There are two current narratives playing out in the Sudan area of East Africa. One is the on-going struggle of the Arab influenced cultural war against Africans regardless of religion and region. The other is the internecine struggle for power between two prominent ethnic communities led by charismatic leaders who claim to be heir to the legitimate legacy of John Garang. Various people are pushing these two narratives as if these struggle narratives do not emerge from the same deep hole of cynicism and racism. In fact, it is our contention that you cannot separate the overall struggle of the masses of people in Sudan from the disaster that has befallen the masses in South Sudan. They have many of the same problems and they have some of the same roots. In the South the people may have won the battle for independence on paper but in reality the seeds of destruction and chaos were already spread on the table and the South Sudan leadership only had pick up these wicked seeds and plant them in the mental and psychological soil of the people to bring forth the deadly fruit we are now harvesting.
Our coalition condemns this contemptible action and we demand a return to sanity and normalcy so that South Sudan can be stabilized in order to pursue peace and justice. Of course, we know that just saying these words are not enough and we must be prepared to expose all of the deleterious forces behind the attempt to subvert the independence of South Sudan.
There is also the issue of Sudan’s continuing war on the people of Nubia, the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile, the Beja, the Kordofan, and Darfur, and other regions. The pursuit of an Arab conquest of Sudan is an old project and the Khartoum government has intensified its efforts to subjugate the African people through murder or malice since the independence of South Sudan. What the Khartoum powers have determined is that if South Sudan can win its freedom then other regions of the country would be able to win their freedom as well. Thus, to prevent the thought from ever blossoming in the other regions of the country the Khartoum government has stepped up its assaults on the regions.
But Khartoum has done something else, something that should have been expected when South Sudan came into being; the Khartoum government has sought to undermine the very existence of this “free” country to its south. Herein is the problem of South Sudan. It was never totally free and its leadership, so quick to show their willingness to forgive the oppressors, ran with their hands open to the oppressors. Quite quickly and with no thought of African dignity the Sudanese power forces moved into the South Sudan capital of Juba and began purchasing houses and businesses. The Arab element essentially used their money, much of it gotten on the backs of blacks, to further entrench themselves in the midst of the South Sudanese economy. They used their knowledge of the cultures of the south, their political connections, and their historical relationship with the people through Islamic and Arabic culture to penetrate the innermost circles of South Sudanese leadership.
The two narratives are drawn together into one stream at this point. The Arabs in Khartoum are battling the Africans in other parts of the country and they are infiltrating the South Sudan government in an attempt to turn back the tide of independent thinking.
It is necessary for the progressive elements in the Sudanese community to engage this struggle frontally or else it will be impossible for us to secure our future. This means that it is will be necessary for us to enlarge this struggle to the Pan African community. It cannot be localized as the Arab element in Khartoum would have it. The assault is not just on Sudanese Africans but on Africans generally. Stopping Arab aggression, the march toward taking over Africans lands, culture, and heritage sites, must be the objective of every African person. The war against Africa is a racist war; it is not a religion war nor is it a class war. Pure and simple, it is the attempt of an aggressive Arab element to inflict as much pain and suffering on the African people as they can in order to rid a large territory of African people and influence. But we cannot allow this to happen on our watch. Generations of Africans have died fighting for liberty and freedom and their deaths cannot be in vain.
On the other hand we must beware of a neo-Arabism affecting the leadership in South Sudan. With limited Pan African influence and experience the leaders of South Sudan have turned to Arabs to assist them in their struggles against their brothers. This is the most unfortunate of all actions taken by the South Sudanese leaders who are not worthy of the trust, faith, and loyalty of the people who have looked to them for leadership.
