The Sudan: Thinking The Unthinkable
The Khartoum Government announced in December that it would allow the South to secede if it so voted in next year’s referendum, but a spokesperson for the Government of South Sudan was quick to warn that Khartoum could still renege on its word, reports JOHN GACHIE
Drill: Sudanese recruit soldiers learn the ropes of unarmed combat
The war is widespread and employed modern weapons by both sides, with heavy military and civilian casualties on both sides across North and South Sudan. For John Ashworth, writing in the Horn of Africa magazine June- July Issue 2007 (and carried by the September 2007 issue of Insight Sudan magazine), the full horror of the Sudanese war is brought home to the Northern Sudanese civilian population, for decades spared the grim reality of war, as urban areas and cities in the North are finally attacked. Two years later, that fictional scenario is still very likely to become reality, but does not seem to elicit as much angst, horror and trepidation amongst the Southern Sudanese as in the case of previous wars. But for their allies, partners, friends and neighbours, such a scenario conjures up images of the unacceptable horrors of war and, coupled with the earnest hope that Sudan, and in particular the South, shall not witness a return to war as the consequences are too ghastly to contemplate, untenable and wholly unacceptable. However, full-blast war is an all-too-real prospect unless wise counsel, acumen and reality kicks in as the two partners must come to terms with the tenuous and fragile no-peace-no-war situation that prevails.
They must be forever alive to the ever present and imminent possibility of a resumption of a full-scale war between South Sudan and the North forever lurking in the background that has continuously engaged and engrossed the minds of many military and political leaders in Sudan and elsewhere and traumatized the Sudanese national psyche. With the main partners to the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), the National Congress Party-led Khartoum-based Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-led Juba-based Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) lurching from one crisis of confidence to another, the die has been cast – it is war or peace. Both parties to the CPA have been engaged in sabre-rattling, talking at cross-purposes, chestthumping, grandstanding and outright deceit, especially on the part of the Khartoum government. All this has been in an attempt to shore-up failing local grassroots support and seeking to galvanize and rally their core constituencies and stakeholders. Nearly all analysts, experts and observers of Sudan, the leadership and the Sudanese people, are unanimous – a resumption of war will be catastrophic for both sides and the casualties will be horrendous and the consequences ghastly and widespread, drawing immediate regional and international condemnation and likely active, if not direct, intervention. For the leading South Sudanese media scholar, author and editor of Guortong,a Diaspora-based Sudanese website, Jacob Akol, the prospect of a resumption of war in the South is terrible, but he hastens to add “…the South shall not relent… shall not allow for the abrogation of the CPA and shall not countenance forced unity … the South will fight”.
SPLA SERVICEMEN: A clash of visions
But perhaps the best example of the depth of feeling and emotion on the issue of unity was captured by the President Kiir in October 2009, when he told a church service “….if the time comes for the referendum and you choose to be secondclass citizens by voting for unity we shall respect your choice… but why would you want to vote to be a second-class citizen in your own country?” President Kiir’s remarks drew sharp instant reaction from Khartoum, with President Bashir’s senior advisors accusing the Southern leader of supporting secession, claiming it was in violation of the CPA, which it prefers to read only as envisaging national unity, although it opens the door to separation. It was the first such direct call by the South Sudanese leader for the people of the South to opt for separation – an all-butopen secret in South Sudan and amongst southerners in the Diaspora. Indeed, What President Kiir was alluding to was the very genesis of the conflict in South Sudan – namely the exclusion, marginalization and impoverishment of the people of the South by successive central governments in Khartoum. This status quo in Khartoum has obtained regardless of regime composition, orientation, ideology and philosophy, secular, civilian and or military, across more than half a century. This is the case with the current President Bashir’s militarycum- security-pseudocivilian regime, despite being signatories and partners to the CPA, which seeks to make national unity attractive, feasible and of mutual benefit to both sides. For Francis Deng, the UN Spe cial Rapporteur on Crimes against Humanity and on Genocide, a leading Sudanese scholar and scion of a famous Sudanese Dinka chieftainship, Sudanese unity is far away in the future and a referendum choice for separation is all but certain.
For Deng and many other analysts, a vote for secession at the referendum would be an affirmation of what is at the core of the Sudanese conflict – a clash of visions of the future and of the past and special circumstances clouded by racial, religious and cultural heritage that have been sharpened by decades of war and distrust and underpinned by economic deprivation and exploitation. The CPA, signed on January 9 2005, brought to an end one of the world’s longest civil wars that saw over two million dead, millions more internally displaced and hundreds of thousands forced to flee into exile as refugees since 1983. The Accord is anchored in one of the most detailed and comprehensive peace agreements ever devised – tight schedules on key benchmarks and roadmap, detailed annexes and a clear-cut power-sharing matrix laying out the entire template over a six-year interim period (2005-2011) and two pre-interim and post-interim periods set to expire by July 9, 2011. In the ensuing period since the Accord was signed in Nairobi the South has persistently accused the Khartoum regime of foot dragging, back-pedaling and outright sabotage of the CPA, both in the letter and spirit, and, at times, of wanton disregard of the document. On its part, Khartoum has riposted to the effect that the Southern Government has failed in its duties of service delivery due to high level corruption and, in particular, failure to accommodate other political and armed groups in the South. Furthermore, Khartoum alleges the South has violated the Agreement by diverting and allocating over 40 per cent of the budget to the military including purchase of modern equipment.
Arming and Dangerous: Both Sides Stockpile Weapons
In the interim, both sides in Sudan are not leaving anything to fate or chance and are all out to secure their positions – through massive re-arming, training, pre-stocking, strategizing and almost certainly seeking the services of foreign military contractors to provide technical, operational and perhaps even combat services. According to knowledgeable military analysts, the Khartoum Government has bought newer heavy weapons since 2002, including 130 main battle tanks, over 45 light tanks and an assortment of armoured vehicles. The Air Force deploys over 60 fixed-wing fighter planes, including Mig 29 fighter jets and A-5 Fantan ground attack jets and dozens of helicopter gun-ships. With a combined armed manpower of over 450,000, the Sudan Armed Forces and the Popular Defensc Forces of the North are backed up by over 150,000 men in security-cumintelligence paramilitary forces. Khartoum is clearly well prepared for all eventualities.For the Juba regime’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the figures range between a force of 150,000- 200,000 men undergoing very rapid and intensive reorganization, re-arming and redeployment along the border. They are backed by more than 150 T-72 main battle tanks, long- range artillery and an air defence network that will no doubt become an air force. Indeed, the SPLA is no longer the rag-tag guerrilla army of five years ago, it is a rapidly changing and modernizing fighting force that seeks to have air and riverine units to patrol the River Nile and secure the Southern airspace, according to a new defence doctrine developed with the assistance of a number of Western countries, in particular Britain. The jury is still out concerning a resumption of full-scale hostilities but time and options are rapidly closing in.
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