Sunday, 26 September 2010

Insane identity

Last week Salva Kiir, the President of GoSS, stated that Northern Sudanese in his territory are welcome to reside and do business, a friendly token short of ‘citizenship’, but in any case a more positive note than Saturday’ utterances by NCP’s Kamal Obeid, the Minister of Information. I quote al-Ray al-Aam: “Come secession, a Southerner will not be a citizen in the North; Southerners will not enjoy the rights of citizenship, employment and other advantages, or the right to buy and sell in Khartoum’s markets”. He then added “we will not give him (a Southerner) even an injection in hospital”. Obeid was speaking on radio to a largely Northern audience.
I am not sure if Obeid was simply taken away by resentment towards Southerners, a common dispensation of the NCP leadership and ranks, or if his grave declaration was a calculated message to the wider NCP constituency and the general public. Whatever the case may be the position he advocates is both dangerously chauvinist, and untenable. By all means the categories ‘Southerner’ and ‘Northerner’ are as ill defined as the notorious borders between North and South, and so is any supposedly ethnic category for that matter. Other than the 1.5 million Southerners who have taken refuge in Northern Sudan during the war generations of Southern Sudanese have lived and worked in the national capital and in major towns as part of the general flow from rural areas to urban centres. Those who fall between the seams of North and South are not just many there are uncountable. I wonder, what in Obeid’s mind is the fate of Southern Muslims in the North, or the Southerners allied to the NCP? By resorting to what amounts to a purge of Southerners from the North via an outright state-endorsed disenfranchise Obeid is inviting to his own doom a confrontation that Sudan has largely avoided over the years of its civil war fought between a guerrilla force and the state army, with the exception of the proxy militarisation of the frontline civilian populations generating pro-government ‘Arab’, ‘Dinka’ and ‘Nuer’ militias. Contrary to Taha’s proclamations of tamazuj (intermixing) and takamul (integration) Obeid is selling to his audience the prospect of a final solution for the ‘Southern Question’ in Fascist fashion.
In the same news report al-Rai al-Aam quoted the SPLM’s Luka Biong Deng, Minister of the Council of Ministers, stating that the Misseriya do not have the right to vote in the referendum on self-determination of the disputed Abyei area. The Misseriya according to Deng are only entitled to graze in Abyei. Nicely enough Deng welcomed the presence of all Sudanese in the South and called for an agreement on extension of the four freedoms between North and South. What Deng shares with Obeid is the subjection of citizenship to the examination of identity coupled with the prejudice of autochtony. The history of Abyei, a Dinka/Misseriya entwine, is not amenable to reversion by decree. A referendum decision to join Abyei to the South will by no means cause the troublesome Misseriya to disappear in a puff of democracy. The claim that the Misseriya are ‘exogenous’ to Abyei, and thus do not have the right to decide on its future, mirrors the proposition that Southerners are ‘exogenous’ to Khartoum and cannot enjoy its citizenship, both are false options. In the conclusion of an African Affairs paper titled ‘Social Capital and Civil War: the Dinka Communities in Sudan’s Civil War’ Luka Biong Deng pointed to inter-communal solidarity and societal networks such as the relationship between Arab nomads, Nuer, Dinka, and other communities, as aspects of social capital that merit further research in the context of civil war. Pick that up Dr Deng.

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