the Sudan, it sounds like a dialect to Middle Eastern Arabs. But the Southerners who have knowledge of English become members of a language with vast coverage and the amplest vocabulary that covers knowledge in most disciplines. Simply put, English is now the world’s foremost language and it pays to know it.Indaians and Pakistanis compete in English. Whilst I am at it, I might as well recommend our return to the Commonwealth of Nations. Muslim nations like Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh are there.
Thirdly, the stage gets more and more confused when Islamic religion, which is in the spiritual domain, gets lowered by politicians to serve their selfish ends. Even amongst fellow Moslems, fellow Arabs. The mundane level of political wrangling to which the noble religion has been dragged for scoring political points is pathetic. Why not separate matters of this world for the world of politics and keep religious matters up there to lift up our hearts and souls? There is too much undermining of Muslim parties by their rivals for political gains. Simply put, as seen by those of us who are outsiders, this misuse of religion in political matters cheapens religion. When shall we fight fair political fights and win or lose on the strength of our arguments and the promises of services we shall provide and the human improvements we intend to render to the generality of the Sudanese people here and in this life? When shall we distinguish between the hunger for spiritual sustenance and the hunger of the stomach? When will politicians know that after they have fed our stomachs then they have freed us to pursue the matters of the heart and spirit? With gladness in our hearts. As the Acholi say: ‘Yom cwiny a ki i ojoga.’ — Happiness comes from a full stomach.
You can be an Eskimo and believe in Islam without its being demanded of you, or its being assumed, that you are an Arab as well. In the Sudan it looks as though political expediency demands of our rulers (as well as other politicians) that they bundle up belief in Islam with being an Arab or speaking Arabic. Or they misuse the Koran and Islam for scoring political points against their opponents in the North or against us in the South. Up to the present war in Darfur, the Darfurians had been humoured that they were better off than Southerners because they are Moslems. But after Darfuri soldiers had seen how relatively advanced Southerners were, and how better off they would be under CPA, the Darfuri realised that they had been deceived. Know Arabic, they did. That did not improve their position. Become Moslems they did, that did not help matters either. Marry some Arab girls they did. That did not stop the janjaweeds to destroy their houses, and drive them off their lands. What they have to realise NOW is that the 23% at 1954 Census are only interested in preserving power in their own hands. They will recruit us to fight their wars as foot soldiers. For a song. When will politicians know that they are to feed our stomachs so that we are freed to attend to matters of the spirit?
Morality, in the private and in the public domains need being attended to, and seriously. With a people whose enlightening injunction at the height of their civilization was:
Seek knowledge everywhere. Even if it takes you to China. When Europe was still in its Dark Ages, the only scholars then available in the world who were the custodians of classical Greek philosophies were the Arabs. All the books of Master Plato and Master Aristu were studied by them in Greek and translated into Arabic. I am sure the ethical writings of Aristu were not studied for academic purposes only, but acted as lights to the seeker’s path. Now that we have Chinese in the Sudan I hope we learn some knowledge, the right knowledge, from them. Like the knowledge from the humanistic teachings of the compassionate Buddha and intellectual Confucius. For the Chinese have plenty of the wrong knowledge too. The type of knowledge that Robert Mugabe uses for harassing our people down in Zimbabwe there.
I mentioned religion purposely. For the corollary to learning knowledge ‘everywhere’ is learning knowledge of ‘all types’, especially the useful ones. I can learn much from the Koran. And I do. I have learnt a lot from the Bible. (Especially from the teachings and exemplar life of my friend Jesus). I have learnt much from the Hindus. And the Buddhists. And as far as philosophy per se is concerned, I have learnt most from the Greeks. Much more than from my Kuku heritage, seeing that our knowledge was never made subjects for scholarly studies in the schools. So I made up for that lack by studying the classical Greeks. Greek philosophy, drama and epics have supplied replacements for my native perspectives on human nature.
