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Sudan: Reflections, 2
Jan 10, 2011 (110110)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
?In this context we should also remind ourselves that Sudan has
always been a multi-ethnic African state. Should it divide into two
countries, it will divide into two diverse, multi-ethnic African
states. Some writers on Sudan have spoken of an 'African' south and
an 'Arab' north. However we are firmly of the view that both
Southern and Northern Sudan are equally African." - Thabo Mbeki,
University of Juba, January 7, 2011
As world attention focuses on the dramatic process of the
referendum in Southern Sudan, this series of AfricaFocus Bulletins
contains several reflections on the historical significance of the
referendum and the transition process
which will be unfolding in the coming months.
- Two lectures by Thabo Mbeki, Chairperson of the African Union
High Level Implementation Panel, one at the University of Khartoum
(sent out by e-mail and available on the web at
http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/sud1101a.php) and one at the
University of Juba (available at
http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/sud1101b.php), are both
diplomatic interventions and nuanced reflections which warrant
- An op-ed by Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese mobile phone magnate and
philanthropist, and a statement by the Sudan Democracy Group
entitled "A letter from the men and women of the North to the men
and women of the South On your Democratic Right to Self
Determination," available at
http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/sud1101c.php) address both the
referendum and the future for the expected two separate states.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Sudan, see
For up-to-date news coverage, see
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Lecture by Thabo Mbeki, Chairperson of the AUHIP, for the
University of Juba and Justice Africa: Nyakuron Cultural Centre,
Juba, January 7, 2011.
Director of Ceremonies,
President Abdusalami Abubakar,
President Pierre Buyoya,
Honourable Ministers of the Government of South Sudan,
Vice Chancellor, students and staff of the University of Juba,
Members of Southern Sudan civil society,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel for
Sudan I would like to thank the University of Juba, Justice Africa
and the Southern Sudan civil society referendum taskforce for
giving us the opportunity to address this important gathering
With your permission, I would like to begin this Address by
repeating what I said two days ago when I spoke at the University
When the Panel was constituted in October 2009, at the conclusion
of our work as the AU Panel on Darfur, the Peace and Security
Council said our mandate was to work with the Government and people
of Sudan (i) to pursue policies it had adopted focused on the
resolution of the conflict in Darfur, (ii) to assist in the
implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and (iii) to
support the process of the democratisation of Sudan.
As you can see, this mandate covers virtually all the important
challenges currently facing Sudan. For this reason, to honour our
present and earlier mandates, we have spent the greater part of the
past 21 months here in Sudan, having had virtually to defer all our
other engagements in our own countries.
You may ask why I have told you all this.
I thought this might be important in order to communicate what I
believe is an important message. That message is that your
Continent, Africa, and its premier organisation, the African Union,
are deeply concerned to do everything possible to assist the sister
people of Sudan to address the challenges I have mentioned.
As a token of its seriousness in this regard, the AU did what it
had never done before and appointed three former Heads of State to
act as its Task Force to help resolve what the Union views as
matters that are of critical importance to the future of our
We speak to you today on the eve of the historic referendum of
Southern Sudan which will determine the future of this part of
Sudan and Sudan as a whole. Equally, it is a fulfilment of the
momentous Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It is a day for which
generations strived and longed for, as well as the commencement of
a process of the reconstruction of Sudan, both North and South.
We speak to you as fellow Africans, who have had the privilege of
witnessing many African countries exercise their right of
self-determination and engage in complex and sustained processes of
peace and nation building, democratisation, reconstruction and
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement which finally ended a twenty-one year long civil war will
reach one of its critical moments in two days' time.
When the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Chairman of the SPLM, and
Vice President Ali Osman Taha signed that historic accord,
sceptical voices were raised. Some amongst these argued that the
agreement was no more than a truce and that the war was certain to
resume. Still others claimed that northern Sudan would never allow
it to be implemented, or that the southern Sudanese would never be
able to establish their own government.
The referendum which is about to commence represents the faithful
implementation of the central provisions of the CPA, itself a
reflection of the maturity of the leadership and people of Sudan as
In this context, we would like to congratulate President Omar
Hassan al Bashir, First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Vice
President Ali Osman Taha for successfully leading their parties and
the people of Sudan to this historic moment. Similarly we cannot
but once more pay posthumous tribute to the late Dr John Garang.
Even as we pay tribute to these important leaders, we should not
forget to salute those who preceded them. We recall here great
African patriots such as Mayen Mathiang, the Prophet Ngundeng, King
Akwei of the Anuak, and King Gbudwe Basingbe of the Zande, who
bravely resisted the invader. We also recall the liberators of the
generation of the 1920s such as Ariendit of the Malwal Dinka, Kon
Anok of the Aliab, and Gwek Ngundeng.
