Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The SPLM & Protecting the CPA: Guarding Against the Cynical Obstructionism of NCP

The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation must be commended for seizing this very moment to strongly and unequivocally identifying the precarious state of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by suspending participation in the Government of National Unity. The overall outlook on the CPA as a national project endorsed and supported by millions of peace loving Sudanese is bleak at this moment because of the deliberate obstructionist mode that the National Congress Party (NCP) has maintained since 2005. As the crisis precipitated by the SPLM’s decision brews, there are signs that the NCP and its devious allies are trying to debase the whole issue into a meaningless squabble over cabinet posts. The SPLM and all concerned parties must guard against these dishonest machinations by keeping the focus on the root issue of CPA violations and obstructions.

The laundry list of unimplemented provisions affects almost all the protocols of the agreement, and exceeds even the direst predictions from fellow Sudanese who know about the NCP’s record in dishonoring agreements. The Abyei issue remains stuck at the very stage it was in since the outline of a resolution were signed in May, 2004. Meanwhile, the citizens of that region remain excluded from even the meager services that a local administration could provide, all thanks to the refusal of the NCP to abide by the conclusions of the experts panel as it pledged to do.

The SPLM remains un-integrated into the management structures of the oil sector contrary to the letter and spirit of the wealth sharing protocols. This deliberate obstruction took the form of many obstacles, from dragging out the funding and establishment of the National Petroleum Commission, to wrangling and misinterpreting the mandate of this very Commission in its oversight of the marketing, sale and equitable distribution of the income from the oil producing wells in Southern Sudan. It does not take a raging conspiracy theorist to argue that the South is being cheated out of its share of the oil revenues since it cannot credibly ascertain the exact price and number of barrels sold. Moreover, it is the height of dishonesty for the NCP to claim that the transfer of funds to the South, alleged to be the 50% share, is proof enough that the relevant CPA clause is being implemented to the letter. The crux of the complaint here is that the percentages are irrelevant so long as no one but the NCP-controlled Ministry of Energy knows the exact aggregate numbers of barrels sold.

Tied closely to the above mentioned issues is the demarcation of the border between the North and the South per the existing boundaries on January 1st, 1956. Predictably and unfortunately, the NCP sees a direct link between the border issue and the broader questions of the continued exploitation of the resources in the South. To wit, The NCP removed the bulk of their forces from areas in greater Equatoria and Bahr ElGhazal, but it has cynically redeployed most of these soldiers in the oil producing regions of greater Upper Nile. This very act manages to violate multiple clauses of the CPA, from the border demarcation provisions, the Security Arrangements Agreement and its Implementation Modalities and the aforementioned wealth sharing agreement. More tragically, it is contrary to spirit of the landmark Machakos Protocol which promulgated the concept of two armies within one country during the 6-year interim period.

Not withstanding the critical items listed above, and they are just some of the graver issues, the CPA carries within its contours the great promise of ushering a democratically transformed Sudan from the ruins of more than two decades of war. The NCP has looked at the agreement and saw within its complete implementation the necessary end result, and that is the long hoped for conclusion of more than 17 years of a despotic one party regime. Their leadership must be commended for pragmatically realizing that the INGAZ regime was untenable as an imposed ruler, and must be phased out as part of a national project of political liberalization. The CPA was reached to achieve what even the NCP conceded was necessary, and that is the establishment of a system that ensured the peaceful and democratic competition for political power. However, that same pragmatism has now cynically reemerged in the form of the NCP backtracking on the basic rights and protections ushered in by the CPA and the Interim National Constitution. Their rationale is that the international and domestic political scene can absorb a certain retrenchment on their part on civil liberties. So they decided it was ok to resort to arresting and indefinitely detaining dissidents and journalist, censoring speech in all its form, and generally finding ways to maintain their police state within the legitimacy of the beleaguered Government of National Unity. In the meantime, they use the apparatus of government to grind down to a crawl all the necessary steps needed for the census and voter registration process to commence.

All these serious violations of the CPA and the Interim National Constitution combine to compel all peace loving Sudanese, regardless of political orientation to collectively join in to rescue the country from imminent collapse. Nonetheless, compelling the NCP to responsibly play its role as the partner that signed the agreement will not be an easy task because of the resistance of some of its leaders to the virtue of respecting agreements. The challenge for the SPLM is to maintain the same level of openness and steadfastness in explaining the core reasons for the crisis since the recall of its Ministers and Advisers, and to proactively counter the NCP’s scheming ways in shaping the debate and negotiations over this current crisis.

