Volume 5, No 1, June 1999
Peace can never come too late if Sudanese politicians are serious about finding a comprehensive peace settlement to the longest conflict in Africa today. Many fear that our conflict might drag on well into the next century or even it may end up with the disintegration of the country.
War has now consumed more than three decades out of four since our independence in 1956. The Sudanese people have never enjoyed the fruits of their independence and they never lived in peace or harmony. Today they are divided than ever.
The current civil war in Sudan has claimed nearly two millions human lives in the South Sudan, Nuba Mountains and elsewhere in the country. It has destroyed the entire infrastructure of the Sudanese society. There is little sign that the government in Khartoum is serious about finding a comprehensive peace. Everything points to its belief that it can solve the problem militarily, at least as regards the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and the Beja. Therefore it continues to buy time with negotiations, and to stick to its programme of Islamisation and Arabisation.
In addition, the Sudan Government’s acceptance for the right of self-determination to the people of Southern Sudan within the borders of 1956 is likely to be proven a hoax and only a tactical game for buying time. However, self-determination is one of the basic principles adopted by IGAD, and is universally recognised as a basic right for the oppressed peoples of Southern Sudan. No settlement will be possible unless this basic right is respected.
On the other hand the SPLA continues to demand a solution based on a secular, democratic, united Sudan, which is the favoured option for the Nuba and the marginalised people of the Northern Sudan. However, some among the Southern elites seem to be in favour of separation for the South, though the SPLA leadership continues to maintain its commitment to a united Sudan. This makes sense because the Nuba and South Blue Nile people are part and parcel of the Movement. But there are some possible confusions and misunderstandings that may arise from the simultaneous commitments to a united Sudan and the basic principle of self-determination.
Given the fact that Southern Sudan has been granted the right of self-determination, the Nuba and Southern Blue Nile people will settle for nothing less themselves as their guarantee. It follows that the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile should be awarded the right of self-determination. This not only entails a referendum for the Nuba and SBN people on the political futures of their areas, but an enduring right to determine their political futures up to and including independence should they demand it at a future date. If these rights are awarded, then there is a genuine possibility of Sudan achieving peace and unity.
The recent political manoeuvers and jogging by some northern political leaders in opposition including Sadig al-Mahdi, and former President Gaafar al-Numeri in trying to make peace with the NIF regime might not bring a comprehensive peace settlement, because they seem to put their parties’ interest first before the country. Such attitudes will not help to solve the complex problems of Sudan. Some northern politician parties continue to believe that they can still make peace at the cost of justice, and in the absence of the marginalised people in the North and the South who all took up the armed struggle for justice and equality.
Today there is a widespread fear among marginalised people in the north that politicians in both Northern and Southern Sudan may trade their rights in order to achieve peace. If there is to be a just and a lasting peace in Sudan no one can ignore the rights of the mass in the marginalised areas, who historically suffered human rights abuses, discrimination and oppression under all previous governments who ruled Sudan since independence. These people today demand to be treated like other Sudanese people and as first class citizens in their own country.
Any solution to the conflict which does not include the people of the marginalised areas will mean the war will continue until justice prevails in the whole country.