By Justin Ambago Ramba
November 5, 2010 — Egypt’s role in the Sudanese affairs is quite a long one that carries with it a lot of bitter memories and is dissented across a wider section of the Sudanese population. Sudan’s ‘northern neighbour’ is both remembered as a collaborator of the imperialists during the colonial era [of the Turkey-Egyptian administration and later the Condominium Anglo – Egyptian rule] in the country. However it is the greed for the resources of its sub Saharan neighbours and as well as the continuing patronising attitudes that has put many at odds with this colonial expansionist. No great wonder that in south Sudan, the moment Egypt is mentioned, people’s minds immediately go to the Jonglei canal, the protest demonstrations of the early 1970s, and how the project has become a curse to talk about openly.
Nevertheless we are all aware that Egypt is not alone in these expansionist policies towards sub Saharan African, meant to pass through the land of south Sudan. Our oral and written histories have countless records on Egypt’s role in the slave trade and raids that ravaged the whole area. This will remain a hot issue in our relationships and the Egyptian leadership must prepare itself to give apologies and must rightly pay compensations to the relatives of the victims. However it seems that our people are meant to pass through yet difficult times and hurdles before we make our rightful presence felt along the Nile. If Egypt is suffering from collective amnesia, we are not.
It is true that it has taken too long before any south Sudanese ever puts it clear to the Egyptians that they are the main culprits in the difficulties facing our people today. It was the Egyptian throne that annexed south Sudan and Darfur to the present day Sudan, a move only justified by greed and pure colonial interests. And no wonder that they are still seen to play the role of the hand in the glove with their fellow Arabs of the riveran north Sudan in the joint ventures of Arabisation, Islamisation and the simultaneous dehumanisation and marginalisation of the indigenous black Africans.
Now we have been told that the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit has expressed fears that the referendum for south Sudan’s independence scheduled for 9th January 2011 could spark violence and a huge exodus of refugees.
“We fear separation may be accompanied by some violent actions that affect Sudan’s relations with neighbouring countries and Egypt, which circumstances may oblige to host Sudanese” fleeing unrest, the official Mena news agency quoted him as saying.
“This is matter of concern that requires adequate preparations,” he said.
In reality one puzzles at this monotonous statement that came from Egypt’s top diplomat. However the people of south Sudan are keen enough to read between the lines as to exactly what this Arab agent is up to. It is worth appreciating his recognition to the fact that the referendum is obviously leading to the independence of south Sudan. And this quite clearly underscores the main reason for his anxiety.
It is also true that over quite a long period of time that Egypt has hosted large numbers of Sudanese refugees who were made to flee their homes due to the so many political unrest that the country has to face as a consequence of a rotten policies in the centre, since a time immemorial. Even dating back to the colonial era many people declared by the rulers as persona non grata had always been exiled to Egypt and this later continued to include opposition leaders and ousted heads of the state etc. These were of course people who fled to Egypt with huge loots from the public coffers that the host is very happy to have. late ex-president Jaafar Nimeri and the late ex-head of the supreme council , Ali Mirghani and of course a countless other politicians from the old Sudanese Socialist Union [SSU] days to the current leaders of the Sudanese Sectarian parties and the drop outs from the Ingaz system of the NIF/NCP, all enjoyed and continue to enjoy refuge in Egypt.
But it is the other group of refugees that the Egyptian chief diplomat is worried of and they are the black Africans mainly from south Sudan, the Nuba Mountains and Darfur who fled their villages and towns due to the scorch earth campaign by the central government in Khartoum. However even this demography may not exactly represent the whole picture as Egypt was already in receipt of Sudanese nationals who fled the man-made floods in Wadi Halfa, when the High Dam was built . The sad outcome of this ambitious project was a great loss to the indigenous Nubian, land, people and civilization.
As I write hundreds of northern Sudanese continue to make it to Cairo on weekly basis and this has nothing to do with the north-south politics. So for the Egyptian top diplomat to conclude that the secession vote in the south would ultimately lead to an exodus of refugees is rather an over-reaction, because refugees from the Sudan had kept pouring into Egypt even when Sudan is still a united country.
Obviously when Abul Gheit refereed to the referendum and its obvious out-come as a matter of concern that requires adequate preparations, he wasn’t really doing his country’s diplomacy any favour. Does he need to remind that Egypt was part of the whole Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which brought about the relative peace between the north and the south? Does he need to be reminded that the CPA also spelt very clearly the right of the people of south Sudan to self determination in the end of the six years? Why did Egypt accept to be a witness to this agreement and how comes that it failed to prepare his Arab fellows of northern Sudan to keep count of time and get prepared earlier?
Although one may have to say this every time an Arab spoiler comes up to say that the preparations for the referenda are behind schedule as if unaware of the evil intensions of their fellows in Khartoum, I will do it. Let Egypt be reminded for record that its fellows in northern Sudan and the dominant NIF/NCP of President Omer al Bashir have come out-openly on several occasions to say that they would do whatever it takes to abort the independence poll. Mr. Diplomat the issue at hand is that your Arab fellows, the northern Sudanese Arabs and their NIF/NCP regime do not have the political will to implement any agreement whatsoever the case.
Egypt of all countries should have understood better that the root causes of the Sudanese Political Crisis as a country, lies with its ruling elites of the Arab riverans who are not in any way willing to share power with the vastly marginalised Sudanese of the periphery. The solution thus lays in up-rooting this cancer that is right in the centre of the Sudanese politics-----yet they [Egypt] chose to turn a blind eye and do business as usual.
