Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 27 November 2007

Jihad for Abyei oil is disintegration of Sudan

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By Jacob K. Lupai*

Novembe 26, 2007 — In a rally on 18 November 2007 in Wad Medani in Northern Sudan marking the 18th anniversary of his Islamic revolution the President of the Republic of Sudan Omar Hassan el Bashir urged his holy warriors to start training in preparation for a jihad (holy war) against Southern Sudan. This was a stark warning to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) not to interfere with the National Congress Party (NCP) concerted programme of abrogation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The government of Sudan and the SPLM on 9 January 2005 ending a 22-year bloody war between Northern and Southern Sudan signed the CPA. However, for its part the SPLM wanted the CPA to be implemented in spirit and letter while Bashir representing the government of Sudan had other ideas. Those ideas were exposed in public for the first time in the rally in Wad Medani when Bashir showed his true colours as an untrustworthy partner in the CPA.

What Bashir did not object in the signing of the CPA he objected in the rally marking the 18th anniversary of his Islamic revolution. Bashir used the rally to declare publicly that they will not give an inch of Abyei, not so much as an ant’s body. He asserted that Abyei is in the North and its border is the border of 1905. Bashir may be right as the border of Abyei stood on the 1st January 1956, the independence day of Sudan. However, what does the CPA in which Bashir is a party say about Abyei? Before analysing in details what the CPA says about Abyei let’s see how Abyei became to be part of the North in the first place.

According to the CPA Abyei is defined as the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan (in the North) in 1905. Dr Francis Mading Deng in his book, War of Visions, says, “By all accounts the Ngok are fully identified with the South and are unequivocally southerners, despite the administrative arrangements that place them with the North”. The question may be that how were the administrative arrangements made for the Ngok Dinka to be in the North. According to Francis Deng in his other book, Dynamics of Identification, in 1745 the Ngok Dinka and one section of the Arabs, the Homr Baggsara met in the areas they now occupy in which both fell under the jurisdiction of Kordofan province during the Turko-Egyptian administration. Francis Deng tells us that since this administration had loose control over tribal life the Ngok Dinka and the Baggara Arabs remained politically independent within the provincial unity. However, during the Ango-Egyptian Condominium in Sudan in 1905 the Ngok Dinka Chief rode to El Obeid, the headquarters of Kordofan province, and asserted his allegiance to the Anglo-Egyptian administration. According to Francis Deng in relation linkages the Ngok Dinka identified with their neighbours in the North that when the British tried to affiliate them with the administration of Bahr el Ghazal province and to join the rest of their people in the South the Ngok Dinka Chief refused. In 1951 the British again gave the Ngok Dinka the option of joining Bahr el Ghazal or Upper Nile to join their racio-cultural kindred in the South. However, the Ngok Dinka declined to take the option because of the perceived benefits of remaining under the administration of Kordofan. Even the governor of Bahr el Ghazal who had been district commissioner of western Kordofan and for who the Ngok Dinka and their Chief had a great admiration, did his best to persuade the Ngok Dinka against their desire to remain in the North. At the time the governor influenced most Dinka chiefs of Bahr el Ghazal to attempt to persuade the Ngok Dinka Chief to join the South. A group of leading Bahr el Ghazal chiefs of Gogrial district visited Ngok and used various methods of persuasion including promising to be led by the Ngok Chief. However, when the final decision came the Ngok Dinka Chief threw his lot with the North, and the majority of the Ngok Dinka followed the decision of their Chief. Nonetheless according to Francis Deng the central government authorities were aware of the fact that, given their traditional orientation and lack of foresight into politics of a modern state, the Ngok Dinka did not fully realise the consequences of their decision, and were therefore given five years within which to change their minds if they so desired. This seems to suggest that as the Ngok Dinka on their own free will chose to be part of the North, they should also be allowed to choose on their own free will to revert to be part of the South. The major point here is for the Ngok Dinka to have the right to decide their own destiny whenever they think it is appropriate to do so.

