The Nuba, Funj, Ngok Dinka Abyei will survive in peace and in hell:
A Response to James Okuk’s Article: The Case of Transitional Areas and Independence of South Sudan

By Dr. Gandul Gandul (PhD)

Jan. 28, 2009 (SSN)

The intent of this article is a response to Mr. James Okuk’s two commentaries published on South Sudan Nation and Sudaneseonline websites on November 16 and November 26, 2008, in which he dispensed despicable insults and rudeness on the people of the Transitional Areas (TA) - the Nuba, the Funj and the Ngok Dinka of Abyei, as he puts it.  The response is extensively, however, to the article published on November 16 which can be found on the above mentioned websites.

Even though the assertions in the articles are not necessarily agreeable, they are respected despite their perplexing nature and tone, which stood out as harmful remarks. Nonetheless, it is important to underscore the fact that the comments herein are directed, exclusively, to James Okuk’s intolerable and divisive arguments. Nevertheless, what exactly prompted Mr. James Okuk to cast his articles is incomprehensible; and one only wonders, too, whether or not the articles were necessarily or rather essentially for or against the people of the TA. What makes the articles even more imprudent is the author’s implicit edict that the people of the TA proclaim spontaneous adherence to the South.  While the author genuinely voiced what he believed ought to be said, he injected in the commentaries unfathomable grudge, unnecessary provocations that are gratuitous thus inviting colossal distortions to the carefully thought-out, redundant, antagonistic, predisposed and antithesis views. Needlessly, these provocations deprive his opinions from objectivity and lace it with a turbulent prejudice and a chaotic subjectivity towards the Nuba, the Funj and the Ngok Dinka.  Equally, describing politicians from the TA as “some dull opportunists is another hazy characterization if not obscure, among a litany of objectionable statements that warrant some comments from us.

To start off our response, the phrasal identification of the TA is rather inaccurate, judging by the views of the people of these regions, which could aspire to opt for something else. Taking the expression in its existing form, it indicates that the populations of these areas are in a temporary status awaiting to decide whether to remain in Northern Sudan or join the would-be independent Southern Sudan, thus denying them of the right to choose a third way – that is, autonomy or even confederacy with either of the emerging modalities of future Sudan.  The TA term, which was adopted during the IGAD-sponsored negations in Kenya, is, therefore, a misnomer that needs to be rectified, as it does a great harm to the citizens of these areas. As pompous as it was incorporated in both Southern Kordofan and South Blue Nile Protocols, the term ‘Popular Consultation’ does not clearly talk about the ‘right of the people of these areas to self-determination. Nonetheless, describing people with full mental capacity as dull opportunists” wanting to muddle up the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the Independence of South Sudan is a cynical contention because it ridicules people.

Also, the argument is cunningly a suggestive gratitude to the comrades of the TA because James did frog-leap to declare that “the gratitude is not to the extent of risking the dignified destiny of Southern Sudan”. How could [his] comrades from the TA risk “dignified destiny of South Sudan”? Else, who are the people of the TA to impede the secession of the people of Southern Sudan? The people from the TA were and are still mindful of the objectives of the war. Recalling that the objectives of the pre-independence mutiny of 1955 were a separate and independent South Sudan, the Addis Ababa Accord diluted those goals. The second war broke with essentially the same objectives but the late Dr. John Garang joined the movement except that he wanted to transform it into a progressive movement to make fundamental changes in the objectives which include – but not limited to - the unity of the Sudan on new basis recognizing its historical perspective and contemporary realities. It is these views that attracted an overwhelming majority of the people from the TA to join Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). 

Despite the fact that the people of the TA know and understand that there were and there are the proponents of unity as well as there were and there are advocates of secession, yet they took a high and tall road to bring about the justice for all through either separation of the South or the unity of the country where liberation from wickedness and oppression etc. is glorified. Indeed, it is for these noble ends the gallant freedom fighters fought and died.  And certainly during the toughest times of the war there was no distinction between people of the TA and the “proper” Southerners. It is when the fruits were about to ripe for the people to reap, the devil whispered to the ears and painted the eyes of “some” and lured them to align with the devil of Khartoum. It was also, at that moment the forcible independence of South or the victory of the fighters evaporated by defection of rather than split in SPLM/A ranks.

