By Peter Kuot Ngong
“There are no shortcuts and no easy walks to Freedom.” Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Naivasha Kenya 2004
September 23, 2011 — To those hunters in mountainous ranges who defected and jumped to the top of the mountains in Kidepo, Imatong, Kapoeta and Kilkilai and started pointing their weapons shooting down on the SPLA forces, and to those Nilotic herdsmen of the swampy regions of Upper Nile who defected, mobilised in Nasir and formed a group called the Nasir Faction which coalesced with the enemy in an expedition to destroy the movement under the leadership of Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior. It is high time to give our memories substantial instances to pore over all that happened in the past and whether the vision of the ’New Sudan’ was the right formula to use as a principle for achieving the ‘freedom’ of the people of South Sudan, or what Dr. John Garang called ‘shortcuts’ were better applicable.
As the new Republic of South Sudan moves on with its development plans using its own resources without any intimidation or threats from any external forces, the National Congress Party (NCP) which controls the North Sudan government still feels a great threat of what was coined as ‘The New Sudan Vision’ by the most sophisticated politicians of Sudan including Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Late Yusuf Kuwa of Nuba Mountains, Salva Kiir Mayardit, Yassir Arman, Malik Agar and so many other political elites of Sudan, some of them late and others still breathing.
After the declaration of independence of South Sudan two months ago, there are still political forces and geographical regions counted to North Sudan that are calling for the achievement of the vision of New Sudan as the only way to transform Sudan into a democratic, multi-religious, multi-racial, multi-ethnic heterogeneous state that observe justice and equality of its citizens for a better progress.
That is a war the North will be fighting for years, as the horns of freedom are blown on the top of mountains in Nuba by Abdelaziz Adam Al-Hilu, they are heard in Darfur by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and down to Blue Nile by Malik Agar. That is a big threat to Khartoum and therefore a prevailing golden uninterrupted freedom of the people of South Sudan.
When I met Comrade Yassir Arman in Juba after the declaration of independence of South Sudan with other journalists in a group, he strongly asserted that the vision of ’New Sudan’ is the only factor for a better Sudan and the good formula for keeping the North and South in a better relationship to the interests of their respective citizens. Yassir described North and South Sudan as countries that are socially and economically intact and any political move to derail their historical relationship will not be at the interest of the citizens of either countries and therefore a regime change will be required to happen in the north.
When I met Malik Agar on the same day as a journalist to query him on the same issue, he told me that any miscalculated approach to his people by the Northern tyrants will amount to war that will be coordinated from Blue Nile to South Kordofan and to Darfur. This shows that the war has not ended in Sudan, though it has ended in the South. The vision of ’New Sudan’ has to continue to achieve the blissful dreams of the Sudanese citizens.
Back to the point on whether late Dr. John Garang was right to implicate and impose the vision of ’New Sudan’ for the freedom, justice and equality not only for the South Sudanese but also for the marginalised people of other parts of Sudan including Darfur and Eastern Sudan (the people of Adondowe), we have to descend deep down the history right from the inception of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A).
The vision has long been criticised by many Southern political elites after failing to understand what it really means for the struggle and started adopting what Dr. John Garang called ‘shortcuts’ as the miscalculated moves to earn independence of South Sudan. John Garang said the following statement for those who understood the vision of ’New Sudan’ at different dimensions.
“I am aware that the New Sudan has been criticized by people in the past …... This is because as we have seen New Sudan has several dimensions. It is at the same time a vision which guides us as well as an objective to be achieved and it is also quoted as a strategy adapted.” Dr. John Garang de Mabior, 2004.
As Dr. John Garang states it above, many people absorbed New Sudan into their minds with different understanding.
The failure to understand the meaning of New Sudan as a vision has led to some individuals, parties, groups, tribes and even regions calling Dr. John Garang a Unionist and proclaimed themselves as the advocates for the recently attained independence of South Sudan.
Garang was not a unionist but a political player whose game is now still playing in Sudan to keep the South Sudanese citizens safer. He was called a unionist by those who failed to understand his political contrivance. If anyone did follow his speech after signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, then he said;
“We have brought to you the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on a golden plate… It will be upon you whether to vote to be a second class citizen in your own country...”
For that case Garang was not a unionist.
Therefore, based on the above simple statement that has been widely quoted, Dr. John Garang was an underlying separatist who did not want to call directly for the independence of South Sudan from the initial stages of the struggle.
