Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha is in Juba bargaining the case for unity with quickly designed development projects, much akin to Quick Impact Project (QIPs), so popular among touch-down NGOs, hit and run style. Well, this is as far as official statements go. It is well probable that much more solid political bargains are on the table, including a smudge ‘confederation’ option as an escape route from the yes/no answer of the impending referendum on the future of Southern Sudan. In parallel, government media is actively propagating the cause of unity with supposedly more culturally representative content, tribal dances from the South and a polished version of Juba Arabic for the sake of it, with nationalist sloganeering from Omdurman’s musical heritage as the background. As is usual with NCP face-lift attempts it is about dodging facts on the ground rather than confronting them. The approach that NCP propaganda specialists have so suddenly devised in line with the presidential ‘make unity attractive’ campaign seems to be the devilish double of the jihadist onslaught of the 90s, a populist make believe.
Unity propaganda is not addressing a Southern constituency in any sincere sense; rather it reflects an NCP pre-emption of the consequences of secession on its image in the North. The NCP wants to convince its Northern constituency that it has done all things necessary for unity, and it is actually the Southerners who refuse to receive the extended NCP hand. The propaganda line invests in the historical North-South enstrangement and consolidates it as proof as principle. The message line is simple: ‘we did everything for them, but in vain’.
The impending secession of Southern Sudan is symptomatic of the failure of nation-building as imagined by Khartoum’s ruling elites. The NCP, by conceding at least in argument to the necessity of re-negotiating the Sudanese nation-state, is well positioned to re-invent the Sudan, however at the price of its own rule. That price proved to be too high, and the essential bargain of the CPA was thus shelved. Instead of a national project the NCP is offering trade-offs for unity targeting the dominant Southern elite, in other words bribes. In so doing it is just repeating a history of North-South bribes and blackmails, no news at all on the historical record.
Well, in concrete terms the NCP is offering 114 million Sudanese pounds from the newly created Unity Support Fund. The bridal money is accompanied by a delegation of 18 ministers and five governors from Khartoum including Osama Abdalla, the current minister for electricity and dams, and the man behind the loss of lives and the displacement of populations in Kajbar and Hamadab.