As I write, the Chairman of the NCP and the President of the Republic, Marshall Omer ElBashir, just issued a decree reshuffling the cabinet and replacing some Minister’s portfolios per the demands of the SPLM. While that is a welcome concession to the demands of the SPLM on one single grievance raised during this crisis, it must not be accepted as the token resolution to the crisis. The problem of the NCP refusing to acquiesce to the demands of the SPLM Chairman on the makeup of his party’s nominees should not be allowed to overshadow the more critical issues addressed above. The SPLM should therefore refuse to resume its seats on the cabinet until immediate and short term steps are taken on the major provisions under contention.

In the immediate term, the following conditions should be met by the NCP:

The government must immediately release all political detainees of the SPLM and other political parties, or charge them with the crimes it claims they committed. This is should be a non-negotiable major requirement, and no real SPLM cabinet member should step foot in the council of Ministers while Yen Mathew and other SPLM detainees languish in jail uncharged.

The Government of National Unity, in the form of the majority partner, the NCP, should immediately release all the logistical and monetary resources needed to affect the integration of the Joint Integrated Units (JIT), and subsequently deploy all their troops North of the 1956 border, save for the 12,000 members in the JIT. The SPLM, as a responsible partner, should immediately reciprocate by moving any remaining troops south of the 1956 borders.

The Government should immediately call an emergency session of the National Petroleum Commission, and proceed to outline all the revenue and production records from all Southern oil wells since Jan, 9th, 2005.

The Government should immediately disburse and make available all the resources owed for the Census process in all regions of Sudan as part of the preparation for the 2009 mid-term elections.

Once this trust building measures are concluded should the SPLM instruct its members to resume their duties within the Government of National Unity. The next immediate step should be to extract a formal commitment from the NCP to resolve the Abyei stalemate per the provisions of the ABC report, or resort to international arbitration. The complex interests that are compelling NCP to act so intransigently on the Abyei are beyond the political will of its leaders, and it is high time we brought the international community as a partial arbiter on the singular issue of Abyei. The SPLM rightfully understands that the CPA will not be completely implemented without consistently shining the spotlight on it, and sensitizing the broader citizenry and the world at large about its health. My hope is that the NCP will not wiggle out of this standoff by reducing it into a meaningless argument over one cabinet member, or a list of Ministers.

Parek Maduot

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Morning Musings!!

In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.
Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher (1844 - 1900)

That quote right there is so true, and in one deft turn of phrase shows the inherent weakness in all of us. Man by design is weak and prone to self-aggrandizement, jealousy and a host of other vices, and the sooner we acknowledge that, the easier it is to regulate and control those impulses within us.

That is not to say that virtue is always missing within us, but to recognize that we are usually waging a protracted battle to show modesty when vanity is dragging us along, to show mercy when rage and anger are consuming us, to see the good in other when jealousy is tugging at us. Those who are best at seeing that war within themselves at a distance are the ones able to approach what could pass for inner pass. They are not saints, but striving men and women who know that the battle is most time within and not without.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Scenes from Southern Sudan

Sunset In Juba
A glorious scene along the river nile in Juba, Sudan. (circa 8/2006)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Why we remain terminally poor in Africa!!!

I just read this very insightful article by Tim Hartford of the Economist. He dispassionately looked with a clear eye to the structural reasons that make upward mobility of many countries in Africa an almost impossible task. I could not help marvel at how endemic and typical the underlying problems he encountered in Cameroon are to the rest of our chronically poor countries in Africa.

Like many good articles, I found myself seeing how obvious are the root problems he diagnoses, and how the analysis of the baffling behavior of some of our leaders and institutions in Africa can sometimes be made easier when we dispense with the assumption that they are either unrepentant villains or purely incompetent idiots.

In the context of Sudan, and especially our emerging autonomous region of South Sudan, the potential for devastating duplication of what happened in countless African nations is very stark. While we are not a state per se, our government institutions are being tasked with mandates and resources that will certainly dwarf those at the disposal of many other countries. The problems of non-existing institution to regulate the nexus of interaction between and among the citizenry are in my opinion more destructive in the long run than our present day immediate political concerns.

