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With South Sudan continuing to face a number of acute historical challenges, the Pan-Africanist movement must move to develop campaigning and lobbying on the side of the ‘marginalised majority’ in South Sudan and Sudan alike, writes Explo Nani-Kofi.

I have decided not to separate Sudan and South Sudan in my articles because the developments in both places even after the secession of South Sudan as an independent country as linked to how Sudan, Africa’s biggest country, was shaped historically and how it functioned as a country. The crisis in Sudan is a crisis of capitalism in post-colonial Africa but manifests itself through the way capitalism specifically functions in Sudan. It is true that you cannot reach a solution without looking at the manifestation, but absolutising the manifestations as the whole picture can be very distorting.

Sudan became independent as a country from Anglo-Egyptian control on 1 January 1956. The United Kingdom and Egypt reached an agreement for Sudan’s self-determination and self-government in 1953. A transitional period began with the inauguration of a parliament in 1954. The first civil war broke out between the South and North in 1955 because the Arab-led government reneged on the establishment of a federal system of government. Thus civil war broke out in Sudan even before independence was declared. It is necessary for this to be stressed for those who interpret the rebellion against the Arabo-Islamic ruling class in Sudan as latter day Western imperialist manoeuvres. That interpretation is ahistorical, a distraction and a racist distortion as I have tried to explain in previous articles.

With the independence of South Sudan, the country faces a number challenges which follow up from the past. What united the people of South Sudan in their quest for independence is a common opposition to the marginalisation and divide and rule methods of the Arabo-Islamic ruling class in Khartoum, which has employed Arab identity and Islam as tools in running the state and exploiting its people. The situation in Darfur and South Kordofan shows that the people of South Sudan faced the same situation as those in Darfur and South Kordofan, who are still part of north Sudan. Coordination at the level of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) doesn’t seem to be that smooth. The unity against the common enemy, the Arabo-Islamic ruling class, made it is easy for chieftains and ethnic communities to participate in the armed struggle without necessarily being effectively coordinated by the SPLM/A, as everybody wanted the end of the oppression and marginalisation.

A Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SSLM/A) has issued a statement critical of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which is the ruling organisation in South Sudan. The SSLM/A is claiming that the SPLM/A cannot represent all in South Sudan to be replaced by an interim government representing all political parties in South Sudan. The SSLM/A also campaigns for a federal South Sudan as the political structure that is likely to provide the best framework for proper representation and the protection of the ethnic plurality of South Sudan.

The economic situation, including struggle over grazing land, is also leading attacks and counterattacks from different ethnic groups. There have been attacks between Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups in Jonglei State resulting in serious casualties. Murle were supposed to be retaliating and attack by the Lou Nuer in June. The present attack by the Murle against Lou Nuer in Uror county this week has resulted in 640 deaths, 861 people injured, 208 children kidnapped, 7,924 houses destroyed through arson and the theft of 38,000 heads of cattle according to reports from group of officials to Sudan Tribune of 23 August. The attacks by the Lou Nuer on the Murle in June resulted in 900 deaths. Some of these problems arise because the Arabo-Islamic regime siphoning the oil that South Sudan sat on for its opulent life style kept South Sudan totally undeveloped as some feudal backyard.

I still consider the independence of South Sudan as progress despite this crisis. The development is helping bring to the fore other issues which were ignored or glossed over by the leadership of the liberation movement after the late John Garang who led the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army into the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Sudan. John Garang as a visionary had the vision of the liberation of the whole Sudan whilst a lot the liberation movement were concerned about just how to end Arabo-Islamic ruling class oppression and marginalisation. This oppression and marginalisation was to facilitate neocolonialist capitalist exploitation, and whilst the incidence was higher among the supposed non-Arab population and non-Islamic population, it was part and parcel of the domesticated capitalist system in Sudan. Although the independence of South Sudan has not resolved this problem, it will help draw attention to the importance of addressing the bigger question of liberation as envisioned by John Garang. The problems of Darfur and South Kordofan clearly mean that the marginalisation is not just a north–south divide and the clashes in South Sudan show that there are other problems beyond marginalisation of the non-Arabised population.

An issue outstanding is what to do with the disputed territory of Abyei. Abyei definitely is in South Sudan but with the area being the source of oil the North doesn’t want to let ago. As such, Abyei was not included in the referendum which led to the independence of South Sudan but the decision on whether it is in north Sudan or South Sudan has been postponed for the future. The Sudan government alleged that its convoy was fired on on 19 May under the South Sudan Police Force, resulting in casualties. In response to this the Sudan armed forces attacked and seized Abyei. In the 1990s jihad against the Nuba people of South Kordofan led to between 4,000 and 5,000 villages being destroyed. My previous articles in Pambazuka have detailed recent genocidal actions in South Kordofan. In response to insurrection from Darfur in 2003, the Sudan armed forces and the Janjaweed militias have carried similar genocidal actions in the Darfur area of western Sudan.

There is urgent need for global Pan-Africanist solidarity beyond rhetorics and speeches. There has to emerge a current in the Pan-Africanist movement that can campaign and lobby on the side of the marginalised majority in Sudan. This has to go beyond shifting alliances with governments outside Africa. This has to be done within the global justice movement. The shifting alliances with various non-African governments will also result in shifting the goal posts for neocolonialism. We should draw a cue from the network of solidarity groups that the Cubans for example have used as an important model. This proactive Pan-Africanist group could lobby various bodies to help an independent mass following develop its own capacity which may contribute to advancing self-determination in Africa as a whole. This type of solidarity is indispensable in addressing the unfinished agenda which has dragged Sudan along since the eve of independence in 1955.


* Explo Nani-Kofi is the co-ordinator of Kilombo Community Education Project, London, UK, and Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, Peki, Ghana, which jointly publishes the Kilombo Pan-African Community Journal – He is also the producer and coordinator of the 'Another World is Possible' radio programme currently on GFM Radio. For further information contact him through [email protected] or +233-241498912.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.