The fundamental question then should be who and what behavior risked the independence of South Sudan? Was it really the people of the TA? We unequivocally argue against such an assumption because it has no basis to stand on or any merit warranting it. So, people should not just play lame and blame games when it comes to very serious issues of this magnitude. Mr. James’ insistence on risk and conspiracy theory against the independence of the South by the people of the TA is totally offensive and obnoxious distraction to what people of South Sudan intend to do. It is no secret today that the “dignified destiny of South Sudan” is unambiguously certain to attain if the Southerners really want to separate. We read and hear from time to time statements from the most powerful and formidable Southern politicians who were once die-hard unionists indicating that the overwhelming majority of Southerners is leaning towards and are in favor of secession because there is nothing attractive to the unity of the country! This is a fact that is also crystal clear to any mediocre. We don’t blame these leaders for their “changed” position though.

Therefore, it is oblivious to assert that the people of the TA constitute a risk factor in blocking the South from getting its independence. The matter of truth is there is no power or any people on the land that could stop the Southerners from exercising an out-rightly and forcibly taken right if they deem to secede other than themselves.  The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations Charter guarantees that right in its charter that states: “All peoples have the right of self-determination; and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. The Covenant is explicit in its terms wherein any people could identify themselves in a manner pursuant to their aspirations. The people of South Sudan (or any people in the Sudan) are no exception to exercise this fundamental right emboldened in the terms of this Charter.

Realistically, the right to exercise self-determination or secession by the people of South Sudan, Western Sudan, Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Eastern Sudan is grossly past overdue considering the undeniably long historical subjugation; long and persistent struggle for freedom.  Though, it is not, “freedom from whom but from what” as the late Dr. Garang sarcastically but seriously responded to the propagandists of fallacy in power house in Khartoum.  This is so because the successive governments in Khartoum have failed to address the real problems of its people and of the state or a nation, if you will, by indulging in failed policies of governance. This realization, undoubtedly, led to mutinies and numerous rebellions by armed forces, civilian uprisings and outcry calls for democracy; all of which were also unsuccessful. In a state of these desperations and frustrations a stronger feeling than ever before existed and dominated for the disintegration of the entire country rather than searching for remedies to keep the unity at cove.

It is, therefore, disappointing and head-scratching quandary to see a well educated and an intellect like James radiating with and rash to these sorts of provocative statements. It is also portentously irresponsible, to say the least.  A prudent question to ask is: Why would such an educated person go far to make poor judgment and blaspheme his own people as “dull opportunists” for no reason other than political disagreement? We understand there “may be” tribal hatred element involved and engraved in James’ mind but it is more logically sensible to disengage any disagreement in a high positive note, especially at this juncture where the people of the South and the TA need to come together as one in support of each other until their respective goals and objectives – whatever they might be - are achieved.  This is important because the danger is still lingering on and lurking to strike at any moment. Therefore, it is wrong and malicious to think of the TA people as ‘risking’ the rightful demand of their victimized brethren of Southern Sudan. Surely 2011 is around the corner and when that judgment day comes we will see the glorious and victorious South raising the flags of its freedom, and then the same “dull opportunist comrades” from the TA will be the first to congratulate their brethren. 

With respect to the issue of helping the South, certainly, the Nuba and the Funj did not fight to help the South attain the right to self-determination. The Nuba and the Funj fought against the historical oppression and repression which were, and are still, the hallmark of the power machine in Khartoum when they realized that all civil and peaceful means to remove the grievances of the oppressive apparatus failed. It is also when pioneer leaders of SPLM/A correctly delimited or rather identified, analyzed the problems of the Sudan and hence proposed effective solutions to resolve them through its Vision of a New Sudan.  This prompted the Sudanese people to fiercely revolt in order to bring about a structural change in the constitution and political reconfiguration of the country.

Furthermore, the SPLM/A persistently advocated and pursued the realization of this Vision; and in the process, some accused those leaders of lacking the means and losing the focus to the real issue: the Southern Question, which means, to the plaintiffs, Secession.  Secession in itself will not solve any problem. It is the removal of injustices, implementation of equality mechanisms, and institutionalization of anti-tribalism, anti-nepotism, anti-corruption, transparency and accountability laws and above all, good governance and rule of law are the potent ingredients for viability and sustainability of a state and a nation. These are the precursors that are lacking today in the Sudan and certainly in South Sudan, we may add. And if these essential elements were present, there wouldn’t have been the devastating long wars to begin with.  The deficiency in inherent self promoting attitudes sustains all these frictional problems and deepens their persistence. Therefore, any part of the country (Dar Fur, Eastern Sudan, Nuba Mountains etc.) that secedes without safeguarding against all sorts of these deficiencies is doomed to fail. 