But I remain a believer in my ancestral religion whose God is Ngun. It is a religion, like most of our ancestral ones, with a high moral threshold. When Professor John Samuel Mbiti called us ‘notoriously religious’ he meant our total religious approach to life. Members of our religion who have been lured away but have never transplanted well are disappointing in any religion. These short-cutters in matters of faith will not go to heaven. We call our religion ‘The Faith of Our Ancestors’. If others call us kaffirs let them delude themselves, if they disparage us knowingly. (Besides, with every development in sciences and humanistic awareness, religions have to adjust appropriately. Religious pundits have to help interpret the religious Books, written or oral, in consonance with the best principled life extant. Otherwise religion becomes an old wine bag with its old and stale wine.) We do not seek to sell our faith. We know every human community has an ancestral faith. And we respect them for it: the man or woman without religion is dangerous. We do not advantage ourselves at the expense of people of other faiths. It would be good if they reciprocated. Planet earth is our only sure and known abode. If we lived well here, and there is another world for those who were good, we hope the conclave of Gods would all sit in judgement and reward those who helped people of their religions as well as those of other religions. I think all Gods love humanists.
Let us return to our 23% Arabs of the Sudanese census of 1954. The fact that a small minority decided to stand out and be separately labeled speaks volumes. For it means they could then, and in future, do what pleased them and if the consequences were bad, they could count on powerful people, viz. the other Arabs, for help. For, for them, their patrimony is in Saudi Arabia. For them their patriotism is for the ‘Arab nation’ which means lands inhabited by the Arabs, such as Iraq, Syria, Jordan, leave alone Saudi Arabia. So they sojourn in the Sudan but their first and foremost allegiance is to the ‘Arab nation’. That is why they called themselves Arabs.
In short, they are colonists of sorts. Similar to the type that used to lord it over black and majority population of South Africa. They were called Dutch, and had settled in South Africa and after taking over the land, they later established an extreme racist regime They were the Dutch, the Germans, the French who had migrated down there and had taken hold of South Africa for themselves, and then gone ahead to exploit the wealth of the land for their own benefit using native labour. When the ‘nationalists’ took over power in 1948, they then established their hateful system called apartheid (apart- hate) for depriving the blacks of the rich and wealthy parts of their own land. As is evidenced by their lifestyle, they were living a European life in South Africa. They were physically in South Africa, but were also spiritually and culturally Out of Africa. But like our ‘Arabs’ here they had also relied on their erstwhile relationship with the entire white world of Europe, which was also predominantly Christian, developed and wealthy. The superiority (or seeming superiority) of that world made it impossible for them to yield to being South Africans, to sharing the bounties of the land with its majority inhabitants. But at the end it was that white world of international capitalism which finally prevailed upon them to change. Using a courageous son of a Dutch priest to make the bold decision to do the right thing for the majority of the people: Wilhelm de Klerk.
The mental headache the ‘European’ South Africans used to have is now down. The die-hard believers in white supremacy have either gone back to Europe, or to other former colonies where they could still look down on other ‘lower’ races like the indigenous first nationals of Australia, Canada, or New Zealand. Some have accepted their common and shared humanity with the Coloureds and Bantus of South Africa. And settled down to being common citizens of majority rule South Africa. Since those others who had gone abroad have been coming back it looks as if the fear of life under black rulers was more in the mind than in reality.
I jumped ahead a bit. I mentioned de Klerk ‘the courageous’ before mentioning Nelson Mandela ‘the saintly’. In South Africa there are two venerable old men who are forthright and speak the true and right word: Nelson Mandela the first black president and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Mandela had led the war of liberation against the apartheid regime. As is usual the objectives of armed struggle and its execution are always rough. But the rules of winding down the timetable towards peace, and settlement of the war peacefully later followed by befriending the erstwhile enemies rather that settling old scores are also different.
Dr John Garang de Mabior, in all his public utterances, was a staunch unionist. Perhaps he was the first overall Sudanese nationalist, or only new Sudanese nationalist. In Machakos and Lake Naivasha he conceded to the National Congress Party much, much more ground than was good for the SPLM and Southern Sudan. Some of the problems now facing the execution of the CPA are the results of matters he had glossed over. For example, why did we not have the mediators transforming themselves into becoming monitors of the CPA after it was signed? Even Liberians had sense enough to see to it that it was done. Why did he agree to share Southern Sudan’s oil wealth 50-50 but let Northern Sudanese do as they wished with all their vast oil revenue? Why was the boundary issue not settled immediately after CPA as the first order of business?
