In the second week of August after the news on Sudan TV, a documentary was run showing faces of Sudanese from different regions, giving messages of unity based on country’s history and heritage.
\"[...] we fought the colonialists together with our brothers in the South.\"
As the documentary unveils a long, white bearded, turbaned old man, with two horizontal tattoos on both sides of his face, seated on a stool protesting, “We cannot allow foreigners to divide us, from Nimule to Halfa we are one, we fought the colonialists together with our brothers in the South, and we cannot allow anybody to destroy our history by dividing our country”.
The next day, I was invited for a unity symposium in the National Centre for Strategic Planning in Khartoum, on the historical ties between the North and the South. These ties were compared to a string that can bind the two regions for unity. The scribes were told to write, televise, and broadcast the country history far and wide.
In Juba, a completely different picture is drawn. The day I arrived was the day Southern Sudanese youth were having a rally calling for Southerners to vote for separation. On arrival I headed from the airport straight to Dr. John Garang mausoleum to attend the rally.
\"Sudan’s history has been written in blood and it is time we end that by separation.”
I sat in the press gallery, and as the dramatic event kicked off, the MC welcomed the Central Equatoria State Youth Chairman, Wani Pitia, as the first speaker. In his address Wani said: “We do not want unity, Sudan’s history has been written in blood and it is time we end that by separation.”
My mind went back to Khartoum, in the three scenes everyone drags history to support their stand but whose bid here can tell us that history is in support of unity or separation? Let’s have a look at a few facts about our history, and try to conclude whether this history supports unity or partition.
The Juba conference of 1947 set the scene for the North-South history, it was held ahead of the country’s independence, and the Northern group in the negotiation, was led by Mohamed Shingeti Saled.
In the conference, the North called for unity while the South, with experience from the Mahadia, Turco-Eygptian rule rejected it. Later they accepted it, with a condition that a federal system of government was to be applied when Sudan gets its independence. The Northern politicians accepted the federal demands of the South before independence but rejected it after Independence; those Southerners who protested were jailed, others were exiled.
The second major event in the country’s North-South history was the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement that ended 17 years of civil war between the South and the North. The agreement, if observed, could have prevented the country falling back in war abrogated by then president General Nimeiri on 5 June 1983.
The South fought for 21 years until an agreement was reached, with the promise of a referendum for the people of Southern Sudan to determine their future: Either to remain in one united Sudan or choose a separate nation.
If our history tells us that there has been a lot of unfaithfulness among one another as Sudanese, is it not better we open a new chapter by reconciliation, building trust and commitment to our words, than using it to promote either unity or separation which will rift us further!
This is what we can learn from history. As the referendum day is getting closer, the need to shift the perception from a choice between two possibilities, to other potentialities, even beyond the results expected.
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