As the coloniser pursued control over southern Sudan, the White
Flag League, drawing from the rich traditions of the patriots to
which we have just referred, was founded to liberate Sudan as a
Thus did Ali Abdel Latif, a southern Sudanese, in 1922, issue a
clarion call for the right of self-determination for all the
peoples of the Nile Valley. Two years later he served as one of the
founders of the first secular nationalist movement in Sudan.
Like his fellow Africans further south in South Africa, the
founders of the African National Congress who, at its formation in
1912 had committed themselves to "burying the demon of tribalism",
Ali Abdel Latif correctly recognised that the success of the
struggle for liberation lay in the unity of all Africans regardless
of their ethnic backgrounds.
We must similarly acknowledge the historic contributions of such
leaders as General Joseph Lagu and the Honourable Abel Alier.
Indeed, as a consequence of the colonial policy against which Ali
Abdel Latif and his comrades fought, southern Sudan was, fifty
years ago, one of the least developed regions of the country and
Continent. It had low infrastructure development, the lowest levels
of education, and most rudimentary forms of administration.
When, in January 1953, the Sudanese and Egyptian political leaders
agreed with the British on the Sudan's right of self-determination,
no single southern Sudanese leader participated. When Sudan made
the transition from colonial administration to self-government,
just a handful of the 800 administrative positions available were
awarded to southerners.
When Sudan achieved its independence on 1 January 1956, the
southern Sudanese members of the national assembly were unable to
enforce the government's commitment to a federal system that took
southern concerns into account. This continued the colonial legacy
of underdevelopment not only in south Sudan but also in the rest of
the country, save for Khartoum and other northern areas.
The exercise of the right to self-determination by the Southern
Sudanese in two days' time will therefore be a fitting culmination
to a long period of struggle. It must therefore also be a moment
when we salute the heroes and heroines of the SPLM/SPLA and their
predecessors who laid down their lives and otherwise made many
sacrifices to ensure that the people of Southern Sudan have the
possibility freely to determine their destiny.
We are certain that the example set by these patriots will continue
to inspire present and future generations of Southern Sudanese to
respond to the new challenges they must and will confront.
The legacy of underdevelopment we have mentioned is yet to be
overcome. The challenge facing southern Sudan in the years ahead is
to fight a new war. This is a war against poverty to build a better
life for all the people of southern Sudan. As the experience of all
our countries on the Continent confirms, this will be a long and
protracted war which will have to be anchored on a sound South
Sudan Reconstruction and Development Programme pursued and
implemented in the context of peaceful co-existence with her
neighbours, starting with northern Sudan.
It will of necessity also have to be anchored on a democratic,
developmental state capable of articulating and mobilising the
necessary capacity from amongst the people to implement its
programme with the people as the central pillars of that programme.
Necessarily, this means that the new southern Sudan state will have
to articulate and develop relations with the rest of the region,
the Continent and the world while paying attention to the creation
of its own internal capacity to respond to its own developmental
This, of course, should be part and parcel of, and contribute to
the realisation of an important objective of the exercise of the
right to self-determination, the right to respect and human
In all the African liberation struggles, our movements were also
determined to create the conditions for self-fulfilment, including
celebration of our languages and cultures and the affirmation of
our identities. We are certain that here too the exercise of the
right to self-determination will give the people of Southern Sudan
the possibility to achieve these objectives.
As all of us know so well, the defeat of colonialism on our
Continent created the possibility for the peoples of Africa to take
the initiative to rebuild their unity, as was expressed by the
formation of the OAU forty eight years ago. Recognising the fact
that that unity required the total liberation of Africa,
independent Africa acted in unity to ensure the total eradication
of colonialism and apartheid.
We make these comments to underline the point that the African
struggle for liberation has always also had the objective to
achieve African integration and unity, informed by the imperative
to give expression to African solidarity. Again we are certain that
as the people of Southern Sudan exercise their right to
self-determination, so will they continue to address the important
issue of how they should contribute to the larger Pan-African
Happily the people of Southern Sudan have direct experience of the
real meaning and importance of African solidarity.
With respect to Sudan, that African solidarity was expressed
through practical politics. Neighbouring countries hosted hundreds
of thousands of refugees from Sudan's wars. Communities and
governments provided land, shared basic resources and services, and
directed international aid towards refugees. The cost of this
assistance to African countries has gone largely unmeasured, but
its significance is as great as, or greater than, the aid
channelled through international organizations.
Equally notably, it was IGAD that conceived and nurtured the agenda
of self-determination as a right for the people of southern Sudan
and as the central component in a resolution of the Sudanese
crisis. The 1994 IGAD Declaration of Principles served as the
foundation document for the Machakos Protocol of 2002 and
ultimately the CPA itself.