Recently we have seen the leaders of South Sudan, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, playing games with the Arab element. Machar has even asked Khartoum to support him in his battle against Kiir. On the other hand, Kiir has enlisted Egypt in his battle against Machar. The African interests are being subsumed under the Arab interests and both Machar and Kiir know that the ultimate aim of the Arabs is to create havoc South Sudan so that they will be able to pick up the pieces by siding with one ethnic group against the other. Neither Kiir nor Machar can be entrusted with doing the right thing for South Sudan. In fact, it may very well be that the new leaders of South Sudan will have to come from an element in the country that has not been touched by the belief that there could be an allegiance with someone or some group whose intentions are evil toward you. What this means is that the crippled government of South Sudan has become very much like the old Arab colonial regime. The government ignores and does not support the local languages, the local cultures, or customs. If the South Sudan government is seeking to be a blacker version of the Khartoum government then we are all lost because it cannot bring the freedom the people demand. The crisis in South Sudan has resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and the numbers are sure to increase if we do not get ahead of the leaders.
Let us look at history.
Sudan is the ancient territory that gave birth to Kush, Meroe, Napata, and other black civilizations that controlled the Nile Valley for thousands of years. Even the ancient culture of Kemet traces its origins to Nubia. The world did not know civilization until it came down the Nile from Uganda and South Sudan and flowed down toward the Mediterranean in the north. So how could people who generated the best possible ways for humans to live together be so torn apart by internal strife now? Who is responsible for putting chaos in the belly of South Sudan.
We must move the conversation between Kiir and Machar off of the grounds of personal ambitions and place them on the grounds of the masses of African people who want freedom, dignity, self-respect, and prosperity. We can do this and we do not need anyone to teach us the ethics of relationships. We have lived with our brothers and sisters in South Sudan for generations and we have fought the same oppressors for scores of years. All of a sudden we are at each others’ throats in a way that the oppressors would have dreamed of doing in the glorious days of our warriors ancestors. This period of instability and uncertainty must not be allowed to stand against the interest of unity. A government of the people cannot be against the people; it must trust the people to do what is right for their own interests. It cannot be a government based on ethnic distrusts and suspicions, else the country will be split into pieces; rather, the government must look at the loss of 15,000 people as enough sacrifices for a thousand years of peace!
It is often said that the divine powers give the best places the hardest challenges and if this be so, then, Sudan itself has seen brutish oppression by the Khartoum government in Nuba Mountains, Abyei, Darfur, Beja, and the Nubian territories in the north. All of these areas are fighting right now for their liberation. Some have called these battles the “Borderland Wars,” others have referred to them as the “Confrontation with the African Andalusia,” and still others have called the aggressive assertion of Arab culture into traditional African territories the “Thousand Year Struggle to Subdue Africa.”
Let it be known that Africa will not be subdued by the bombing of our children and women, the killing of our fathers and grandfathers, and the rape and persecution of our mothers and sisters. Resistance is already everywhere and the resistance will continue to grow until we have permanent peace. Of all people, Africans have been most willing to live with other cultures, to trade and do commerce with those from other regions of the world, and to allow other people to exist in a peaceful condition; however, we are not fools to be misunderstood by those who seek to rob us of our lands, our cultures, our languages, our children, and our pride. We are the descendants of warriors who refuse to submit to tyranny.
That is why we are disturbed by the events that have transpired in South Sudan since 2011. Hope was dashed against the wall of political infamy and prospects for security were stamped upon by ego and greed of those who failed to listen to history. If we are not united then we will become the servants of those who have sought to split us into warring groups on the basis of ethnicity, regionalism, and religion.
We call for a new attitude on the part of the South Sudanese leaders, not just the top administrators but the entire government and civil servants who work for the country. It is easier to win independence than to keep it. There is every reason to believe that we can wipe out political corruption, poor education, alien looters who steal the country’s resources, and the degradation of women that has led to prostitution and pimping of people and resources. Are we not capable of taking control of our own society on the basis of our most ancient and positive values? Yes, we can do this and if it has been done by other societies, there is every belief on the part of our young that we can do it also.