Recalling the banner of the New Sudan, many people rallied to the armed struggle. However, we emphasize that too many a people rejected the motion of secessionists in order to give unity a chance. The disagreement led to a disastrous split under the pretext of the SPLM/A’s dictatorship and human rights abuses. Regrettably, the violent attempts to resolve the disagreement severed the SPLM/A rather badly; and many more lives lost by the very same liberators than by the “enemy”. What was painful is the defection of those who severed the SPLM/A to join Khartoum, be they from the South or from the Nuba Mountains. Few responsible men endured and survived the senseless intra-revolt but the aftermath was catastrophic to human lives. The late Cdr. Yousif Kuwa and Cdr. Malik Aggar of the Nuba and the Funj, respectively; leaders from Ngok Dinka (all from the TA) were among those who stood firmly with the mainstream SPLM/A because it was the right decision to make then. This stand, among other things, helped the SPLM/A overcame the disaster.  All of these actions were because of the Vision of SPM/A.

So, it is unfortunate to describe the Vision of New Sudan as delusive and those stood for it as meddlers. New Sudan as a concept is unique regardless of anything else. And many people have and will continue to support it and apply it in their political “career” whether the South secedes or not because of the viability of the Vision’s core values. For this reason and many other factors New Sudan is not delusive as James repeatedly mentions.

Indeed, the trio (late Cde. Yousif Kuwa, Cde. Abdel Aziz Adam Hilu and Cde. Malik Aggar) marshaled the servicemen and servicewomen of the Nuba and Funj to fight, but not for self-determination of the South. It is also, arguable that the fight wasn’t to make black woman or man a president of Sudan as James claims. The fight was for a simple and significant reason: advocating justice for all regardless of race, gender and/or religion. And having an “African president” would, definitely, be splendid but it is not necessary!!! It is not necessary because  black or “blackness” – that James refers to - needs to be defined clearly for skin color is not a measure of goodness or badness. This notion is debatable, however. 

If James or any other person believes in the color perception and biasness, then that view must be reconsidered and at best be reversed. Within the boundaries of Sudan, too many mothers, fathers, sisters etc. are still lamenting due to injustices brought upon them over years until today. All the presidents who ruled the modern Sudan were “blacks or have that blood and genes in them” but unfortunately they denied belonging to this race and claimed themselves to something else.  They claim to be Arabs more than the babies of Saudi Arabia and the entire Middle Eastern countries.

So, would an African president be African enough to understand and answer the calls for justices by his people? This is of course a speculative question for which supposition answers are expected as well. And the truth of the matter is: the Sudanese populace, whether or not from the South or from the North, is not longing for a “colored” leader but rather they need a president that treats them justly and fairly without regard to race, religion, gender and/or tribal belonging. Again the Sudanese are in dear need of a commander in chief with Vision and the ability to unite them. Certainly, this is what people of all races want.

James states that he doesn’t want to be ruled by “brown Sudanese with curly hair”. We believe James doesn’t know what “curly hair” means. Curly hair best describes Africans’ hair. Assuming James means straight long hair, our contention to him remains: Why can’t a “brown Sudanese with curly hair” be president if he/she qualifies and could abide by the laws and answer the needs of and be answered to his/her people? This is said because there are “pure” Africans within the boundaries of the Sudan, including the South, who possess brown complexion and/or “curly hair”; and why would the color and hair of these people exclude them from holding high office in Sudan or South Sudan? This is the racial and tribal discrimination that need to be uprooted and eliminated.

It is deemed understandable that unforgettable bad history of being unjustly ruled by the “brown and the curly-haired” Sudanese infused in the people of the South, and those of the TA etc. the fear and distaste of those “brown guys” rules. But what is the guarantee that people are going to have a black African president with the real curly hair who will do justice to and for them? By the Lord who created humans from his image, the skin color, figure or stature can’t make an excellent president if that president lacks potentially and exceptionally high-moral faculties and characters for leadership and hence good governance. 

Therefore, African-ness or being a “pure black president” wouldn’t resolve any problem. If the argument of making a black president is magical in bringing prosperity, why then are the people of “black Africa” or better yet sub-Saharan Africa suffering today from all sorts of awkwardness while most, if not all, of the very same black presidents, are indulged in creed of self-centered greed. This is precisely to say: there are many black presidents in Africa and yet the majority of their citizens are victimized by some of their presidents’ irresponsible behaviors and corruption. Of course there are very few exceptions to Africa’s presidents who deserve recognition and honor for their exceptional leadership and good governance. 