Abyei the land of Ngok Dinka like Southern Sudan suffered neglect and marginalisation under successive regimes dominated by the minority elite of Northern Sudan. Although northern Sudanese aspired to have the South as part of united Sudan they never treated southerners as equal citizens of one country because of racism and religious bigotry. This was also true of Abyei. It may be boring to dwell too much on the history of North-South dichotomy but it is important and helpful to point out the marginalisation of the South in politics and development for a better way forward. In the Juba Conference of 1947 southerners were promised promotion to a level of equality with the North, both in positions and in financial rewards. However, when independence was achieved southern aspirations and fears were ignored. The enthusiasm to establish a united Arab Islamic Sudan took the precedence with the resultant resistance from the South. The resistance took an ugly turn as a protracted armed struggle was waged. Abyei suffering from neglect and marginalisation as Southern Sudan participated actively in the armed struggle.

In recognising the marginalisation and the struggle of the Ngok Dinka of Abyei for justice and equality the CPA covers a series of measures to resolve the problem. In fact chapter four of the CPA is “The Resolution of the Abyei Conflict”. According to the CPA, “Abyei will be accorded special administrative status in which residents of Abyei will be citizens of both Western Kordofan and Bahr el Ghazal, with representation in the legislatures of both states, and international monitors will be deployed to Abyei to ensure full implementation of the agreement on special administrative status of Abyei”. Also according to the CPA at the end of the Interim Period the residents of Abyei will be presented with a choice, irrespective of the results of the southern referendum, either that Abyei retain its special administrative status in the North or that Abyei be part of Bahr el Ghazal in Southern Sudan. The CPA as signed by the government of Sudan and the SPLM and witnessed by regional and international bodies, is very clear on Abyei. Now for Omar Hassan el Bashir as the President of the government of Sudan to turn around and denounce the CPA on Abyei is a serious act of gross violation of the CPA. Hopefully the regional and international bodies as witnesses to the CPA are closely monitoring the situation and assessing who is the real threat to regional peace.

Bashir seems to be a strange soldier who starts on the wrong foot and as that is not bad enough marches in the wrong direction. Bashir was supposed and indeed expected to protect the CPA his government concluded with the SPLM. Unfortunately he started to beat war drums and worse disowning the CPA by throwing out the Abyei protocol altogether onto a heap of rubbish so to speak. It was a blatant disrespect of the regional and international bodies that witnessed the signing of the CPA. As his mental faculties were temporarily impaired, in a very crude and undiplomatic language of intimidation, Bashir told the authors of the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) report to dilute the report and drink it, declaring they will not give an inch of Abyei to the South. This was clearly a gross violation of the rights of the Ngok Dinka of Abyei to exercise their inalienable right to decide their destiny either to remain in the North or to join the South as enshrined in the CPA. Bashir’s call for his holy warriors to be ready for a jihad by all accounts amounted to a declaration of war, which fortunately the SPLM was closely watching.

As though he was the wisest and others completely daft Bashir turned around to declare again that he was committed to the CPA. After beating the drums for a jihad against the South Bashir changed to toll the bells for peace. It is difficult to see how Bashir could really be trusted. Bashir’s change from the jihad rhetoric to peace was probably the realisation that he was playing with fire. Any military attack on the South in the name of jihad is an attack on all the marginalized of Sudan. Besides the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) will go from defensive to offensive. This time it will not be a guerrilla war but two national armies facing each other in the battlefield. The SPLA will not lack volunteers because freedom now or never. The outcome may be the disintegration of Sudan. Probably Bashir became aware of his erratic behaviour that he changed his tone to that of a committed partner to the CPA for the consequences of an attack on the South could be disastrous to the unity of Sudan before the referendum in 2011.

According to some of the “Principles of Agreement on Abyei” in the CPA, “The territory is defined as the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905; The Misseriya and other nomadic peoples retain their traditional rights to graze cattle and move across the territory of Abyei”. The CPA could not have been clearer on Abyei. In another twist of events Bashir admitted that the mandate of commission, agreed by both the NCP and the SPLM before the Abyei Boundary Commission was appointed, was to define and demarcate the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905. If this is what Bashir is now saying about Abyei what is the problem that he is rejecting the ABC report on the borders encompassing the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms? Unless there is something the public does not yet know then that is something else. The problem may be that the government of Sudan wants to exploit to the full the oil in Abyei without sharing it with the South and the locals. According to the CPA in the Interim Period the government of Sudan should receive 50, government of Southern Sudan 42 and the locals (Bahr el Ghazal, Western Kordofan, the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya) should receive equally among themselves 8 per cent of the oil revenue from Abyei oil. However, due to the non-implementation of the Abyei protocol the government of Sudan is now receiving 100 per cent of the Abyei oil. This is nothing but a broad-daylight robbery of the 50 per cent of Abyei oil revenue that should have gone to the government of Southern Sudan and the locals.