At the darkest hour of the war in southern Sudan, when the end of
the struggle seemed at its most remote, when the people were most
divided and demoralised, it was Sudan's African neighbours, acting
in a spirit of collective solidarity, which identified the
foundation stone of a future settlement. And for eight long years
these countries did not waver in their commitment to the Sudanese
However and at the same time, the southern Sudanese people,
whatever is their choice in the referendum about to be held, will
emerge as true contributors to the emancipation and transformation
of our continent. The self-determination of the southern Sudanese
people is therefore a cause for celebration across Africa, an
opportunity for Africa's advancement and a spur further to entrench
the African solidarity which has stood all the Sudanese people both
North and South in good stead.
Southern Sudan is about to exercise its right to self-determination
in the 21st century, in the context of a transformed global
environment and with the possibility to learn from the accumulated
experience of African independence. We would therefore like to
believe that should you, the people of southern Sudan, choose
independence, you would indeed draw on this experience to ensure
the successful construction of what will be Africa's 54th state.
Part of that experience tells us that the struggle for
self-determination is also a struggle for democracy and equality.
The exercise of national self-determination, marked by the birth of
an independent state is a vital step, but it is not the only step.
It is when all citizens in a state, regardless of colour, race,
ethnic origin, religious belief or gender exercise equal rights,
that it can be said that freedom has truly been achieved.
When the SPLM was fighting its long war, it espoused the twin
principles of self-determination for southern Sudan, and building
a New Sudan based on the equality of all citizens. The two
principles are not incompatible. Indeed they complement each other.
Should the vote on self-determination be in favour of secession,
this will surely reflect the sentiments of the southern Sudanese
that they did not enjoy equal status within a united Sudan.
As the South Sudan Interim Constitution indicates so unequivocally,
the solution to any such discrimination is not to establish a new
state that upholds a different and reverse hierarchy of
discrimination. Rather it is to establish a state in which no such
discrimination is allowed to exist.
Within Southern Sudan, the days and months following the historic
exercise of the right of self-determination will be a time for
healing, for reconciliation and for building a new, inclusive and
democratic Southern Sudan.
In this context we would like to commend the Chairperson of the
SPLM and President of the Government of Southern Sudan, H.E. Salva
Kiir Mayardit, for the initiative he took towards the end of last
year to convene a meeting of the South Sudanese political parties
during which they agreed to work together to rebuild Southern Sudan
inspired by a common patriotism and commitment to serve the people
of Southern Sudan.
Similarly, we reiterate our warm welcome of the amnesty which the
President announced to end all conflicts within Southern Sudan,
precisely to address the critically important challenge of peace,
unity and reconciliation.
It is understandable that Sudanese of northern origin who live here
in southern Sudan should feel anxious at this time.
We are greatly encouraged by the reassurances given by the
leadership of southern Sudan, that the rights of all northern
Sudanese would be respected and protected within the context of the
country's nationality and citizenship laws. We are confident that
all southern Sudanese will take this exhortation to heart, and make
a special effort to allay the fears of any northerners living among
Equally, we are confident that, in the case of the secession of the
south, northern Sudan will also embrace its diverse identity as an
African nation. Those Southern Sudanese resident in northern Sudan
should equally be respected and protected, again within the context
of the legal framework the North will establish for itself.
Africa's experience also communicates the message that successful
nation building requires an equitable sharing of the country's
national resources to ensure balanced development of all
communities and regions. The people of Southern Sudan have direct
experience of what this has meant to them.
Starting during the colonial period, and continued during the years
of independence, this part of Sudan, like other regions of the
country, was negatively affected by the concentration of resources
in one part of the country and the marginalisation of the rest. We
are certain that this will put an independent South Sudan in good
stead as it implements its own development programme, which will
surely ensure that the gross mistake of the underdevelopment of the
periphery is not repeated.
That long period of marginalisation has imposed on this part of
Sudan a very heavy burden of underdevelopment which will take a
considerable period of time and resources to eradicate. We trust
that the broad leadership of the people of Southern Sudan, and not
only those in government, will make the necessary effort to
communicate the message to the people as a whole that it will
indeed take time to address their development needs and aspirations
and thus help to manage their legitimate expectations.
Africa's experience also informs us that to achieve the development
it needs, Southern Sudan will also have to build a strong
developmental state which would lead the process of the
reconstruction and development of the new country. We are certain
that the leadership of Southern Sudan is doing all the necessary
work to ensure that this objective is achieved, to ensure that it
accelerates the process of bringing about the socio-economic
changes which the people will expect as the independence dividend.
In the negotiations on the Post-Referendum Arrangements, the
leaders of the SPLM and the NCP have reached the important
agreement that in the event of secession, they will work together
to build "two viable states."