Nonetheless, the case of Sudan (South and North singly or combined) is ostensibly disgustingly unique, helpless and sad because it is not enough to have a black or a brown person with curly hair as head of state in it but it is necessarily crucial to have a tolerant leader who will, among other things, unite the populace and treat them equitably as mentioned above.  That is the dream of every person in the Sudan including the people of the South whether or not it remained within the boundaries of the so-called Sudan or it opted to secede in 2011 peacefully or forcefully thereafter or when the North brings in its games of blocking referendum from happening or if it resorts to rigging the results of the process in favor of unity.

Transitional Areas & CPA Saga

The question of whether or not the people of the TA are happy with CPA is rather interesting and it is a no-brainer to unfavorably assess CPA. It is, therefore, certain that the Nuba and the Funj are not happy with CPA; neither a large number of Southerners nor the Northerners, including the National Congress Party (NCP), are satisfied with it. The disapproval is because the CPA is not free from flaws and loopholes; alas it is, fundamentally, an unsatisfactory and imperfect pact. Even though it is recognized as a step forward, which “had stopped” the killings (hopefully not temporarily) and within it the right to exercise self-determination is “agreed upon”, but again CPA epitomizes too many steps backward. This is due to the fundamentals and the principles on which it was founded, namely, power sharing, wealth sharing and the protocols to resolve the conflict in the three contested areas.

Nevertheless, viewing the CPA from those acute angles, it provides the minimum requirements that the adversaries and the Sudanese people can live and thrive with until the day of the demonstration comes to prove whether or not the intentions of the signatories are good enough, especially those of NCP. Regrettably the time has proven NCP’s failure to implement the problems that are under its control and at stake and the SPLM/A is not doing anything for the flagrant NCP’s abuses in two of the three contested areas. In fact, the NCP is creating other new problems in addition to dragging its feet in hastening the implementation of the agreed upon clauses of the CPA. Nonetheless, the dissatisfaction doesn’t necessarily mount to a self-blame game.

Indeed, a conscious mind finds it puzzling to characterize the Nuba and the Funj politicians as followers and being bullied and misguidedly followed SPLM/A as Mr. Okuk’s goes in his article that the Nuba and the Funj should blame themselves for having rallied behind the New Sudan delusion. By the Lord of the heavens and in God’s sake, this is [the] equal of adding insult into injury which is worst than what the marginalized Sudanese fond to say – out of frustration and helplessness -Jellaba’s condescending upon the African Sudanese, including the Southerners. Yet again and quite seriously, the issue of self-determination for the South was not determined or settled in Machackos or Naivasha, as James believes it to have been. 

The author of the articles, however, unexpectedly and cunningly dispensed heavy insults on what he called “some gentlemen of Abeyi”. This insult is the most disgusting and ugly unwarranted characterization and depiction of Ngok Dinka who share almost everything conceivable with the people of the South. The chauvinistic attitudes expressed against Ngok Dink are but a reflection of deep detestation which a witty individual should refrain from embracing. This is because the Ngok Dinka might vote for joining the South.

When and if this were to happen, what is James going to do to ameliorate the dissension and cleavage he is creating between him and the Ngok Dinka should he became a decision maker in the government of South Sudan Nation by virtue of his PhD? In this regard, James left me no choice but to think of a PhD acronym – without offending any other PhD holder or those who are working hard on it - as “Permanent head Damage”.

However, it is to be reminded, that the process of exercising self-determination is tedious, painful, and costly and, probably, analogous to having a “baby” which calls for “handle with care” caution until it is born. And in the African culture when the “baby” is delivered, the immediate relatives, distant cousins and all the villagers gather for feast and celebration upon the arrival of the “new comer”. It is an African belief then that Mr. James Okuk would embrace with open heart and arms the Ngok Dinka of Abeyi who would, probably, finally have the opportunity to decide on joining the South once and for all and whatever differences are there could be ironed out smoothly and civically. But he chose [his] highway to tackle a matter of huge importance and magnitude unsophisticatedly with what amounts to be unprintable slurs all reflective of deep tribal hatred and self humiliation.

