Friday, August 26, 2005

A Cautionary tale

It has been a few weeks since the terrible loss of our leader Dr. John Garang, and people are slowly starting to heed the refrain that they should go back to doing their part in carrying the torch forward. There is no doubt that the enemies of this nascent peace agreement are plenty and certainly not limited to the radical elemants of Northern hegemony in Khartoum. Much ink has been and will continue to be shed by others about the notorious purveryors of religious zeolotry and regional hegemony against the marginalized peole of sudan, but I want to address the other threats that we rarely consider comprehensively.

In the context of Southern sudan, our biggest problem is the ignorance of some of our people and the forces that benefit and traffic in it, and the utter weakness of our political institutions. Well meaning Southerners have been duped by some of our opportunistic intellegencia to view everything in the lens of short term tribal and sectional advantage. Many of our communities are led by people who derive their legitimacy from trumpeting their tribal pedigrees, and not as national leaders who appeal across the board to all people. It is the tragedy of Africa, manifested clearly in Sudan, that political leaders do not have to pay heed to any measurable standards of performance and results. Instead, they relentlessly dedicate their life to jockeying for power till they die. Rarely have we heard a politician or what passes for political parties in our communities devise and present a blue-print for governance and development within a set timetable, and many of our politicians lack an overarching political philosophy that informs their positions besides the quest for power.

The political parties in the North present a terrible and dangerous precedent for governance, coherence and vitality, and their example should not be emulated in the South. Their track record in government can only be charitably called abysmal, and particularly that of the UMMA party. After 16 years of a military led government, the best that many of these parties could resort to is to jockey for short term influence in the centralized decision making apparatus in Khartoum. Their manifestos, if there are any, do not and have never contained any clear positions addressing the marginalized areas of the country, and the South in particular. They intentionally set about the corruption of whatever little political and civil society apparatus in the South through inducement and tribal incitement. It is therefore clear that the Bashir government only escallated what was clearly an innovation of the Northern Political parties, and the blame for the intractable problems of the country should be apportioned equally among these parties. Internally, these Northern parties have not revitalized their ranks since independance with the kind of diverse energy that ensures improvements in visions and practices.

We can go on and on tabulating all the ills and what they portend for our Southern Sudanese political climate in the next few years, but that can also be futile. There are some bright spots, and they should be augmented and reinforced by all concerned citizens. The SPLM, as the dominant player in the Southern region, at least during the interim period, is blessed with a coherent and clear vision that will certainly help immensely as it embarks on implementing real policies. I can already hear the refrain of others who think that coherence and clarity are not the hallmarks of these New Sudan vision. My consistent counter-argument has always been that by word and by deed, the movement has articulated and stood behind a simple clear reading of the Sudanese problem, and presented a resolution that is both idealistic in principle and pragmatic in practice.

The idealism is embodied by the vision of a secular, fair and just society where the rights of all citizen are protected without prejudice, and where the levers of power and the spoils of wealth and prosperity are distributed equally among all Sudanese. The geopolitical pragmatism is however clearly embedded in the detailed parameters of the CPA which allows for the unfortunate possibility that the Northern power elite is not mature enough, and certainly callous enough, as to reject a resolution that is both fair and transformative. It is therefore clear that the SPLM has fullfilled its pledge to defend the interests of the diversity of its constituents, both the hopeful segments who believe in a transformed Sudan, and the realists who have given up any notions that the political map in Sudan can be so drastically reformed. That is more than can be said for many of the critics of the movement who are ostensibly separatists by acclamation, but bona fide members of the Islamist National Congress Party of Omer Bashir. It is therefore hard to take seriously charges of incoherence from such quarters, given their own distorted positions. Back to the bright spots: the social upheaval caused by the war sent scores of our people to the North and the diaspora, and those multitudes will add to our shallow pools of educated people who can assist in their country's reconstruction. It is my hope that their experiences in societies that stress individual innovation and free critical thinking will enrich the fabric of their communities when they come back to participate. The women in the diaspora will hopefully return with an emboldened and proactive attitude towards the question of participating in the affairs of their communities, and that is a good omen too if the government's policies are structured to support that as promised.

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