Friday 14 January 2011

Citizenship betrayed

A senior official in the ministry of interior in Khartoum announced on Wednesday that the responsible departments have drafted a set of amendments to the passports and immigration law in order to address the increasing foreign presence in the country. The amendments under consideration are intended to curb illegal immigration, and settle the situation of Southern Sudanese following secession as foreigners.  The amendments however may well bend, as convenience may imply, to political calculus. Mandoor al-Mahdi, a senior NCP figure in Khartoum state, declared on Thursday that the government of the North will consider in earnest the possibility of granting Southern Sudanese members of the ruling party and other non-Northern unionists “the honour of citizenship” in the rump North as a token of its gratitude for their commitment to the unity of the nation. Mandoor further declared the dissolution of the NCP in the South, and his party’s stern opposition to the maintenance of the SPLM in the North. He stated “there will be no SPLM in the North and no NCP in the South after secession. Both (branches) will be dissolved”. Mandoor stressed that the NCP and the SPLM are in full agreement regarding post-secession arrangements for the two armies, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA). Accordingly, there will be no SAF presence in the South, and likewise no SPLA presence in the North, including the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile. To Mandoor “The NCP is a party for Northerners, and the SPLM a party for Southerners”. The SPLM mainstream, I claim, would agree without hesitation.     
Despite their grave implications, the imminent disenfranchise of millions of Southern Sudanese in the North and the practical scrapping of the CPA protocol on the resolution of conflict in the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile, the ministry of interior’s plans and Mandoor’s statements do not in any arguable sense contradict the global ‘partition’ deal between the NCP and the SPLM. The CPA, despite progressive features, has retained as a working formula the ‘Old Sudan’ definition as it were of the North and South as racial entities. Moslem Southern Sudanese for instance cannot claim Northern affiliation despite the bonds of faith, and Northern Sudanese united in struggle with the SPLM/A, even if Christians, cannot but swallow their expulsion from the victorious new nation, while the Dinka Ngok, considered ethnic Southerners, are justified in agitating for exclusion of the Misseriya fellow residents from participation in decision making regarding the future of the contested Abyei.  
The referendum law, which for all practical purposes is the defining text of the South/North disengagement - more than many a progressive clause in the CPA - defines an eligible voter in the Southern Sudan referendum, i.e. a Southerner, as an individual “born to parents both or one of them belonging to one of the indigenous communities that settled in Southern Sudan on or before the 1st of January, or whose ancestry is traceable to one of the ethnic communities in Southern Sudan, or (a) permanent resident, without interruption, or whose any of the parents or grandparents are residing, permanently, without interruption, in Southern Sudan since the 1st January 1956”. Where indigeneity roosts citizenship can rarely hatch. If anything, this is the stubborn legacy of the colonial state in Africa. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm really interested in this confusion between ethnic and territorial ideas of citizenship in Sudanese law, even since the 1890s aliens acts (and I'm trying to pull together a paper on this). The referendum law contradicts the New Sudan Nationality Act of 2003, which is very ethnic in its definition (even more so!) and the 2005-amended 1994 Nationality Act, which is specifically territorial.

    Mandour's idea of citizenship as a 'reward' for unity-minded NCP-leaning Southerners in the North fits with the branch of the NCP focused on putting out political and divisive statements on the split. It'll be very interesting to see whether there's the political will to establish a real, functioning SPLM-North, or whether it'll be allowed.


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