In one of those very ‘Sudanese’ moments the veteran Southern Sudanese politician Bona Malwal chose the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) Sudan Media Centre in Khartoum late Tuesday to announce his decision to retire from political engagements and dedicate himself to writing.
Bona who entered the Sudanese political scene in the awakening that followed the October Revolution in 1964 when he was elected Secretary General of the Southern Front has a convoluted history to look back to. At the time he was one of the louder voices calling for the secession of South Sudan. To that end Bona Malwal dedicated his first newspaper, the Vigilant, which Nimayri closed down after his 25 May 1969 coup. Bona served Nimayri well as his Minister of Information following the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement which ended the first round of the civil war in South Sudan. When the rayes declared the implementation of shari’a in 1983 Malwal came out against the ‘Islamic path’ and landed in Cooper Prison, a companion of Nimayri’s many opponents. During the tenure of Sadiq al-Mahdi between the April 1985 Uprising against Nimayri and President Bashir’s coup in 1989 Bona resumed his publishing activities and issued the Sudan Times, an English-speaking Khartoum paper. The Ingaz government closed down the newspaper and Bona found refuge in London where he issued another in 1990, the fiercely oppositional Sudan Democratic Gazette.
Bona, considered Nimayri’s man, never found favour with John Garang. Amongst some quarters he is known as the only Dinka to support the Nasser faction against Chairman Garang in the 1991 split of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M). Politically the eloquent Bona Malwal argued steadfastly for a separate South and criticised with great vigour and conviction John Garang’s notion of a united ‘New Sudan’. He returned to Khartoum a short period before the finalisation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 and soon featured as the leader of a new party, the South Sudan Democratic Forum. President Bashir, never to miss a potential ally, welcomed the veteran chief and appointed him as his advisor. The courtesy was mutual. Malwal, fluent in propaganda, defended Bashir’s sanctity in the face of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant, and committedly joined the top rank of the ‘National Association in Support of the Candidacy of the Citizen Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir for the Presidency of the Republic’ at the side of Field Marshal Abd el-Rahman Suwar el-Dahab and other respectable elders. The same body was transformed into the ‘National Association in Support of Unity’ in the interlude between the April 2010 elections and the January 2011 referendum.
When asked Tuesday whether he will settle in South Sudan once secession is declared Bona Malwal the effendi responded “If I receive an invitation from the South I will attend the 9 July celebrations otherwise my house is in Khartoum”. By all means Bona Malwal is likely to remain a Khartoumian. Most Southerners in the North however are in no position to enjoy the prestige and standing of the ardent ‘separatist’. This week the Ministry of Labour declared the termination of employment of all Southern Sudanese public servants at all the levels of government and in all state institutions, and instructed private businesses in North Sudan to do the same in compliance with Decree No. 236 (2011) issued by the Council of Ministers. The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour added that any Southern Sudanese who wishes to seek a job in the North as of 9 July will have to obtain a work permit as a foreigner in line with the provisions of the 2011 Labour Act. The greater majority of Southerners who continue to reside in the North earn their living in the informal sector; the price of their labour, now an illicit activity, will probably drop to lower levels than the pennies of racist exploitation. Bona however will write a book, and assist his daughter, Sandra Malwal, who was elected July the previous year Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Democratic Change (SPLM-DC).