Salva Kiir’s latest remarks on the inevitability of South Sudan’s secession aroused considerable fuss in Khartoum’s press. Editorials and reports poured out a combination of wrath and childish disappointment at the big man’s quite expected propositions in front of an American audience. It need not be forgotten that Kiir had already made several references to the desired and expected outcome of the referendum. Now, with a few months to go before the deadline it is just a matter of consequence that the incumbent President of the semi-autonomous South Sudan and hitherto undisputed coming President of the new country gets more vocal about the state of affairs at hand. Notably, the NCP itself has largely given up its face-saving pro-unity campaign, a pro-forma initiative anyway.
According to El Affendi the Sudanese Islamists had as far back as the mid 1970s favoured the secession of South Sudan if that proved a necessary price for the establishment of a homogenous Islamic state in the rest of the country. At the time the Islamists were driven by their frustration at the Southern support of their enemy in power, Numayri. The political reasoning they entertained was a broad Muslim coalition that includes the major political parties, Umma and DUP, and excludes the Southern Sudanese allied to Numayri via the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement (1972). The Southern challenge to ‘Muslim’ take-over manifested itself in the failed coup attempt of 1976, whereby Southern Sudanese military officers of former Anya Nya extraction proved instrumental in maintaining Numayri on the saddle. Arop Madut-Arop in ‘Sudan’s Painful Road to Peace’ names Chol Aywaak Gwiny and Nikonora Magar Aciek as examples of Southern Sudanese officers who served Numayri well in his hours of dire need.
In response to the SPLM’s largely rhetorical what unity query, as repeatedly stated by Atem Garang, the vice speaker of the national legislature, the NCP is currently responding with what secession? Bashir and Co have largely backtracked from the earlier insistence on the priority of border demarcation and are currently absorbed with arguing an oil-rescue exit from the Abyei dispensation, probably with some degree of American understanding if not sympathy. The affair, bemusing enough, has transformed into an intra-American debate; Roger Winter and Richard Williamson charging against Scott Gration and Hillary Clinton for ‘softening’ on Abyei. In the words of the Khalifa Abdullahi, sovereign of Mahdist Sudan, responding to news of British-Italian negotiations in the summer of 1890 on the future of his Eastern provinces following the Italian conquest of Eritrea: “It is painful that people cannot stop dividing up countries that are not their own” (P. M. Holt’s book on the Mahdist State in Sudan). I guess it is even more painful when an ever adolescent political leadership is degenerate enough to surrender the fate of its own peoples to the romantics of self-styled trans-continental saviours. The cynicism of the situation is this: failing to make one country Sudan’s fatigued politicians, borrowing Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim’s diagnosis, are quite likely to fail in making two. The preacher opposition I am afraid has till now no better idea than Sadiq al-Mahdi’s ‘call the UN’. For heaven’s sake, they’re already on it!