It is prudent to assume that our future viability as a peaceful and stable state with-in or with-out Sudan will depend to a great extent on what happens in terms of cementing a working community of laws and responsibilities in this interim period. While the self determination vote is a precious prize that was acquired with the blood and sweat of many patriots, it should be seen as one achieved objective among many other equally important aspirations. . We should resist the mindset that our long bout of misery and marginalization will sunset with the conclusion of the Self-determination vote. The problem with that singular obsession is that it diverts considerable focus from the equally important task of building institutions and laying a solid foundation for a real society with strong governmental and civil institutions. It is also unhealthy in the current climate because it overstates the importance of whatever machinations are unleashed by the ruling party in Khartoum, and unwisely discounts whatever immediate roles we should be doing in the South and the three areas to chart a different course for our people and their future.

We should be more ambitious in a sense, to not only work to redistribute the country's wealth and power as stipulated in the CPA, but to also concurrently work to lay a stronger foundation for a more functioning state in the future if the vote is conclusively for separation. These are obvious prescriptions, and are only mentioned here for emphasis purposes because both the SPLM and the GOSS government have enumerated them many times in documents and strategy papers.

The fear is that we will be satisfied with a self determination vote coming up, and devote all our precious energies to safeguarding that while we mortgage the task of building the state into the future after the referendum. Other than the critical safeguarding of the agreement, our government is placing deservedly important focus on upgrading the physical infrastructure in the South. However, I would hope that we also place as much emphasis and allocate the relevant resources to the equally important priorities such as the judiciary, local civil administration, gender and social welfare, war widows and orphans etc. I believe we should resist the temptation to devote a disproportionate share of our oil and donated monies to buildings and urban structures in the towns, and neglect the country-side and the less affluent and educated sectors of our society.

We have a unique chance to avoid the class and social cleavages that are plaguing many countries in Africa because we are essentially starting from scratch and can at least strive to get it half right. The problems of tribalism and sectionalism deserve a more systematic approach that will address the underlying social and economical factors underlying them, and a slow disengagement from the usual practice of courting militias and their leaders. While the pragmatic realities clearly argue for the steps taken by the government to integrate all our warring brothers and sisters under one umbrella, we also need to find a more lasting prescription to reconcile all our people.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Some observations on the new GOSS cabinet.........

As I look through the recently announced cabinet of Southern Sudan, its striking that we have once again lost the battle over the important portfolios to the National Congress. It is mind boggling that the SPLM leadership handed the portfolio of "Industry & Mining" to a representative of Omer ElBashir's party (albeit a southerner) after they adamantly refused to let us have Energy and Mining in the Government of National Unity.
The Northern ruling party used its prerogative as the senior partner in Khartoum to hold on dearly to Energy, and there is no logical reason that the SPLM should now roll over again and hand over the Industry and mining Ministry to a member of the National Congress. It is not questioning the patriotism of the selected minister to point out that a strategic position like that should have been held by the SPLM
and assigned to a strong and able fighter among the ranks of the Movement. The same holds for the Agriculture portfolio, an indication that the pledge by the leadership to "USE OIL TO FUEL AGRICULTURE" will not be seriously pursued since it is not high in the agenda of the movement as a political party and was thus thrown over to another party. This is very disappointing, and I hope that these strings of setbacks will stop at some point.
There has also been enough howling and protesting on list-serves about alleged scant representation by some ethnic groups. I understand if some groups feel slighted, and in a participatory democracy, they can cry foul. But I haven't seen any critiques that also rise above tribal grievances (legitimate as they maybe) to address glaring problems with the allocation of ministries and the placement of individuals based on their abilities and not just for the sake of political and sectional balancing.
At some point, we have to get to a time when the merits of the individuals or concrete issues like become the object of our debate as much as the representation of our tribes. After all, the history of our country has proven that the sons of some our regions did the most damage to their own people and regions. I would therefore, as a Southerner, be more concerned with the caliber of the people and not their lineage, since I am sure that their inclusion will not guarantee that they will wisely and fairly take care of me and you.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Thinking way Outside the box - Cow dung as a natural resource!!

Surfing the web looking for interesting and illuminating information has often led me in so many unexpected alleyways. In one of my recent forays, I came across this article from an Ohio State University research website about the potential uses of cow dung as an energy source.

The scientific details are certainly complex, but it is clear that it is a viable technological innovation that can certainly find great utility in Southern Sudan, where the source of cow DUNG is certainly plentiful.

Enjoy reading the article, and maybe we should all ponder how transfereable and scalable it could be in many parts of Southern Sudan.