Perhaps he had hoped and reasoned it out that between him and his ‘brother’ Taha, some or all of those minor difficulties would be smoothed over in the execution of the CPA? One wished God had given him more days so that we would have seen how he was going to put the CPA in place and how he was going to pursue his quest for the just Sudan that also took care of the marginalised peoples. One had also looked forward to seeing how he was going to convert the 23% Arabs into becoming fellow new Sudanese. Especially how he would have dealt with the first hurdle the CPA had to deal with: the division of ministries. All categories of ministries were to be shared equally. SPLM gave NCP a high ministry in exchange for either the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Oil and Energy. The NCP refused to budge. Revelations came later. One faction, perhaps the Shaggiyin or the Jahalliyin said: ‘we have already parted with one important ministry. Now give your own.’ And that faction vowed it would never do. If it meant returning to war then be it. President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, in the absence of mediators, made the right decision: let them have it their way. Politics is a process. We Southerners should not do as Northerners do, if I may add. We should not compete with them in all they do. Their ways are different from ours. We must uphold higher standards of morality in dealing with ourselves and others. But we should not let them do the wrong thing on us.
‘Census’ is pivotal to this discussion. Because census deals with the enumeration of people in a nation. Children and their demands on the national purse, adults and the services they can provide as well as the means they and the nation have to employ to create the national wealth. These, on top of the origins of the citizens are matters we need to know. As it is, the 2008 Census seems to have taken a short cut to the contentious issue in the 1954 Census by fiat. It simply removed ‘race’, ‘tribe’ and ‘religion’ from the form. So the two most contentious items in the Sudanese body politics have been swept under the carpet. I hope now that we are a land without religion and without race or tribe things will be better thus for everybody! I hope nobody is going to wake up from a nightmare and shout: Sudan is a Muslim country! For the only figures that tell us the racial ,tribal and religious belongings of people are those of 23% of 1954.
Sometimes it is better to laugh at seeds of tragedy and human foolishness. For surely some of these solutions are like those of children who, when they have closed their eyes and cannot see the person before them then they also think that that person cannot see them.
But seriously speaking, after all the colonialists from Europe have decamped from lands they had colonized, or have melted into the prevailing groups and given political power to the autochthonous peoples, what do our Arab colonists think? When all ‘Arab nation’ people are now engaged in inward looking exercises, do they think some help will always come their way from say Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia? Nations that have done little to resolve the major Arab issue: Palestine?
Do the big people of the NCP tell their followers about the Riviera they plan to build on the northern side of the new Khartoum Bridge? Is that a cooperative venture, with donations from the party members, which will take care of every member of the NCP? With all the investments they have in the East, one hopes the money used is not the oil wealth pilfered from Bentiu, particularly in Malaysia, and perhaps more so in Thailand, are the oligarchs lining up abodes for themselves in these havens pending the day of reckoning when other Northern Sudanese will be fed up with them? When, or if, it is the oil revenue that is being used, are these Sudanese national investments? For you and also for me? When it is a few well placed ‘Arabs’ who are involved in doing these things will there be time for differentiating between the good and clean ‘Arab’ from the bad ones when or if the time of hurried reckoning and departure comes? At least one notices that there is fear of retribution. That is why the investments are taken and kept abroad. That is also why the children of the big people are not in Khartoum.
When a face-saving device had been thrown their way, in the CPA, why do they not take advantage of it? The CPA says that living in Unity with fellow Southern Sudanese should be made attractive. The Southerners, if I may put it bluntly, on the Referendum day, are going to say: ‘The Arabs have done these good things to us. /The Arabs have not done the following things to us. We therefore shall vote accordingly.’ That is how they will reason it out in the voting booth. As it is if the referendum were to take place today, I do not see many positive contributions the Northern Arabs have made towards Southern Sudanese welfare generally which would sway any of them to vote for unity. Luckily, there is still time. Time to show a different face. A peaceful face. Thee face that does not fight at the borders in the oil state, or in Abiyei, or in Darfur.We are fed up of war.Besides,where are you going to find the children to go to fight for you? Even the janjaweeds are thinning. But it is not only living in amity with Southern Sudanese the Arabs have to now worry about. It is also living in peace with Darfurians, Ingassenans, and Bejas, leave alone the Nubians, Nubas and Dongolawis. That is the burden ‘our’ Arabs have inherited from generations of their ancestors which they should successfully deal with if the Sudan is to remain one.