Again, it is imperative to note that disagreement with “some gentlemen from Abeyi” shouldn’t ruin the eternal relationship between them and their kith and kin. Should the Ngok Dinka determine to be part of the South, the Nuba and the Funj will rejoice the freedom of their brothers with the hope that theirs would be next in any form (justice through democratization and equality within the Old Sudan) and/or shape (full independence if Sudan were to disintegrate into pieces). And when South Sudan Nation is born, the people of the new South would throw a party wherein the Nuba and the Funj would [hopefully] be invited to attend the merriment. This is the spirit of the motto of the New Sudan and that is African-ness in humanness. A slogan that had not been buried in Machackos, as Mr. James Okuk claims, because the SPLM/A had set a qualitative barometer for its limitless vision!

With respect to issues of negotiations articulated in one of the article, James’ arguments are particularly questionable if they are not incorrect. It is believed and widely publicized that SPLM/A, as a liberation organization, stood firmly against discussing the issue in the context of the “Southern Question” as previous adversaries and the NCP delegates fiercely contested. It also became known that some leaders within the SPLM/A vigorously advocated the separation of the issues, which is understandable, and probably justified. But it all boiled down to the arrogant stubbornness and cynical attitudes of the NCP which forced the arbitrators to reject the notion of “the problem of marginalization in the whole Sudan” and accepted the contrary (North vs. South, Muslims against Christians; and Africans warring Arabs etc.!).

James may be credited for pointing out that there was also a huge pressure from the mediators, the Southern separatists and from the NCP on the unionists within the SPLM/A leadership to concede its intransigent position to free the whole country from clumsiness. In the process, the arbitrators believed and assumed trustworthiness of the NCP thinking that it would follow through with what it “signs” not knowing or neglecting the litany of agreements dishonored by Khartoum’s regimes as the Honorable Mr. Abel Alier eloquently put it in his famous and invaluable book: “Too Many Agreements Dishonored”.

However, let’s assume that North versus South statement is valid and correct, then the SPLM/A delegation, probably wanted to make sure that the “Problem of Sudan” is resolved once and for all so long as when the South seceded, there won’t be major problems along the borders between the two newly created nations (South and North). If this theory is true, then SPLM/A must have ingeniously planned to have stable and peaceful borders to its northern frontiers so it could focus on developing the virgin homeland of South Sudan Nation. Therefore, it is undoubtedly, a National Security safeguards for the South which the SPLM/A skillfully thought assuming its hidden agenda were separation; but it seemed and still seems many were not clever to get it.

Alternatively, too many were foolish to buy into the empty slogans of New Sudan, which James pointed out in his article! In any case, all parities to the agreement were and are wrong by addressing the issue as the “Question of the South because: Dar Fur issue emerged and escalated beyond imagination (genocide and ethnic cleansing), the Abuja agreement is in a coma, the National Democratic Alliance Agreement in Cairo melted or rather diluted and evaporated, eastern problem is tentatively resolved by Asmara Agreement, and the very CPA is not implemented to the satisfaction of anyone, including the NCP itself. In fact the CPA is crippling. Regrettably the NCP sees the too little that has been accomplished forcibly is too much for the Southerners! Therefore, should the negotiators and the mediators sought the real problems, which is marginalization, all the marginalized people and other northern political parties would have contributed in the process of resolutions, grievances addressed and problems settled with the eventuality of stability spreading all over the country .

However, the discussion of the problem during the negotiations in Machackos as the problem of “South with the North – according to James” was misleading to begin with. This idiom has been maintained in all literature pertinent to Sudan conflict with itself, and with an added element called religion. So, the infamous dictum goes: The mainly Arab and Muslim dominated North against the mostly African Christian South. The unfortunate definition and delimitation of the problem in the context of race and religion created much confusion to the resolution methods and styles; and, alas, among the Sudanese themselves. The Arab-Muslim Sudanese say it is African Christians warring Arabism and Islam, especially when they fetch help from Arabs and Muslims. But the bewildered African Muslims (in the North & the South) got disoriented and resort to identify themselves with religion not knowing everyone else is playing the game to his own advantage hence they become the cream of the confused bunch that question their African credentials. 

This is said because there are too many Africans in the North who are Muslims (the Nuba, the Fur, the Massalit, the Fellata and the Janoubeyeen – the Southerners etc.); there are also many people who profess Christianity (the Nuba, the Funj, the Nubians of far north and the Southerners) in addition to other practitioners of noble African beliefs.  In fact people of African stock are the majority in the North. This, mathematically and statistically speaking, makes the African Sudanese significantly the majority on this land of Sudan. Likewise, the Africans in the South are predominantly Christians, devotees of African faiths and some are Muslims as well. Given these realities, where could the lines be drawn between the North and the South, Africans/Arabs, Muslims/Christians and African Faiths? 

