A threshold of unprecedented history beckons on post colonial Africa, as a new nation comes into being on the shadows of Britain’s ill conceived joining of a people that should never have been together – a secession founded on the people’s harmonic voice of liberty through the ballot rather than the discordant noise of gun barrels and wars.
The people of Southern Sudan came out in their numbers and almost with a unanimous voice as they voted on 9th January, 2011 to secede from the North.
Secession it had to be considering their differences and history. The two regions of Sudan, North and South, had been forced into one entity by Britain in 1956 despite the obvious polar differences. This colonial mismatch-making of two contradictory entities differentiated by culture, language, race, history and most notably religion has been the bane of Africa’s biggest country since independence, engaging in about the longest civil war in Africa. More than 2 million people were killed and several million others rendered homeless during decades of kidnapping, cross-border raids and conventional all out fighting, before a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005. This set the stage for 9th January, 2011 referendum which voiced a unanimous YES to a new country of South Sudan and eventually 9th July’s formal ceremony of the historic split.
The stories preceding this historic 9th day of July 2011 will never be well written or complete without the mention of Dr. John Garang. He was the chairman and commander-in-chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and led the negotiations along with Ustas Ali Osman Taha, the then first vice president of Sudan at the Naivasha, Kenya negotiations. The CPA that resulted from years of negotiations is the seed that has sprouted into a full blown fresh, sovereign, self-governing African nation almost 20 years after the last one.
Dr. John Garang became the first vice president of the Government of National Unity (GoNU) resulting from the CPA. This required him to leave his base in the south for the presidential palace in Khartoum. Everyone saw this as a positive sign for his “New Sudan” idea considering he could make things happen from the inside out. But the man died. He looked an easily marked man as observers pointed out and the fact he died just weeks after becoming vice president could not have gone without raised eyebrows. He died in a helicopter crash (the helicopter was loaned to him by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni) and it was officially reported and gazetted as “an accident”. His death would not be in vain if the 9th of July 2011 goes beyond national sovereignty for Southern Sudan to prosperity for its people.
It is our hope that the many forces who had suppressed themselves for the purpose of this victory will not rise in the quest for power sharing and resource control amongst themselves. Still in the balance between Northern and Southern Sudan are contending issues, top of which is the still unresolved Abyei border. The border between the North and the South has not been demarcated. The Abyei Border Commission (ABC) which was to help bring this about had its report rejected as both parties instead turned to the International Court of Arbitration. This is an issue for another day and will be between two independent countries instead of one country and a seceding region.
All of that will be relegated to the back burner as a new nation rises on the shores of the Nile. Now is the time to get things right even from the start. The new government must look out for ways of getting the economy on the right track, the right track being that the means of production are not made the burden of government but that of private individuals. Government should focus on the business of creating the right laws and conducive atmosphere that would engender fast growth and development. Unlike the African states that got their independence statuses some 50 years ago without having prototypes of what governance should be about in Africa, Southern Sudan has a glut of samples and lessons to learn from the few successes and many failures of other African countries.
This time, it should not be about the moving speeches that will be read at Independence but about getting set to produce results that would inspire even the most unpatriotic Southerners to drape themselves in the national colours a decade from now, proud that today’s dawn gave way to growth, development and prosperity. These will not come by chance, it will be only by strategic economic planning that will allow for the people rather than the government to be the drivers of the economy. This must be intentional from the start. This South Sudan government need not test what protectionism will bring about – that has been tested and found to birth poverty and underdevelopment by most African states. They as a people can look at the world and decide the sort of livelihood they would want their citizens to emulate. When they look well enough, they would end up with two divides, Economic Free Nations and Economically Less Free Nations. Most of the free nations are prosperous while most of the latter are poor. On the Saturday the 9th of July, South Sudan will start on a clean slate, its path to poverty or preferably prosperity would start with the raising of the world’s newest flag. We can only pray this time around, an African country sets off on the path of prosperity from the word GO!
Japheth Omojuwa is Research and Editorial Assistant with IMANI and AfricanLiberty.org. Franklin Cudjoe is President of IMANI and Managing Editor of Africanliberty.org
Follow Japheth on twitter @omojuwa