SOUTH SUDAN: The PANGS OF NATIONHOOD!
On the morning of 9th July 2011, Mother Africa went through the throes of nativity and South Sudan was born! Joyous crowds greeted that day in Juba, Bor, Rumbeck and Wau. Much joy was found from the Upper Nile, Jonglei; East, West and Central Equatorial States, all of which will now make up the world’s newest country.
It has been a long bloody journey to independence. From the initial independence of the Sudan in 1956, the peoples of the South of Sudan had fought a war against domination and Arabization. Dubbed Africa’s longest contiguous/running civil war, a truce/peace deal was signed in 1972 giving a break from the Anya Nya rebellion that had began about 1956.
Yet the underlying issues that led to rebellion not being addressed, the South (dark skinned, non-Arab and mostly Christian) culturally and ethnically different from the North; against a governing/dominating Pro-Arab Muslim North, the South in 1983 once again descended into a rebellious conflagration with the government sending John Garang (a Southern army officer) to quell the rebellion.
Garang instead allied with the mutinous forces and forged the Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), the armed wing of the Sudan’s Peoples Liberation movement (SPLM); thus launching a full scale second round of rebellion. Beginning in 1983, the war raged amid series of peace moves and finally a Comprehensive Peace Agreement deal was done in 2005, ending 22yrs of war. Under the deal, South Sudan was to be allowed self government for a six year period culminating with a referendum for self determination in the sixth year.
For all the troubles of John Garang, he didn’t live to enjoy the dividends of the peace deal as he died in a plane crash in July 2005; barely 3months after signing the deal. A crack seemed to simmer among the ranks of the SPLA/SPLM. Turning a rebel movement into an active political/governing force over a territory that has only known war, pillage, cattle rustling, marginalization and underdevelopment was no easy deal. The South made up of the Dinka-Ngok, Nuer, Shilluk amongst several other minorities began to simmer in ethnic tensions.
Though evident during the rebellion in the defection Peter Gadet and his militia from the SPLA to the side of the Sudanese government, a power struggles was waiting to happen after the death of charismatic Garang; with the highly educated Riek Machar and militarily vibrant Peter Gadet (both from the Nuer ethnic group) against a less educated military commander in Salva Kiir (from the Dinka ethnic group).
The lines of differences between the actors was bridged before the referendum which ensured independence. Plagued by ineptitude and corruption, the SPLA government made a poor start failing to learn lessons from older independent nations. Peter Gadet once more defected from the SPLM, kick starting a rebellion in the troubled Unity/Jonglei region which was flanked by General George Athor. These differences played into Sudan and barely months after independence, South Sudan and Sudan were at odds. Sudan occupying disputed Abiyei and South Sudan occupying the oil fields of Heglig (Panthou). The world watched as both sides verbally sabre rattled at each other with President Omar Al-Bashir calling the South Sudanese government ‘Insects’ that must be flushed out.
With both sides struggling to contain internal rebellions, all out conflict was certainly not an option and overtime the conflict seemed to progress by proxy as both governments accused each other of supporting their respective rebel groups. Oil ceased to flow from South Sudan and both governments became cash strapped.
Tensions continued to smolder in South Sudan; defections, discontents culminating in the sack of the entire cabinet by President Salva Kiir. Then came heightened violence referred to as a coup attempt.
Once again, South Sudan is split along the lines of previous rival rebel movement- Peter Gadet and Reik Machar seeming to align against the main stream SPLM lead by Salva Kiir.
For years, these have fought side by side against the government of Khartoum and united by the cause of getting an improved status quo for the Southern Sudanese. Though there have been splinters in the past, upon getting their desired aim, it is up to the power players in South Sudan to make their nation great.
Like most African countries, independence leaders seem united at the onset fighting a common enemy in Colonialism. Upon independence, it has been the custom of most independence leaders to stifle opposition, promote nepotism, ethnic tensions and ultimately cement their places in power by declaring a one party state.
Such has been the pangs and throes of independence in Africa which has relegated most African Countries to third world statuship; miles behind the Asian Tigers that started the independence journey with most African Countries.
It is sad to note this trend in South Sudan. Barely 2yrs into independence, the country is embroiled in the same circle of violence familiar with SubSaharan Africa.
A Nation was born in South Sudan; young, ruddy and potent! She must learn from her elders else another failed state in the making! And who says secession is a solution to Africa’s ethnic/cultural mangle? See South Sudan!