We postulate that the answer is to say: The people of the Sudan have to believe in their Sudanism and that they are Sudanese regardless of their diversity. And this diversity should be the source of their strength NOT the foundation of their weakness and awkwardness.

Therefore, the problem of Sudan is marginalization in the first place by concentrating political power and wealth in the hands of self-selected few. This accumulation of power and wealth could be precisely translated into repression and oppression of the majority by the minority clique. It is also fair to say a number of our own “African guys” participate venomously directly or indirectly in this tyranny by their mere silence while injustices thrive against their people unchecked when noticed. Should there be justice and equality for all regardless of race, religion, gender etc… there wouldn’t have been any conflict of this magnitude in the Sudan.  But the denial of the worth of others compounded the problems and wrongly polarized the country in North-South axis.  And the people of the land religiously maintained and insist on sustaining this backdrop definition of the issues and hence continue to erroneously analyze the problems in that manner.

Obviously an ill-diagnosed disease is hard, if not impossible, to cure. Actually it kills. Regardless of how, when and where the TA got demarcated and annexed, their current geographical location in the ugly map of Sudan should not be a curse for the people living there as some people might believe to suggest. For God’s sake, it wasn’t their choice either to be born in those areas. Then the South as it stands and sits, geographically, on the world map and within the boundaries of the Sudan wouldn’t and shouldn’t have problems if its problems and those of the TA were correctly identified as marginalization, domination, and therefore, methodically addressed. There would not be issues either if the impending CPA-promised resolution modalities were implemented to the letter of CPA spirit. 

That is why Machackos Protocol was clear and explicit in its articles 1.1 and 1.10 of Part A which call, respectively; to “the unity of the Sudan….” and to “… implement the Peace Agreement so as to make the unity of the Sudan an attractive option…..”. Thus there is commonality between the South and the TA as far as marginalization and social stratification are concerned in the realm of present day Sudan. What is really hurtful is that the Africans in the Sudan are second to none in this social classification and stratification. And while the majority of Africans struggle to get out of the status quo some profess the addiction of pushing and shoving their kith and kin further into marginalization!

South & TA Disunity

James transcended to speak of the geographical locations of the TA and that they are not part of the South. He continues to write: “The fact that Nuba and Funj people fought along side with Southerners does not make them Southerners…” This is a hardly thought out statement because it is a known fact that doesn’t need to be repeated or refuted. Otherwise, it is unfortunately a hateful proclamation towards the Nuba and the Funj as a people.

Recalling the early days of negotiations, a prominent leading Southern figure remarked on the negotiating table that if it weren’t for the presence of the Nuba and the Funj [in the room], the problem of the South would have been resolved! In a separate event, another well known Southern political figure also noted a similar sentiment against the Nuba by stating that the Nuba will never be part of Southern Sudan. He was right, though, but the tone of which the words were vowed was distasted and the atmosphere it created was even smoggy. These attitudes are the same as what is portrayed in the article.  Regrettably, these attitudes are, of course, delusive and wishful ill propaganda because it is not a secret that the Nuba and the Funj will remain to be proud Africans people in their domains. More so, it is necessary to clearly delimit and loudly declare that they will Never be Southerners neither did they ever claimed to be part of the South by virtue of their immense sacrifices in the war of the modern day Sudan. 

Certainly, they conspicuously recognize the grievances inflicted on them and on the Southerners because they feel the bitterness of oppression and repression which is a shared commonality between them. In fact, the status quo of the southerners is far better than that of the Nuba and the Funj combined at all levels. Therefore, the “blackmailing” theory alluded to in James’ article is out of the question and is an attempt to pacify and paralyze some Southerners from chasing their well-deserved right for total independence from the so-called Sudan!

However, it is imperative indeed to emphasize that the established alliance between the people of the TA and the South during the war, after the war and, probably, in the future is a strategic one aimed at securing the mutual interests of ethnically similar people who share almost identical culture and profess African beliefs in a similar manner before the spoils of modern religions. 

Should the South secede when the time comes, the Nuba, the Funj and the other Africans of Dar Fur would be the northern neighbors; and provided that the northern borders are stable, the new South Sudan Nation would be secure as well bringing prosperity to the South considering the immense natural resources within its borders.  What else would anybody wish for and look for than enjoying the goodies of a flourishing state and peaceful neighbors? 

