Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 30 October 2009

Road to referendum


By Sindani Ireneaus Sebit

October 29, 2009 — I would like to start this article by alluding and lauding the agreement reached between the SPLM and its partner the NCP on the Referendum Law in Sudan. This agreement is one of the milestones that set the way forward for successful referendum come 2010. I must congratulate the two parties for the grudging and painstaking but faithful commitment they made to enable the referendum take place as scheduled. It is my greatest hope that the remaining sticking points will be overcome as the two parties engage vigorously and sincerely to ensure that Sudan can reach peaceful resolution to the problems that have bedecked it for decades. I am particularly concerned by the fact that 66.7% of South Sudanese must vote and 51% vote for separation in order to declare South Sudan independent. I wonder whether we are talking about the population of South Sudan or the voting population of South Sudan. Usually the voting population is less than the population of a country. Voting age is usually considered to be above 16 years of age. In the case of South Sudan, I believe all children under the age of 16 years will not be allowed to vote and if this age group constitutes between 16% to 20%, therefore we are already talking of voting population of 80% and knowing that the turnout may not be 100% of the voting population, then the referendum is already rigged.

Having said this, I would like to concentrate this article on what South Sudanese should be doing to ensure that the referendum outcome is in their favour, which of course should be independence of South Sudan and how South Sudan should transition smoothly to a peaceful, prosperous and stable independent South Sudan. I say this because in order to achieve something tangible, somebody somewhere should not only prepare for it but also labour for it. It took South Sudanese 21 years of hard labour, human and material sacrifices and huge devastation in South Sudan to achieve the comprehensive peace agreement that has set the stage for possible independence of South Sudan. It should similarly be important that South Sudanese must not sit comfortably in Juba thinking that the referendum is going to be a walkover, because every South Sudanese is going to vote for secession. Remember that our perennial enemy is not sleeping. The enemy will not only labour but also sacrifice to ensure that South Sudan will not achieve its cherished goal of independence. Furthermore, it is not only the enemy that stands between South Sudanese and their independence. The current situation in South Sudan where the government is perceived to be failing in provision of not only security to its citizenry but also the provision of much needed benefits of the peace, is yet providing another conducive atmosphere of disillusion, frustration and uncertainty to many not only in South Sudan but also in the international community. The current situation is indeed proving beyond reasonable doubt that independent South Sudan may slide into a failed state and surely who would like to live in a failed state. This, therefore, convinces me that South Sudanese should begin to act and to act now for the time is now if they are to avoid the unthinkable.

However, this action must have a basis to start from and basis is indeed the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement. In order to make this point very clear, I would like to remind my readers of the recent quote from President Salva Kiir in my last article. I like to quote from Salva Kiir not because he is the president of Southern Sudan or because I support him but because some of his speeches actually point out the direction South Sudanese should follow. In my last article, President Salve Kiir said, “the remaining time for the referendum is insufficient to make unity attractive”. This means, within the time frame left for the CPA implementation, it is no longer feasible to make the unity of Sudan attractive and what South Sudan should be concentrating on is to prepare to vote for separation. No other alternative. All efforts in South Sudan should be geared towards this end. Having reflected on the end result that South Sudanese should achieve, the question that arises is who is guiding the South Sudanese to achieve this noble goal. As I said earlier, it is not really automatic that South Sudanese can vote for separation without proper guidance and intensive work to ensure that there is no manipulation to make South Sudan loose to the unity group. This obviously needs focused leadership, hard work, endurance and mobilization of resources both human and material. It needs advocacy, communication and mobilization of communities particularly the rural communities not only to understand the two questions on the ballot paper but also the whole process of voting, vote counting and ensure that they are not manipulated.

Certainly the SPLM/A has been the pillar in the bush struggle that guided South Sudan to achieve the comprehensive peace agreement. It is believed that the SPLM government in South Sudan would undoubtedly carry this cross until the South Sudan attains its independence. But if the recent all party conference in Juba and particularly the speech of president Salva Kiir is anything to go by, then South Sudanese must begin to think twice and may have to decide what forum they can use to prepare for the referendum and subsequent transition to an independent South Sudan. I would like to quote from President Salva Kiir’s speech to the all party conference in Juba.

