Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 5 August 2008

Sudan 2009 elections, last chance for democratic change


By John Garang Awan

August 4, 2008 — When I was a little boy and lived in Juba in the early years of 1980s, when the former Sudanese President, Jaffar Muhammad Nemeiri’s regime was in power; I was a fan of radio Omdurman, and the same democracy which we have been fighting to establish over the last two decades, and which we are still aiming to bring to Sudan was commonly aired in the news by difference news media of which radio Omdurman was my favorites. I was a little beyond my interest was not to hear the news but to listen to words, “Omdurman Khartoum” and the like of them which were my vocabularies. What is striking though, and I still remember even today in Arabic, is the repetitions of the praise, “Jumuriyahat el Soudan el Democratiya (The Democratic Republic of Sudan).” I am really sure; I didn’t even started grade school in those days but this praise was so common in the news. However, on the contrary, there was a mystery. What was a mystery to me, and will be a mystery if democracy fails to prevail in Sudan, and especially in Southern Sudan is this: with democracy being shouted out aloud in the air, still the SPLM took up arms 1983, and they headed to the bush. Meanwhile, the radios and the other news continued to talk about Sudan, referring her as a Democratic Republic. I continued to enjoy hearing my vocabularies over the radio till our radio was robbed when the village was attacked in 1985/86 and I realized deeply that something seriously is going wrong.

The SPLA, as it was initially referred, started a new call for democracy in the Sudan. They started their own radio, which was aired at 3:00 pm Sudanese time. I shifted my interest and became the fan of the SPLA radio, and not only that, I developed interest to the point of me joining their struggle. I started helping SPLA soldiers as early as 1985. I carried their foods, ammunitions and luggage from village to the next village. Then eventually I became a registered member of the movement in December of 1986. Since that time, the struggle becomes my struggle and our struggle, and I have a deep hope that the SPLM, the movement I love, and have served at my early ages, will one day present to the people, the fruit of their struggle not only in words but tangibly by improving their living livelihood and standard of life. The SPLM/A did had a course for the war, and they do. Their strategies were clear and realistic, and they are, since nothing will ever be realistic than to bring democracy and equality to Sudan; a country which has been torn apart by war and injustice since its inception.

We in the SPLM/A, as members and messes, have been fighting for a comprehensive change in the Sudan. The change that we need to bring to Sudan is well articulated in the SPLM manifesto, and eventually, it is translated in parts into Comprehensive Peace Agreement which was signed in January 2005 in Nairobi Kenya. It is also well represented in the speeches offered by the late Dr. John Garang during his life time. Our vision for Sudan is true and consistence. As seen in all our literatures, the SPLM has analyzed the problem of Sudan. We know Sudan has a problem, and at the same time, we know have a solution. The problem is the system of governance instituted by the previous regime. The problem is that Sudan has been ruled through false ideology and the Sudanese people have been made to believe it. The Sudanese have lived this false ideology and it has become part of their life, but now they have risen and want to shake it off, and our party is the right place to turn and must received them with open heart, show them our values, and human dignity we have fighting for since our formation. Our party SPLM is the party for people and the people must be part of it to make real. For those of you who are inspired by our goals and objectives; the SPLM has vision and our vision sees the hope beyond this reality of pain and struggle. The problem of the Sudan has been analyzed, and the solution clear: since this system has become part of the people, reforming it is not going to work, but removing it is a perfect solution. The SPLM is also aware of the difficulty involved in bringing such a dramatic change, but unlike before, we have a tool to bring the change. We have the comprehensive peace agreement, and a national interim constitution, but for this to become true, must be a test for change. This is a long awaited chance; and truly, that is the only hope and aspiration for the Sudanese people.

The truth is the door is open for this change. The comprehensive peace agreement signed by the government and the SPLM is the door but that door can also be closed if it is not watched. Now, we are in the middle of the road to determine the reality of our identity in Sudan. It will be determined by this test whether the system of governance employed in country by our government in the capital is something that can be changed. The real test and the last of all attempts to bring democratic change to Sudan is on its way. The general election in 2009 will determine, and if the Sudanese people are really aware of the problem Sudan, and if they have been struggling to bring a lasting change since independence, then a real political war is going to happen in the year 09, and they will play important role in that war. As far as now concern, we are looking on parties that will play major lead in that war. These parties are signatories to CPA: the SPLM and the NCP parties. Although the relationship between these parties is confusing; still they are likes poles of the magnets. They are ideologically different and if they stick to the good used of their ideologies through democratic bargaining, then they will make a better Sudan. But if they opted for military force as they did in the past, then nothing will change in the Sudan and Sudan will ever remain a home for international experiments.

The better way out, and for the sake of the Sudanese people, the signatories to the CPA should go in line with the CPA and used it to solve other problems in the country. They should also allow and campaign for a fair internationally monitored election as spelt in the CPA. Of course, the NCP should be aware to stand the test if (alnayeb alawel lilrais), the Vice President of the Republic Salva Kiir Mayardit won the election in 2009. They should be aware to take this challenge humbly. It will be the first in history of the Sudan: a non-Arab and non-Muslim will be the president of the Sudan. It is something NCP and other northern parties should be prepared to face, not as a humiliation, but the reality of Sudan that has been denied for long and hence, a result of a series of wars since independence. The NCP and other northern parties should be aware of this reality because they have failed to perceive it for half of a century. We must live by the identity of the Sudan: that we are a multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-racial, and these components of our identity must play vital role in shaping our future, as individuals, and our destiny as a nation with common goals. However, since this political culture and thinking is new and a nightmare to our friends, and brothers in the various regimes in the capital, they need to be reminded before the reality to come. They are not politically absent in the Sudan, and they should be aware of this truth.

The election in 2009 should be welcome by all political forces in Sudan. It is the election that will shape our destiny and our history. It will help our country to embrace a new direction in the delivery of services to our people at various level of our society. If Sudan will not be changed by this coming election, then that will be our last chance, as nation. After all, are we not going to disintegrate into fragments in a matter of three years ahead, why not giving it a chance before our departure? This bell of democracy has been rung three decades now and the SPLM is the leader in this call, why not giving it a last chance, and see?

The author has been active in peace promoting activities, and helps organized Sudanese local communities, and SPLM chapters in the United States.

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