Therefore, the geographical location of the Nuba, the Funj or the Dar Fur should not and would not be a nuisance and blight for South Sudan Nation. Nonetheless, it would be a very serious problem if the war breaks out again before the Southerners exercise the right of self-determination through referendum. Because failure to attain independence peacefully from the North will, unquestionably, take all parties and stakeholders to square one thus bringing the entire state of Sudan into more chaos and total disintegration or better yet Somalization [Somalia Civil war) and Congolization (the unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo), as Sadiq al-Mahdi of the Umma Party irresistibly likes to describe the aftermath of any return to war in the Sudan. 

And certainly, when that bittersweet time comes, everyone will fight a survival war wherein there will be no place for disgraceful and humiliating tribalism as it happened so many times in Sudan’s current and recent history!

James contests that “If Southerners had powers to draw borders of the Sudan, surely they would have included Nuba Mountains and Ingassina Hills in the Territory of Southern Sudan”. Dissecting and examining this statement show that it is illogical in lieu of what he already demonstrated above. It further invites to recount a merit case wherein visionary SPLM/A leaders view the question of the Sudan positively and try a holistic solution to it. The narrative is about a question and an answer to: what would be the northern most borders between the North and the South that SPLM/A is calling for while the negotiations were taking place in Kenya.

The quest was posed to Mr. James Cook, the current Minister of Foreign Trade in the Government of National Unity. This tête-à-tête happened during a visit by Mr. Cook, and the Mr. Elijah Malok, the Chairman of the Bank of South Sudan and Deputy Chairman of Sudan Central Bank in Khartoum, to the South Sudanese community in Diaspora. It is essentially important to underscore the utmost respect the writer of this critique awards these gallant leaders.

The response from Mr. Cook was clever: “the borders would [at least] include the “five” regions (the Equatoria, the Upper Nile, Bahr el-Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile)”, declared Mr. Cook. The two regions [that is the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile] and areas well beyond them were encompassed, at least during the interim period, so that the grievances of these areas could be addressed since they have been seriously affected by the war! The Nuba and the Funj, however, have fought effectively and vigorously beside SPLM/A. He further added: the SPLM/A [is] intransigent about this position. Alas, this answer and explanations given by Mr. Cook were disappointing to many people possibly because the borders demarcated, on an ugly map of Sudan drawn by the SPLM/A representative, were too ambitious. 

The other reason for the discontent, we assume, was possibly because the opponents of the borders preferred that the line should be south of January 1st 1956 borders. When the visitor observed discomfort in the audience, he explained that the art of the negotiations dictates to ask for more during the process of the discussions and the deliberations to give more room for maneuvering to make concessions and compromises until the target goal is achieved. Nonetheless, the author of this commentary was one of the proponents of the inclusion of these areas and beyond. Hence as a gesture, a near-perfect map of the Sudan was redrawn and an East-West line exactly along the border with “sister” Egypt was suggested to be dashed as the northern most line. This gesture was because the entire country is in moral ruin and in a state of destitution, thus it needs a total overhaul and restructuring, which can be ratified by its people.

Recognizing the current borders were drawn by aliens, it is high time now and it is the only chance for the marginalized people to draw their own lines, remap and reshape the country not only from its outer layout but from within. In other words a qualitative rebuilding is needed in the Sudan not quantitative restructuring by dividing it into tribal territories. Nonetheless, the “Southerners” had the “powers” at their disposal during the negotiations but “some” held back and did not strongly oppose the old and the “neo-colonizers” in order to redraw the map at their pleasure and satisfaction but they accepted half of the cake. And today, someone sprang filling the ether and the heavens with too many and big “IFS”.

In any case, the stand of the Nuba and the Funj during the conduct of the war alongside the SPLM/A was firm: To achieve United, Democratic Sudan based on equal citizenship where humans are treated equitably fair. In any case of separation or unity [we], irreversibly, assert neither the Nuba nor the Funj will be territorially parts of the South.  The Nuba Mountains will not only remain as a mere region but its people will thrive as an ethnic identity cemented by their Africanness and one-ness in Nuba-ness. Likewise, the Funj will remain as they are.