Abu Gheit has definitely gone on the offensive, and is doing his best to hatch the plan that the Arab League have laid down behind the closed doors..... a futile attempt to drown the south Sudan’s freedom. It is all in what he said:
“It is not a problem if the referendum is delayed for several months,” Mena quoted the Egyptian minister as saying. “Sudanese should take into account the priority of the importance of life over the importance of holding the referendum on time,” he said.
Now it can be seen that Egypt is desperately trying to dope the people of south Sudan into accepting second class citizenry ..........the importance of life, even if remaining in servitude. To the Arabs and Egypt is no exception, there is no importance in holding the referendum on time. Let us hope that south Sudan will find the forum to answer Abu Gheit and thank him for his concern over our lives. But as of now he needs to know that we would rather die standing on our feet than to continue to live on our knees. It is a problem to delay the referendum even for a day Mr. Abu Gheit.
In a similar development the Egyptian Foreign Minister was also quoted (MENA), as saying that his country had offered Sudan a "confederate" solution, but did not give details. This eventually reflects the fact how Egypt and the entire Arab world have chosen to live in denial in spite of the naked reality that south Sudan is determined to go its way and everything that is happening now are just formalities. The option of “confederate system” has lost its appeal to the people of south Sudan. It was suggested in Abuja- Nigeria, by the former Nigerian leader Ibrahim Babangida, and although it received an acceptance from the SPLM/A - at that time, unfortunately it wasn’t favoured by Khartoum. Again it was turned down during the IGAD managed peace negotiations in Kenya. This was how the Right to Self Determination for south Sudan emerged as the only choice.
For the sake of simplicity my readers can do well to see the example of ‘confederate systems’ from the countries that practise it. Usually it is an arrangement between two or more independent countries that chose either for security [self defence] or economic reasons to confederate. Under such an arrangement the members usually share common economy, monetary system, defence and the foreign policy.
In these days when everybody seems to be saying something whether sensible or not, we have heard even some senior members of the south’s ruling SPLM party who were captured in the media stressing the need to maintain good links between the north and the south even following the inevitable secession. Such things are easily said than done, and nobody in their right state of mind can be deluded into believing that the NCP and the SPLM, who dramatically failed to create any harmony in the government of national unity [GoNU] over the last six, can miraculously turn around to make and run two confederate states.
Economic confederation needs trust and transparency, and although the test in our case was largely limited to the oil revenues, it was enough to make a strong case where the South felt deceived in its share of the money. How do you expect this very people who will continue to rule on both sides of the divide to establish any functioning and viable unitary economy without trading accusations that can eventually lead to the same war that the Egyptians now claim to be worried of? Call it the war of resources and it can only be avoided by honouring treaties, but not pushing them under the carpet.
The other issues are the foreign policy and defence. These two in the current Sudan are extremely difficult if not impossible to remain one due to sharp ideological differences between the two parts or even the ruling parties. The north and the NIF/NCP for that matter is bound to have an Arab and Islamic foreign policy and military, while the south and the SPLM will obviously maintain its secular, Pan African foreign policy and army. The contrast is clear and too vivid to be pushed under the carpet. Egypt cannot pretend, NOT to see all these.
Down the centuries African statesmen have cried out against their relationship with the Arabs. Worse still was the devastating rampage caused by the Arab slavers. About the year 1396, Uthman Biri Ibn Idris, King of Bornu (the Bornu Empire (1396-1893) was a medieval African state of Nigeria from 1396 to 1893. It was a continuation of the great Kanem Empire founded centuries earlier by the Sayfawa Dynasty. In time it would become even larger than Kanem, incorporating areas that are today parts of Chad, Niger and Cameroon) in a letter to Sultan Barquq of Egypt, complained:
“We have sent you as ambassador my cousin, Idris Ibn Muhammad, because of the calamity we suffered. the Arabs who are called Judham and others have taken captives our free subjects ---women and children and old people, and our relatives, and other Muslims....these Arabs have harmed all our land, the land of Bornu, continually up to the present, and have captured our free subjects and relatives, who are Muslims, and are selling them to the slave-dealers in Egypt and Syria and elsewhere, and some they kept for themselves.”[Chinweizu- decolonising the African mind].
When all these experiences are taken together, it is clear that, as far as Arabs are concerned, all may be equal in Islam, but blacks are decidedly less equal than Arabs and whites, and can be discriminated against, enslaved and even out-rightly cheated with clear Arab conscience.
The same is now being replicated in Darfur which was purely a black African and Muslim Sultanate and was invaded by this very Egypt who annexed it as a colony to the current Sudan. Today Darfur continues to bleed from this expansionist Arab campaign, but do we know what those who created the status quo are doing? Instead of helping in sorting out the Darfur conflict, Egypt has resorted to train its snipers using live bullets on unarmed Darfuris who are themselves victims of the state sponsored Egypt Arab Bedouins.
In light of all that we can better appreciate the following remark by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, [born on 21 July 1921 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa is a Zulu Sangoma (traditional healer) and High Sanusi]: “I find it hard to understand the role the Arabs are trying to assume nowadays------the pose of spokesmen for the black people, and even that of liberators. It will take more than honeyed overtures of friendship to make us forget what the Arabs did to Africa.
Although we are made to think that Egypt is driven by its concerns about its Nile water rights in spite of the historical fact that it does not contribute even a single bucket of water to the Nile water, the realities on the ground are beginning to show just more than that. It is trying hard to make its presence felt in south Sudan by erecting some water and electricity projects and the state airline EgyptAir is expected to fly twice a week to the southern capital Juba. But to put it mildly, this North African giant looks much trapped in its past glories when it had control over south Sudan as part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. We would appreciate if they limit their search to a quest for water. This they better do that without toeing the line as times have changed.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. He can be reached at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.