With separation, which seems to become a reality, between Northern and Southern Sudan Bashir is adamant to let go of Abyei as part of the South, hence the resistance to the implementation of the Abyei protocol. Bashir is not confident enough that Abyei will remain in the North if the Ngok Dinka are given the option to vote on either to be part of the North or the South. Like their southern brethren the Ngok Dinka have suffered untold atrocities that the outcome of such voting could be obvious. The Ngok Dinka are likely to vote to be part of the South. The South in turn is unlikely to remain a part of a untied Arab Islamic Sudan that has caused unimaginable damage to Southern Sudan. Southerners have seen it all how they have fared in an Arab Islamic state for the last 50 years. It may only be a southerner who is temporarily out of his or her mind that will vote to be part of an Arab Islamic state with all the institutionalised discrimination and oppression of others as second-class citizens. However, the unity of Sudan may not be as distant as planet Mars. The problem is the minority that have ordained themselves with god-given privileges and the right to be lords of Sudan. The desperate cry for a united Sudan is to consolidate power and to exploit resources for the benefit of the minority while the majority live in abject poverty.

A united Sudan is possible when people are very serious about being Sudanese. For now Sudanese nationalism is a distant reality. What we have now is Arab nationalism or African nationalism while others take refuge in religious fundamentalism duping others into refined slavery sustained through the fear of God interpreted according to the whims of the self-proclaimed soldiers of God on earth. Those self-proclaimed soldiers of God have never even agreed on their interpretation of how to implement God’s divine laws on earth. No doubt bitter rivalries of life and death is the outcome in serving the worldly desires in the name of God. Sudanese nationalism if there is one is offered lip service to serve a particular purpose in time. In desperation Bashir is now appealing to southerners in the NCP to work for unity. However, Bashir may care to know that how much money from the southern oil he use to bribe the southerners in the NCP those southerners in their hearts of hearts will not vote for a unity that condemns them to the status of second class citizenship. Bashir’s appeal to the northern members of the SPLM to work for unity is another desperate attempt. What Bashir is miserably failing to grasp is that the northern members of the SPLM are for a united Sudan on a new basis, which Bashir, however, considers anathema. Bashir cannot play the Arab racist and Islamic card to divide the SPLM. It is most likely that the northern SPLM members are better informed than Bashir.

The SPLM is a party that stands for a secular democratic Sudan in contrast to the NCP that stands for a divisive Islamic state. It is the party that can embark on far reaching reforms in building a strong united Sudan on new basis unlike the NCP that stands for the status quo of dogmatic religious tenets. The SPLM members whether they are Arabs, Africans, Muslims or non-Muslims are all subscribing to a united secular and democratic Sudan where race or religion is not used for identification. There is unlikely to be any division between northern and southern members of the SPLM for the foreseeable future, as Bashir would eagerly like to promote in planting the seed of discord.

For the unity of Sudan to be attractive Bashir needs to embark on a programme of reforms. He must first declare Sudan free of Sharia like Tunisia. Instead of identifying Sudan as an Arab Islamic state the Afro-Arab face of Sudan should be promoted. Sudan should be officially known as Afro-Arab Republic. In development the whole country should be electrified to encourage industrial development in all the areas of Sudan. Rural areas should be transformed in such a way that rural-urban migration is to the minimum with full employment in the rural areas as in urban areas for self-reliance. Paved roads all over the country should be the norm but not the exception. Modern farming methods and agricultural development should be the focus to address famines and household food insecurity in all areas of the country. Hospitals and health care centres should be improved. A hospital in Nyalla or in Juba should be well equipped with modern scientific equipment as those in Khartoum so that no patient is referred from Nyalla or from Juba to Khartoum. Education should be expanded with modern facilities. It is a shame that there are areas in the country where children learn under trees and in dilapidated classrooms lacking rudimentary furniture. Clean drinking water and sanitation for public health should be a priority all over the country. Sanitation in some areas is a shame to the country that has substantial oil reserves. In short a programme of massive development especially in the peripheries and the rural areas will encourage people to identify with a Sudan that cares about its people. For now unity is not attractive to those areas marginalized for the last fifty year because even the oil revenue has not trickled down as development to raise the living standards of the people. Southern Sudan and many other areas in the North have been starved of development for too far long that it is time for Bashir to do something instead of an appeal for an empty unity of Sudan. Unless Bashir invests the oil money on development for a better quality of life of the people in the peripheries in contrast to the spending on armaments for a jihad, Sudan may likely disintegrate into separate units as before the scramble for Africa by the European powers.