It is pathetic to learn through James’ article that “the map of the Sudan was drawn and adjusted by the oppressive Turco-Egyptian and Anglo-Egyptian colonialists and slave traders”. Also, it is equally embarrassing to find out that the CPA says the current map will be the only legitimate map for demarcating the borders between the South and the North. Help me Lord! The CPA did not say the current map of Sudan is the ONLY legitimate one but the negotiators and mediators of the CPA deal have agreed on terms striking some concessions on the expense of others notwithstanding that the Nuba and the Funj contributed effectively in the war that brought these concessions on the table of negotiations.

The reference to concessions is excision of the Abeyi and granting it a separate Protocol.  Also, Abeyi case is an exact antithesis of James’ claim and thus demonstrates and nullifies the assertion that the current Map of Sudan is the only legitimate map! If this legitimacy is true, why is the fuss and upheaval about Abeyi? Oh, it is this damn OIL. Yet, the argument that “if the Nuba and the Funj don’t want the North and desire to join the independent South” is absurd and it only invites re-visitation of  the SPLM/A’s Vision which we don’t know on what side of it James stands. Certainly, the SPLM/A has a viable Vision that will never die whether or not the South secedes because the Vision’s objectives are engraved and minted in the peoples’ hearts and minds all over the Sudan. It is a Vision that is applicable everywhere in the country regardless of what the SPLM/A is or was cunningly hiding behind the slogan of New Sudan.

If the SPLM/A is or was concealing other agendas thinking that it is deceiving and tricking people, then it is too late too little to reverse the course because the once scorned people have awakened from their deep slumbering. Moreover, it is not surreptitious that the NCP has adopted the SPLM/A’s Vision of New Sudan. Thanks to the SPLM/A for the awakening anyway! And, yes, the Vision might need some improvements to meet the ever-changing world. But it has absolutely set forth the strong foundations for progress in the direction of reform and the institutionalization of democratic system of good governance in the Sudan.

The conditions set for ‘getting mission accomplished’ before furthering the gratitude to the dispossessed and deprived Nuba and Funj, are very naïve from James’ part.  This is to be emphasized because the entire people of South Sudan don’t carry such abhorrence towards the mankind including the Nuba and the Funj. It is not a fallacy, however, to state that all Sudan’s neighboring countries and beyond have tremendously provided material support and/or safe havens to hundreds of thousands and millions of the people of the South. This was done on entirely humanitarian basis; and, on some occasions, in accordance with the principles of African solidarity.  But these neighboring countries had never fought with the SPLM/A, unless James had been gullible enough to believe the National Islamic Front (NIF) propaganda during the entire years of civil war. 

Had these countries fought alongside the SPLM/A, the movement would have overrun the whole country, and took over the reigns of power in Khartoum. However, the people of those neighboring nations never said they were not going to be a heaven with everlasting sweet glories to the Southerners or to whoever fled the Sudan during the irrationally brutal war. Paradoxically, James is enjoying the ‘sweet glories’ of Kenya that is still struggling with its own problems, but never turned a blind eye or a deaf ear to its northern brethren. Astonishing yet is his denial and disowning of Ngok Dinka by expressing anxiety that they are dominating and interfering with the public affairs of the South. The only reason for this denial and disownment is the crooked mapping of Sudan, which placed the Ngok Dinka on top of an oil-cursed Abyei. In fact, the problem of the entire Sudan is attributed to its tapped resources (historical human trading by enslavement) and untapped resources (oil and other minerals) on which volumes of documents and books are written.

Finally, it is feeble from James to remind the comrades from the Nuba and the Funj of the critical time where the Southerners have no time and resources to waste on non-Southerners. When did the Nuba and the Funj ask for James’ help? The critical time was indeed for the Nuba. They were cut off from any outside world humanitarian help for over thirteen years during the toughest period of the war. Not only that but they were also isolated from South during that time; and they depended entirely on themselves. 

It is the persistence of some human rights organizations and humanitarian agencies to defy Khartoum’s threats that allowed the world to become aware of the hidden war and genocide against the Nuba. It is until then the first glimpse of hope came in 2002, which paved the way for very serious negotiations. The case of the Nuba brought in a four-point test of will before the NIF/NCP regime and the forced passing of the test brought in the cease fire in the Nuba Mountains which paved the way for serious engagement to discuss the conflict in the Sudan in Good faith that resulted in the CPA. Thanks to peace and human loving people who espoused these efforts. However, the Nuba will survive in time of peace, as they did during the hell of brutality and humiliation.

Gandul Gandul (PhD) is a Sudanese from Nuba Mountains and can be reached at: gandul1@msn.com

 

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