The problem of South Sudan is the problem of black people generally on the continent: the lack of an ideological perspective that will define who we are as a people. Who are South Sudanese anyway? By this question we are not asking for ethnic identities or religious identities; these are the questions most often asked by those who have no understanding of the character of African people. The aim of this question is to establish the fact that we have no African idea for which we are ready to die. The character of this question gathers at the doorsteps of the vicious lies told about Africa. We have ideas but we have been diverted from our own ideas and ideals and have been made recipients of the worst ideas of others. To abandon your father and your father’s father is to abandon the very meaning of society and honor and respect and wealth and culture. How can we respect ourselves and who will respect us if we refuse to respect the traditions that have caused us to survive for these millennia?
South Sudanese, like other people of Sudan, cannot seek to become Arabs or Europeans; they must remain firmly in the tradition that has created one of the most enduring cultures of the world. But to keep back the assertive and aggressive tendencies of the Arab attacks on Africans we have to lean into the wind of our own rising. One element in this struggle that must be considered is the Khartoum government’s intent to retake South Sudan and to place it once again on the Arabic blanket. This is why there is an economic, social, and political war against South Sudan. This is why there was a psychological and religious attack on South Sudan immediately after the independence of 2011. Just as the rest of Africa had to fight against European aggression now the “borderland” regions in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and other areas must take a stand against Arab exploitation and aggression. The continent is in danger but the battles have begun in Sudan. Many Africans are being recruited from other nations to Khartoum to attend a university set up to teach Africans the Islamic law and history, thus further distancing them from their own culture, as an avenue into the heart of the continent. We must watch this tendency of Africans to kill each other because they have adopted the ways of the Arabs or the Europeans.
When Africans do not accept the customs or laws of the Islamic movement they are often killed, maimed, or placed into servitude. The Lost Boys of Sudan had to endure enormous deprivation in order to make it to Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, and then to the United States. Today, the trouble in Sudan, the biggest prize that the Arab culture has in Africa, portends something bad for the continent.
Here is what is at stake. South Sudan is the richest area of Sudan with the greatest amount of oil reserves, agricultural lands, water resources, and minerals. It is the source of Nilotic thinking such as “Jieng” and “Manjieng” by the Dinka and the Nuer, two of the most populous groups and most martial of people in the South. Yet it remains entangled in the thickets of international intrigue and internal corruption. It is absolutely necessary that an Afrocentric type of thinking be instituted in the country of South Sudan. It could become the first nation on the continent to deliberately choose to take itself out of the tension between the Arab influenced and European influenced spectrum of thinking. The steps to this liberation are simple.
In the first place, Africans must do what is in the best interest of the majority of African people. This means that it is not what is in the best interest of Islam, Christianity, or Buddhism, but in the best interest of African people. This implies that African people are important and what African people have thought and what their ambitions are for their children is important. So it is not my interest or your interest but the best interest of African people that matter when decisions have to be made about resources, grants, projects, education, rural electricity, mineral development, government ministries, and road placement throughout the country. This is an Afrocentric understanding and appreciation of the situation in South Sudan. It means that we can no longer see any decision as based on personal greed or advantage. These are not new values to Africans; this is the real truth to our history. Our forefathers believed in the collective values of the community and they frowned upon all of these strange behaviors we have learned from outside Africa. We do not have go back to the 15th century to adopt the life styles of our people during that period, but we must go even farther back to maintain the classical values and attitudes that we have always had toward each other.
Our problem was that we opened our arms to strangers whose conspiratorial aims were meant to take us over, to conquer us, and to make us servants of their interests. This has not been the African way and we will never be able to walk straight in the community of humans with wicked hearts and hands if we do not follow our own sense of what is right. We do not condemn Arabs because they are Arabs and we do not condemn Europeans because they are Europeans but we condemn and will vigorously fight against any people or any culture that assumes some type of superiority on African people and culture. These are the challenges that we must face and defeat.
Authors: Bol Gai Deng (Chairman, Aweil Youth Association in USA), Ernest Akuei Madut (Aweil Community Chairman, Atlanta, USA) and Dut Marieu Tong (Chairman, Aweil Starvation Committee in USA)