The stand off between the NCP and the SPLM is a bad omen for Sudan. Bashir has further complicated this with his fanatic call for his holy warriors to prepare for a jihad against the South. However, Bashir seems to have become aware of the signal his fanaticism may create that he is already throwing in the towel to let the South separate. It is a clear admission of incompetence in making unity of Sudan attractive. Conscious of the impending loss of the lucrative southern oil fields Bashir is now clinging desperately to Abyei oil. However, the SPLM has made it abundantly clear to Bashir that by 8 January 2008 all or most of the outstanding issues in the implementation of the CPA should have been resolved. The alternative to Bashir is to declare and call for jihad against the SPLM and the South. If that happens then that will mark the end of an era.

As stated somewhere in the text unity of Sudan is still possible. Sudanese need to rise up together, shape the future of the country together, rise up to the challenge of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country together and build a strong united Sudan together with which people are proud to identify. Bashir must be lying to himself if he thinks or says being an Arab or a Muslim is all that is needed to build a strong united through jihad. His insensitive imposition of Sharia and boastful baptism of Sudan as an Arab country is at best a nationality crisis. Sudan is not the preserve of Arabs or Muslims. If that were the case the Darfuris in the west and the Beja in the east who are predominantly Muslims would not have risen up in arms challenging a united Arab Islamic Sudan. Unity of Sudan needs much more that insensitive racist Arab overtones and the outrageous over zealous emphasis on antiquated seventh century religious laws that only make the minority hypocrites to lord over and exploit shamelessly the majority simple minded, helpless and wretched believers. Darfur like Southern Sudan has the right to self-determination and Darfuris should follow up this with vigour as their inalienable right.

On the other hand the official face of Sudan as an Afro-Arab state may be to the advantage of both Arabs and Africans in Sudan. The two races may benefit, as support for the Afro-Arab state will not be likely to the disadvantage of either race. Hopefully this may lead to a better future for all Sudanese. Importantly Sudanese need to open a new chapter in their history of a secular and democratic Sudan devoid of Arab racism and religious bigotry.

Finally Dr John Garang de Mabior said the CPA did not belong to him or to Bashir but belonged to all Sudanese as ushering in a dawn of peace. It is therefore the responsibility of all Sudanese especially the marginalized to challenge Bashir in his attempt to dishonour the CPA. Sudanese need to be decisive. Although Bashir has a difficult position in that he has to maintain the Arab Islamic face of Sudan to satisfy and please his hard-line constituency, this, however, should not be at the expense of Southern Sudan and indeed any marginalized region in Sudan. When Bashir complains of foreign interference in Sudan it is because he has failed to implement the CPA. The involvement of international bodies in monitoring the implementation of the CPA is advocated in the CPA document. Bashir may need to have the CPA document close to him in order to be well versed of the issues involved. Sometimes Bashers seems to advertise ignorance of the advocated involvement of regional and international bodies in monitoring the implementation of the CPA. Bahsir should not cover up his incompetence in the implementation of the CPA and the Darfur Peace Agreement by crying foul of foreign involvement. Foreign involvement in the implementation of the CPA is genuine for a lasting peace.

*The author is a regular Sudan Tribune contributor, he can be reached at jklupai@yahoo.co.uk



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  • 28 November 2007 04:41, by DengLeek

    A Jihad! What a shame! I pity Sudan and all the societies that for centuries have been tramped upon by the jackboots of inhumanity. Islam and humanity are just two opposite identities and when this fascist religion is accompanied by greed then it is eternally blind and deaf to what appears good and a complete norm across the globe. How difficult is it to go by what has been laid down in the CPA? What is the point of signing it in the first place if it would end up in the dust bins. My fear is, as long as this cult (AL Bashir) remains the man in power, Sudan will have no progress because the man is just outrageously evil. I ask all the Marginalized people of Sudan to stand by each other and face it with one unified accord. Sudan cannot afford another decade of civil war. I know he will be frozen if every one turns against him. Shame on NCP!

    repondre message

  • 28 November 2007 14:52, by Dee El Lukudu

    Well said Mr Lupai!Thumbs up!

    repondre message



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