He said, “with the nearing of the CPA expiration date in 2011, the Sudan is truly at historical crossroads. The CPA has provided the people of Southern Sudan with two choices: unity or separation. So, in principle the occurrence of any one of the two choices should not be a matter of surprise to any fair-minded person. However, let me recall that, alongside the recognition of the right to self-determination to the people of South Sudan, the two parties to the Agreement pledged themselves to work towards making unity attractive, especially to the people of Southern Sudan. By that pledge we still stand. As I have recently declared during my visits to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, “We fought and died for the sake of unity.” However, the final decision on the destiny of the South shall neither be taken by the NCP or the SPLM. It is the people of South Sudan who shall make the decision. To us in the SPLM unity is noble cause, but not any unity. That was why we coined the phrase “unity on new basis”. That phrase was our battle cry around which Sudanese from the North, South, East and West joined together. However, the CPA, which does not represent the totality of the SPLM programme, set another bench mark for unity, the Machakos Protocol, INC and ICSS, all provided as follows:-The people of South Sudan shall either: (a) Confirm unity of the Sudan by voting to sustain the system of government established under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and this Constitution, or (b) Vote for secession. Article 222 (2)”:

I have decided to quote the whole of the above paragraph in order to make everybody understand that apart from the CPA obliging the parties (SPLM and NCP) to the agreement to make unity attractive, the SPLM, which every South Sudanese thinks it would be the one to deliver independence to South Sudanese is clearly declaring that its program is the unity of the Sudan but it is the South Sudanese themselves who can decide their destiny and not SPLM. SPLM has nothing to do with guiding the South Sudanese in the referendum process neither preparing the people for future South Sudan. It can only ensure that the referendum is carried out as one of the schedules of implementation of the CPA but has nothing to do with South Sudan decision to separate from the Sudan. This reminds me of what our late leader Dr. John Garang used to say that his aim was to liberate the whole Sudan but if the army and the people of South Sudan could not cross the south-north border, he had no option but to oblige and turn back to South Sudan. Similarly SPLM is saying SPLM as a party is for unity but if the people of South Sudan vote for separation SPLM will oblige to remain in the South Sudan. I would like to make it clear here that SPLM as a party is different from the individual members of SPLM. I am quite sure that many if not majority of members of SPLM including top leadership of the movement, are separatists but the party as political organ has its policies that oblige the members to follow. Indeed it is my conviction that these members will vote for separation come the day of the referendum.

However, what is needed at the moment is a forum that South Sudanese can use to advocate, communicate and mobilize the people of South Sudan to ensure that the referendum is successful. This is important and crucial because SPLM is not going to take the lead here since its policy commits it to unity of the Sudan as well as the CPA tying it to making unity attractive. On the other hand, it would really be a major betrayal of the marginalized people of Sudan who SPLM/A had mobilized and gave hope during the war if SPLM/A is to suddenly turn its back on them and openly advocate for separation of South Sudan while leaving them to totally wallow in the whims of dictatorial and fundamentalist government in northern Sudan. However, this awkward position where SPLM finds itself does not in any way rule out individual members of SPLM joining the rest of South Sudanese in guiding them towards the referendum and subsequent transition to independence.

Why do South Sudanese need guidance in this exercise when it appears that it is a straight forward case of voting yes or no? Yes, the process looks easy but to me there are several obstacles and interests already in place to ensure that it will not be a smooth ride for South Sudan to get its independence through the referendum. Many people have talked about the obvious obstacles the NCP is trying to place on the road of the referendum. This include the border demarcation issue, the population of South Sudan, who is a South Sudanese and who among them are entitled to vote, leave alone whether the referendum law will be passed in the Assembly. However, there are some other shuttle issues that we should take into account including the issues of disunity among South Sudanese, tribal and intertribal conflicts, nepotism and corruption and the general insecurity engulfing the South Sudan. In addition, the growing poverty, ignorance and illiteracy are factors that make the people of South Sudan susceptible to bribing, manipulation and intimidation. The rural nature of our people coupled with lack of infrastructure means that many people who may not take seriously the significance of the referendum may not bother to not only register as voters but also take part in the voting exercise itself. We have already witnessed this during the population census where many people in the rural areas could not be counted. Even in the towns, referendum officials could be bribed and will not be able to register the population correctly.

This means that South Sudan needs people who can dedicate themselves to mobilize the people in both rural and urban areas, mobilize resources for voter registration, education and voting and also to mobilize resources for logistics during the voting. South Sudan needs people who can help South Sudanese focus on the referendum as the only option they have to gain the independence of South Sudan and therefore they should forget not only the current difficulties they are facing as a result of mismanagement in South Sudan but also unite for the purpose of attaining the higher goals of independence. South Sudan needs people who can unite and harmonize the tribes and clans in South Sudan to look at themselves as brothers and sisters who have not only died in one battle for the sake of South Sudan, but will live together as brothers and sisters in an independent country called South Sudan. South Sudan needs people who can ensure that by the time of the referendum insecurity in South Sudan will be an issue of the past and everybody will have the guarantee that the referendum will be fair and transparent. South Sudan needs people who will jealously monitor the referendum process on behalf of South Sudanese to ensure that there are no games played during the referendum. Monitoring of this important event cannot be left to the international community alone because we have several incidences in the world that the international community has endorsed flawed and rigged elections.

Further to the preparation for the referendum process, there is an urgent need to have a forum that should prepare for the future of an independent South Sudan. It is true that if SPLM was not bogged down by its policy of making unity of the Sudan attractive and the article in the CPA that dictates that the parties to the CPA must work to make unity attractive, one would argue that the current government in Juba that is dominated by SPLM should indeed start to prepare for the birth of independent South Sudan but as the situation stands now and knowing the flaws and failures of the government in Juba, SPLM has no moral ground to claim that they can prepare for future independent South Sudan. On the other hand, I certainly perceive the issue of a forum to prepare for the birth of South Sudan as crucial and urgent because experience and history has proven that without proper management of the process of independence, many countries in post independent Africa have plunged into turmoil of unimaginable proportions leave alone the lack of development that has engulfed many of them. The latest countries in this list include Kenya, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Mali.

In fact, the situation in South Sudan is more precarious than in the other countries that have undergone this nasty experience. To mention just some few for us to ponder about, I would like to mention the current lack of nationalism in South Sudan. SPLM/A, though waged a formidable war, never created any nationalism in South Sudan at all. This is why even the SPLA is viewed by many people as a tribal army that can only respond to tribal issues other than protecting the people of South Sudan. The brutality and discrimination meted out by SPLA to certain tribes in South Sudan proves that they consider other tribes as enemies. Lack of nationalism in South Sudan coupled with personal greed has created another class of “bourgeoisies” in South Sudan. A class that is bent at destroying the fundamental fabrics of South Sudan unity and this may lead South Sudan to anarchy or ungovernable state. As the situation stands now in South Sudan, there is no semblance of a country to be in the near future. South Sudan is breaking into tribal pieces in the eyes of the current government, while blame is put on NCP. This blame, though may be right, it should be remembered that a person who lays blame is a failure if he does not act. We are witnessing horrible tribal conflicts and hatred in South Sudan. Nuer and Dinka are in war, Dinka and shulluk, Dinka and Mundari, Bari and Mundari are all in terrible wars while there is real threatening hatred against Equatorians among the Dinka community. All these blamed on NCP. Displacement and settlement of Dinka in Equatoria land does not augur well for future independent South Sudan. All these situations are pertaining in the eyes of legitimate government in South Sudan and the fact that this government cannot stand up to bring these worrying situations to an end, it means a new forum is required to tackle these problems. In addition, South Sudan needs to plan the future development in South Sudan by using its resources prudently for the benefit of the people but not individuals.

Having illustrated all these looming catastrophes in South Sudan, I believe South Sudanese cannot lose hope because I believe they can always rise up to the occasion and correct the situation. My personal suggestion is for a cross-section of South Sudanese to come up and convene a meeting in Juba to really discuss the issues of the referendum and come up with guiding principles that can protect and prepare the people for the referendum while working on policies that can lead to uniting the South Sudan under one banner of independence and prepare for that important transition to an independent South Sudan. This meeting should not be a meeting of one party or two parties as we hear about the 8-party conference being proposed by South Sudanese parties to be held in Khartoum. I am surely opposed to the proposed meeting of the 8 parties in Khartoum because these are already bipartisan. South Sudan at the moment does not need bipartisan meetings. It needs a forum where everybody is equal and able to participate as South Sudanese who care about the future of South Sudan.

Although SPLM professes in its policies unity of Sudan, individual members of SPLM have the right to participate in any forum meant at determining and preparing for an independent South Sudan. This is because when the South Sudanese vote for separation, members of SPLM will not go anywhere but will remain in South Sudan and will actively participate in its development. What is required of the SPLM-dominated government in Juba at the moment is to provide the ample and secure ground for any South Sudanese who would like to assemble to deliberate the future of South Sudan. On the other hand, I would like to appeal to South Sudanese, both in South Sudan and in the Diaspora, that time has now come for all of us to stand and shout loudly that we need to sit together to prepare for the referendum and determine the future of an independent South Sudan. I am sure there are many people out there who are thinking in the same way I am thinking and if this is true, then let us come out and advocate for it.

However, I would not like to be misunderstood as advocating for either people who should plan to usurp power in Juba or to displace the current government in Juba. In fact, I do admire the role the SPLM government in Juba is playing to ensure the people of South Sudan are given their inalienable right to self determination. SPLM has done a lot for South Sudan and still continues to do so but the problem is the SPLM policies that do not allow them to play along with the issue of separation. This means South Sudan, as a matter of right, must have an alternative forum to represent and protect their rights. This is the only way forward to secure our future. I know that people do not accept new ideas particularly if the current system favours them but an idea is an idea; and if it is a good idea it will one day become sustainable and South Sudanese will be proud of it.

Sindani Ireneaus Sebit is a South Sudanese intellectual based in Nairobi Kenya. He can be reached at Vosskaro2005@yahoo.com.

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  • 30 October 2009 06:48, by Gatwech

    Thanks Sindani,

    SPLM is sadly contradicting itself. Look, it wants the referendum bill tabled before the parliament as a precondition for participating in the sessions and at the same time rejecting the bill itself. How can the referendum bill be tabled if those of Pagan Amum go around to reject it? What if the speaker of the parliament tells the SPLM to bring in the bill to parliament for deliberations, would they table it or would they say wait a minute the bill is not ready even at the party level let alone at the cabinet level before its reaches the parliament? People act like they are not logical in thinking, or may be have ill intentions to abort the referendum itself.

    Salva Kiir as the SPLM chairman should discipline his junior officials who sabottage the bill. He should warn them to stop tribal politics based on jealousy and pulling down those who have climbed high among the ranks and file.

    Dear readers, I believe Salva Kiir could have been a very good leader if he liberated himself from bad advisors who have been giving him tribally motivated advices. I believe Kiir by his own nature is a very good man. But his tribal advisors have hijacked him, some for intentional tactics to spoil him, others might have given such tribal advices believing it is in good faith. This has spoiled Kiir and turned the government into chieftaincy.

    His recent diplomatic and political offensive in the region is a very good applaudible move. Kiir should liberate himself from his tribal clique who only want to see him at odds with his colleagues in the government. This can make him his true orginal Salva Kiir of Mayardit.

    Kiir, don’t allow those of Pagan Amum and his other likes to open a pandora box with the NCP. This will drag us to unfavorable situation. The bill is the best for us and can be managed and independence achieved in 2011. We have no time to waste on trivial politics. The rest can be taken care of by our internal mechanisms we put in place to make sure that we mobilize the registered population to vote. Act like your original self, Mr. President.

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    • 30 October 2009 07:10, by DOOR


      You will cry and cry even loud but Dinka will not give your incompetent Riek Machar a chance to ruin the referendum bill through his poor negotiation skill.

      What he negotiated would be viewed throughly by Pagan Amum and Dinka politician to ensure that Riek does not take us back to square one.
      Remember all the credit on the referendum success where 51% was accepted to declare south independent is attributed to Justice Michael Makuei Lueth. Riek’s negotiation would have been like LRA peace which he ruined through favourism.

      This referendum talk has revealed the major weaknesses Riek has and would not qualify for the presidency if election were to be held today.

      We are deemed to fail if Riek is given a chance to lead this nation that is yet to establish its systems.

      I swear that in our watch Riek will not lead us comes what!

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      • 30 October 2009 08:07, by Khent

        Gatwech did not even mention the Dinka!

        How can you accuse him of that, when you unexplainably introduced the Dinka into the discussion - is that not an abuse of logic?

        Your interjection of the Dinka tribe into this discussion makes no sense, unless you mean to suggest that you were possibly under the influence of mind-altering-drugs at the time of writing it.

        Off point babbling is intellectual bankruptcy in search of justification.

        I’m a Dinka, and I find it completely repugnant, that the mere mention of the depredating affects of tribalism solicit (in some Dinkas), an immature defensive posture- tribalism exist,and must be removed!

        Only a child pretends things do not exist.

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        • 30 October 2009 08:54, by Lado

          Khent/ Chol Akoy,

          You are the only Dinka running amok on this website.
          How can you defend that tribalistic Gatwech.
          Have you been reading all his offensive articles against Dinka that you are farting about?

          Moor amok! has Nuer fuck your mum.
          As an Equatorian we don’t talk shit like you foolishly show.
          Iam sorry you must be a Twic, who are fool and easily cheated by smart people.

          I would have fuck your mum pussy had it not been smelly!

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          • 30 October 2009 09:35, by Khent


            I have disagreed with Gatwech before, but in this case, he has done NO wrong. Your rambling about tribal kinship is an attempt to distract from the fact, that your argument is invalid.

            Such childish frustrated rhetoric only shows your anger at your inability to argue with objectivity and with honour- you’re a Dinka, yet you feign an Equatorian identity.

            You are not an Equatorian. You’re a pretentious little child.

            Your frustrated and incoherent railings against this fact are so rendered futile, if entertaining.

            You’re angry, and try as angry people do, to get other people just as upset as you obviously are.

            Anyway, your effort to taunt other posters isn’t working, and obviously isn’t making you feel any better.

            It’s like getting mad at a person with down syndrome calling you stupid.

            It’s pathetic!

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  • 30 October 2009 10:49, by Khent


    You’re obviously completely demoralised in that you resort to such self degrading semantics; your unintelligible response typifies the last resort banalities of those looking for a way out of lost arguments.

    Debates should not involve disparaging other tribes. That you chose to take our discussions personally and respond to them with flame-attacks (albeit laughably weak ones), is the product of how you feel about yourself.

    You do this for one reason: you want to debate, but don’t know how. You continue to be bedevilled by illiteracy, and the inability to behave like an adult.

    Do you not see, that pretending to be an Equatorian does great harm to our image?

    I have not shown weakness, nor have I capitulated to Gatwech; I will continue to bludgeon him with the truth, however, this will be accompanied by objectivity and civility.

    You have allowed him to intellectually eclipse you via your emotional projections and outburts- your obsession with Riek Machar makes us look weak! Men should not recount their past grievances towards their adversaries- you prepare and arm yourself, so as to to NEVER allow past events to repeat themselves. Prepare through dignified silence.

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    • 30 October 2009 13:49, by mohammed ali




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      • 30 October 2009 23:42, by kumkan

        What happen to the logical smooth bebate we use to to have? The road to our destiny is not that easy as some of us might have dreamt about, but it’s a dream which need all of us to participated in. Therefore, we do not need to attack each others of who said what. My point is directed to those who are accusing Gatwech for being a tribalist while there is nothing which indicated that he must be advocating the favoritism of any tribe. Please stop the accusation and let move on with smooth bebate. Mohammad Ali, I think this kind of media is a wrong spot light for you and let the Southern before their family fade and you need to stay out of this please. So, for this reason, I would like to urge each and everyone of you to stop beaking.

        repondre message

        • 31 October 2009 03:15, by Khent


          Gatwech has been among the most fervent apostles for tribalism on this website. The man has reserved a special and unmitigating venom towards the Dinka-Bor, presumably based on the incorrect and widely held belief, that the late Dr. John Garang heralds from that section.

          Gatwech has continually justified attacks on Dinka civilians, on the basis that Nuer officers were murdered. To which I responded:

          Attacks on civilians cannot be justified, regardless of whether or not one’s officers were murdered.

          If attacks on one’s soldiers and officers confer license and legitimacy to kill civilians... the attacks on the Gajaack Nuer civilians must have been entirely legitimate, no?

          That appears to be what you’re implying. You are being defensive and hypocritical, in tolerating tribal attacks when it serves your agenda.

          How does that help you, unless your goal is to further your own humiliation?

          Let us know when you’re ready to stop playing games and start being honest."

          Gatwech’s posts are perfect examples of special pleading. An appeal to emotions when facts are not in supply. Special pleading occurs when you make up rules, apply them to others, and then excuse yourself from them.

          repondre message

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