This commitment to "two viable states" has political, security,
economic and social dimensions. It is deeper than a promise to
respect one another's sovereignty. It requires ongoing cooperation
in all those fields, and building a special relationship of good
neighbourliness, friendship and solidarity across what will be the
longest international border on this continent. This border should
be a "soft border", allowing the people who live adjacent to the
border, or whose livelihoods depend upon crossing the border, to
continue their lives with minimal disruption.
We are certain that as they develop their relationship as two
viable states, Southern and Northern Sudan will also pay particular
attention to what Africa is working to achieve, taking into account
at least half-a-century of independence.
We refer here to the task which Africa has set itself to move
forward as rapidly as possible towards its political and economic
integration and unity, both to reverse the colonial legacy of
fragmentation and to use the combined capacities of our states to
bring more meaningful benefits to the peoples of Africa as a whole,
especially within the context of the process of globalisation.
In the 21st century it is as clear as ever that if Africa is to
rise and meet the aspirations of its people, it must unite, but
that such unity must take the form of a true economic and social
integration, upon which base we can build political unity. If
Southern Sudan secedes, this might indeed create the possibility
for the two states to lead Africa by showing our Continent the way
forward about what might be done to achieve the integration which
our Continent has set as one of its urgent and principal goals.
Further, we should not forget that one of the distinguishing
features of Sudanese national identity has been its openness to
immigration, its readiness to welcome people from all corners of
the African continent. Sudan has truly been a melting pot of
diverse identities. In this context, the commitment to two viable
states must be seen as a commitment to two viable Sudanese states,
each of them distinguished by this commitment to pluralism and
diversity, and to openness to the entire African continent,
including of course to each other.
We are greatly encouraged that the leadership of both Southern and
Northern Sudan is determined to maintain a special relationship
between the two parts of the country, seeing the possibility of a
vote for secession as a chance to re-set this relationship on the
basis of equality. The aftermath of the referendum will be an
opportunity for the Northern and Southern Sudanese to know one
another better, to reconcile, to overcome the difficult legacies of
the past, and to forge closer and more durable relationships.
In this context we should also remind ourselves that Sudan has
always been a multi-ethnic African state. Should it divide into two
countries, it will divide into two diverse, multi-ethnic African
states. Some writers on Sudan have spoken of an "African" south and
an "Arab" north. However we are firmly of the view that both
Southern and Northern Sudan are equally African.
Some of the citizens of Sudan speak Arabic as their native language
and can trace their genealogies to Arab countries, but this does
not make them any less African than any other Sudanese. They are
African Arabs. Indeed, from its earliest days the SPLM
acknowledged, with regard to Arab identity and language, that "this
aspect of our reality is immutable."
In the event of a vote for secession, it is as these African
countries that the two states will have to build a relationship of
friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation not only between
themselves, but also with the rest of Africa, starting with their
With regard to Southern Sudan we are certain that you do not need
anybody to remind you that it is located adjacent to vast areas of
the African continent that have suffered and suffer from conflict,
including the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and Central
Africa. We are certain that an independent Southern Africa will act
as a positive force in this neighbourhood, contributing to the
attainment of the important regional and African objectives of
peace, stability and development.
It is also a matter of common cause that because of its location,
today's Sudan has the possibility to make a powerful contribution
to the development of a large part of our Continent and therefore
Africa as a whole because it shares borders with nine other
countries. In the event of secession, the two states will continue
to bear a continuing obligation to their neighbourhood and thus
position themselves as major players in Africa's quest for its
The historic referendum that will start on 9 January, in which you
all have a chance to vote, marks the true emancipation of the
people of southern Sudan. Whether the people vote for unity or for
secession, the act of choosing is itself an act of great
importance. What will be decided thereafter will be decided through
the free will of the people.
However the work of freedom is just at its beginning. We are
confident that the Southern Sudanese people have the strength and
spirit to succeed in that endeavour. We are equally confident that
the leaders of Southern Sudan have the determination and capacity
to take their people forward, as valued partners among the peoples
of Africa, in the 21st century.
We are very happy that the University of Juba, Justice Africa and
the Southern Sudan civil society referendum task force have given
us this opportunity to speak to you, including the young people of
Southern Sudan, at this critical point in the history of the
Once again, with your permission, we would like to repeat what we
said two days ago when we spoke at the University of Khartoum.
As Africans we know that the future of Sudan, both south and north,
is our future. As Sudanese, both southerners and northerners, you
must know that Africa stands and will stand with you regardless of
the political season, and that our solidarity and friendship are
As Africans we know that whatever the challenges of the moment,
Sudan will achieve peace with itself and friendship among all its
people, which peace and friendship will draw the Sudanese people,
their neighbours and all Africa, ever closer together.
We, who represent an older generation, which has made its own
mistakes and its own contribution to a better Africa, count on you,
the youth of Africa, to discover and carry out your own mission,
which would surely contain the objective to achieve the renaissance
both of Sudan, whether one country or two, and your mother
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