For the ‘superior people’, the Caesaron ideology that they had pursued from time immemorial, which was born out of fear for possible and imagined retributions for sins committed over the ages, has sent them looking for temporary and makeshift solutions. And these solutions have landed the Sudan where we are now: the lowest level of Sudanese national unity ever. Thanks, in part to the NCP’s drastic policies of little or no compromises, going back on ones’ words, defying with impunity the international community, talking big like Mugabe and some Iranian megalomaniac mullah, they are, I fear, creating and storing up problems for us now and future Sudanese generations. Future generations of diehard ARAB Sudanese, who, as the heading of my letter says are the main problem of the Sudan. Why would I or any sane Southern Sudanese wish to be associated with such a company? To belong to such a country?
Unfortunately, like national debts, all bad things a nation’s government creates become a burden for all the citizens to pay in future. That is, these acts of banditry, foolishness ,bad mouthing of Britain, America, Europe; all the defiance of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, though they display national pride, they also represent us in the wrong light before the civilized international community. I meant the presence of a macho culture that demonstrates locally that we have a real ragil that can stand up against the toughest in the world it also represents us badly, there is no comity, and we look uncouth in the gatherings of civilized nations. (And I chose my word carefully when I wrote ‘civilised’.) I for one feel shame when my own government defies world opinion, rides roughshod over our fellow citizens, and does not respect human rights of my fellow Sudanese. Today it is in Darfur. If we do not speak out against it, tomorrow it may be in Omdurman.Today it is a falling out between Umma and NCP. Tomorrow it may be so-and-so’s faction of NCP falling out with so-and-so’s faction. The only best remedy is to prescribe the right and righteous medicine for the same disease. To cure those already affected. And to await those headed towards contact with the same germs. That is, if they have not learnt to avoid going that way after seeing g how others who were affected by it have suffered.
(Perhaps the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, Northern Sector, after welcoming as many elements and splinters from other as they seem to have done, would like to also take this yoke on their shoulders: the conversion of Arab Sudanese into nationalists of the New Sudan? If they could start and succeed with Dr.Hassan al Turabi, they will have done the Sudan a big favour. For, inside Turabi I see a good Sudanese. Perhaps a New Sudanese in the making. There is also the intellectual in him who knows the role individuals can play in directing the destiny of a nation.)
To bring this discussion to a close, let me repeat: the real politic of the Arab settlers in the Sudan has been pursued through keeping political power tightly in their hands.Every Arab ruler has adhered to this faithfully. And it has caused so many sufferings to the autochthonous people: those who were here from time immemorial and who look to no other country for a home. Dr. John Garang de Mabior’s political philosophy, as I understand it from his pronouncements and writings seem to have found out a solution to this ideology of political domination: to awaken all the major marginalised ‘Sudanese tribes’, to have spread disaffection amongst them so that they joined Southern Sudanese in the quest for taking over power from the handful of Arabs. But he stopped short of saying the Arabs would then have no place in the New Sudan.
But it goes without saying that the 77% Sudanese of 1954 Census would need equitable distribution of wealth, would need special accelerated programmes for ‘catching up’ in all sorts of spheres. Maybe even there would have to be a deliberate planting of marginalized people in every office and parastatal organisation as Nigerians did with ‘federal characterising’ of public institutions? Whatever method of accelerating the alleviation of poverty and increasing wealth in the formerly deprived areas would have to be definitely the Arabs who had been enjoying power and wealth filling those posts will have to make way for the new comers. The new people will come in dirty, mannerless, ignorant and will ashame you in the presence of your high healed international visitors. Not because they had willed to remain that way. Not because they are intellectually daft. They lacked education because since 1956 when you took over power you did not care to educate them. You had kept them away from the washing area and monopolized it for your people alone, you selfish brutes.
If this letter can awaken feelings of comradeship among Sudanese, if it can make young ‘Arabs’ to abandon the ways their parents had roared so that they learnt to moo like fellow cows then at least I have penetrated the hearts and minds of a few people. So that though the rational part of me does not believe in Dr. John Garang’s philosophy, the coming into being of the New Sudan may be a good thing for everybody. Arab Sudanese included.
As I always say, these are my own individual thoughts. I produced them for national guidance, and not for the ear of some big man or party. Whoever cares to glean some thought from it that would be of use to my people is free to do so. I bear nobody any grudge or malice. Where I have erred in matters of facts, or interpretation, I ask for forgiveness. But I hope, all in all, in the quest for something better for my fellow Sudanese some errors here and there could not be avoided.
Paper Presented By Professor Taban Lo Liyong
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 01, 2008 – May 06, 2008
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN