Secession an option in Sudan accord with southern rebels

Developing Just Leadership

M.A. Shaikh

Rabi' al-Awwal 11, 1418 1997-07-16


by M.A. Shaikh (World, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1418)

For the first in the history of the Sudanese conflict, Khartoum has conceded to southern rebels the right to exercise self-determination through a properly-supervised referendum. The peace agreement signed in Khartoum on April 21 between the Sudanese government and seven southern rebel groups even recognizes secession as an option, the other being unity.

The document, which consists of a preamble and seven chapters, goes out of its way to ensure that the referendum will be fair, free and fully supervised by international organizations, religious bodies and foreign countries, including friends of the southern rebels.

Chapter Seven of the accord says that ‘Southern Sudanese people’ who are eight years old or above shall have the right to vote in the referendum, whether they live in the country or abroad. The Organization of African Unity, Arab league, United Nations, IGAD, national and foreign NGOs, religious bodies and ‘any other countries’ must be invited as observers, it provides, as must ‘national and international media and journalists.’

The parties to the agreement pledge to ‘respect, abide by and implement in good faith the result of the referendum.’ If the southerners choose unity with the north, the agreement prescribes a federal structure, which guarantees for them ‘freedom of religion, belief and worship’ as well as cultural rights, including the right to follow ‘African custom’ in their states.

The agreement spells out the powers and duties of the states and the federal government, which cannot be amended, and sets out provisions for a shareout of resources (most of the mineral resources are in the South). Moreover, the federal constitution, the accord ordains, must guarantee all the rights agreed by the parties.

The accord provides for an interim period of four years in which the ‘Southern states’ will enjoy a special status. The interim period, which may be shortened if cirumstances permit, will end when the results of the referendum are announced.

‘Southern states’ means the 10 southern states ‘arising from the former province of Bahr El Gazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile with their boundaries as stood on January 1, 1956’, when Sudan became independent. The region was governed separately by Britain to prevent the spread of Islam to central and southern Africa.The article also analyses the current plot by the US and its African proxies to force the secession of the south to rob its mineral wealth and to set up a Christian ‘iron curtain’ across Central Africa).

The Southern groups signing the accord do not include colonel John Garang’s Dinka-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) which is the main group still fighting the government. The Dinka is the largest single tribe in the south, and seeks to dominate the rest of the region’s tribes.

The smaller tribes are more afraid of domination by the Dinkas than by the Muslim northerners. In fact John Garang’s forces have inflicted more suffering on them than has the Sudanese army.

The west has presented the conflict as one in which southern Christians are being victimised by Muslims keen to impose the Shari’ah on them. They have also claimed that the Christians outnumber others, when both the animists and Muslims outnumber the Christians. The west and its African proxies will surely try to see that the south never votes for unity, and will seek to discredit any referendum results that do not support secession.

The provisions of the accord are too long to quote in full but the selected excerpts below show that Khartoum has gone out of its way to answer the exaggerated demands of a noisy minority backed by the west, church groups and Christian African countries, and by president Husni Mubarak of Egypt, whose mindless support of the attack on Sudan may force the secession of the south - in which case the upper reaches of the Nile, Egypt’s lifeline, will fall under enemy control.

Muslimedia - July 16-31, 1997

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