It was foreseeable that any movement calling directly for the independence of South Sudan like the former SSIM (South Sudan Independence Movement) of Dr. Riek Machar would easily be crushed by the government of Sudan because it will easily rally all the other parts of Sudan against the Southerners. The popular Islamist Hassan Al-Turabi tried that move and it worked. He called the SPLM/A war against Khartoum government, a Christian war against Islam and he mobilised forces from all the Arab countries called them holy warriors or Mujahideen.
This prompted Dr. John Garang to form a movement that will involve all the marginalised areas of Sudan like Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan, for a well coordinated struggle against the unjust government of Sudan. Here is the history of how the idea of ’New Sudan’ came about.
The idea of ’New Sudan’ was coined through the first approved manifesto of the SPLM that was released immediately after the launch of the struggle in 1983.
When all the SPLM/A leaders mobilised at their base in Ethiopia in 1983 after the launch of the war in Bor on 16th May 1983, there was an immediate need to formulate the manifesto even before forming a long term leadership as required by former Ethiopian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam which was behind the struggle in terms of logistical support.
The power wrangles that aroused among the leaders were only solved by a well defined manifesto. The Ethiopian government requested for well-defined manifesto as a precondition to support the war against Khartoum government.
The late Akuot Atem who was a high ranking and popular leader and had a great support from the South Sudanese refugees camps in Ethiopia rushed to establish the rebels’ leadership in which he placed himself the Chairman of the movement and Dr. John Garang as the Chief of Staff before the group met the Ethiopian Defence Ministry.
When Mengistu sent his Defence Minister to meet the group, Akuot Atem presented a manifesto to him. The manifesto for the struggle was mainly and directly calling for independence South Sudan.
The Communist Ethiopian government refused to support the armed struggle that directly calls for disintegration of a country. The Minister of Defence told the SPLM leaders that Ethiopia fully supports the African Charter (Africa Union) which does not allow further the partitioning of Africa.
The Ethiopian authorities called on Dr. John Garang who had already established good relations with them to re-write the manifesto. Dr. John Garang wrote a well-defined manifesto in which he stipulated clearly that the SPLM is fighting for “a democratic, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, heterogeneous new Sudan that observes justice and equality of its citizens, and disburse all the national resources to all parts of the country for prosperity for all”.
The manifesto was very much welcomed by Ethiopia and committed all their efforts to ensure a powerful base and support to the starting movement against Sudan government.
What the SPLM wanted was an immediate support whether internally or externally, so it was not fighting to be a communist government because of being supported by the communist regime of Mengistu Mariam.
After seeing Mengistu accepting the manifesto written and idealistically based on Dr. John Garang, Akuot Atem and Gai Tut fell out with Garang and mobilised their own forces accusing the Ethiopian government of forcefully making Garang the leader of the movement.
Those power wrangles that were based on individual interests were not focusing on what to be fought for and how it would be achieved. There was a need for the movement to be run by people who are educated, people who understand what they are fighting for, but most of the Southern intellectuals who joined the SPLM at the start and establishing of the struggle were greedy and selfish. They used their academic qualifications to challenge their uneducated colleagues and started questioning why they shouldn’t be inserted into higher ranking positions.
The initial mission of the SPLM according to its technical proprietor Dr. John Garang was to mobilise as many intellectuals as possible so that the war can be well explained to the international community. Other parts of Sudan also requested to join because they were also feeling the same pain as Southerners.
The struggle for ’New Sudan’ attracted other parties like National Democratic Alliance to join the SPLM. The Eastern Sudan as well as Darfur later joined to support the struggle against the government in Khartoum.
According to Dr. John Garang, reaching to 1990s, some members within the SPLA started viewing ’New Sudan’ as long method of fighting for freedom and resorted to the ‘shortcuts’ like the Khartoum Agreement, Fashoda Agreement, Djibouti Peace Agreement which failed to earn freedom for South Sudan according to the expectations of the founders.
Several parties later joined the SPLM and altogether supported the long method, the ’New Sudan Vision’ which has finally brought about the Independence of South Sudan. The call for an independent South Sudan was needed at the level of negotiations of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement as it was done in Naivasha Kenya. And that was the point where Dr. Riek Machar was needed. At that point, the Nassir declaration was actually needed to be part of the CPA.
Dr. Riek’s Nassir Declaration directly called for the independence of South Sudan. The SPLM’s motto of self determination was then used to supplement on that and yielded that agreement of Southern Sudan Referendum.
’New Sudan’ is still a threat to Khartoum because Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan are still fighting for it.
Peter Kuot Ngong is a journalist in South Sudan. He can be reached at email@example.com for any comments