Monday, 10 May 2010

Unity for sale

In an environment where the secession of Southern Sudan, a few months from now, is presented as inevitability, particularly from the far stronger powers engineering the fate of the country at a time where its political will and imagination are exhausted in the running of CPA time-tables, the pledge for unity strikes the beholder as an act of obsessive compulsion. While, in fact, the choice between unity and secession is essentially a false one, since neither option, in formality, addresses in earnest the complexities of the Sudanese crisis.

In furthering the cause of unity one bad argument that is being incessantly repeated is ‘unity by incapacity’: the South cannot rule itself; an independent South will immediately slide into civil war, the South lacks infrastructure, and so on. Such argument is music to the proponents of an independent Southern Sudan, since it proves just their point i.e. the South is perceived as inferior and juvenile, and unity implies by default an asymmetric relationship with the North whereby the latter maintains hegemony.

A second bad argument is ‘unity by convenience’, an approach that underlines the difficulties and complexities of the secession process i.e. border demarcation, debt division, Nile waters, oil sharing, citizenship arrangements for Northern Southerners and Southern Northerners, border communities and so on. This is in essence an extension of the first argument with an assumption of transitive direction from unity to secession.

The third bad argument, I suggest, is ‘unity by profit’, implying that the prospects for a prosperous Sudan are greater in unity than in secession, which translates in effect into economic calculus and the odds and bargains of profit extraction and capital accumulation rather than the interests, perceived or actual, of modernity thirsty communities on both sides of the 1956 border.

The fourth, linked to the third above, is ‘unity by default’, recruiting the history of the country to support a perpetual continuation of the past, a line which runs like this: we have inherited this country united and we will maintain it so, take what it takes, an argument that breathes hegemony.

If unity is to be attained it must be ‘unity by creation’, implying recognition of the necessity of transition from a de facto history of ‘secession’ to a yet largely unexplored potential of ‘unity’. Semblances of such ‘unity’ can be found in Sudan’s alternative history: labour! 

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.