Opinion | The emergence of ‘New Sudan’ in Sudan and the SPLM political realm in South Sudan
The Sudanese people have intensified a retrospective call for a “New Sudan” with equitable representation of its people from the north, south, east, and west. The new Sudan philosophy was a concept critically contextualized by the late Dr. John Garang to alleviate the socio-economic conditions and political rights of the marginalized people of Sudan. It was also a philosophy that took millions of Sudanese lives within 20 years during the brutal civil war that ended with the signing of the CPA in 2006.
The rejection of the New Sudan philosophy by the regimes in Sudan and the insistence of maintaining a sociopolitical and economic status quo in Sudan has influenced the separation of South Sudan. The premature departure of Dr. John Garang a few months after being sworn in as Sudan’s first Vice President also changed the course of events. People in Sudan and South Sudan believed that Dr. John Garang’s death had delayed social, political, and economic progress.
The impact of over 50 years of civil unrest due to self-rule, equitable distribution of wealth, and identity issues have sensitized the people of South Sudan to vote in favor of the separation from Sudan. They placed their hopes and dreams in the hands of the neotechnic political elite who promised an inclusive, equitable, and free society based on the articulated vision of the “New Sudan”. Conversely, after its independence, South Sudan adopted bourgeoisie behaviors of the old Sudan and initiated a system that preferred ethnic grouping, from which nepotism, corruption, and violence became an epidemic.
Furthermore, either by design or default, the SPLM political elites in Juba imported the political paradigm and cultures of the National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum and thereby, changed the SPLM from a liberal party to an oppressed system. Many honorable SPLM/A war elites and heroes were removed from the party to roam in the streets of Juba, Uganda, Kenya, Europe, Australia, and North America. At its core, the current SPLM is controlled by the former NCP cadres and ethnic demagogues with no sense of its people’s struggles and aspirations.
Marginalized people in South Sudan, especially the minority groups, are now once again left with dashed dreams. Moreover, they are forced to live in dire conditions and have set a record of internal displacement and migration. Over four million people migrated to neighboring countries, some of who are still living in POCs within states and the national capital of Juba. In short, the SPLM/A vision in South Sudan is dead. Nonetheless, the country is now more Arabized and Islamized compared to any period of its history; thereby, discounting the causes of war and reasons for separation.
The Resuscitation of the “New Sudan”
If Dr. John came back today, he would discover that his people have sold the land, tainted the party’s vision, sold the country for cheap, and have continued the cycle of oppression, corruption, and social divides. Luckily, he would find that the SPLM vision and dream of a New Sudan is being realized among the new Sudanese generation who have put the concepts of Sudanism and Africanism over religion and Arabism. The new generations glorify Dr. John Garang’s name and appreciate his sacrifices more than South Sudan.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which is part of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), has created a new path of social and political endeavor in Sudan. In this new political paradigm, it becomes evident that the slogans and philosophy of the New Sudan have influenced and informed the contents of the FFC movement. Even though the intentions of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) are still not clear, the FFC is determined not to accept any deal that does not lead to a total democratic transformation and civil rule within the country. This includes the participation of the armed forces with a stronger vision of social and political inclusion of the marginalized people. Therefore, it is anticipated that the prominent SPLM North cadres and cohorts will learn from the failures of their counterparts—the SPLM in South Sudan—and will deliver an authentic version of the “New Sudan” in Sudan.
Unlike South Sudan, the FFC and SPLM in Sudan are being led by educated, political, and mature leaders with a stronger sense of national unity and a progressive nation-building agenda wherein ethnic and tribal sentiments are not part of the political space. It is also fair to assume that with Sudan’s current political climate, coupled with the country’s high literacy and political maturity, will help cement the ideals of democratic and civil rules. These include citizens’ awareness and familiarity with political participation processes and their understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Such citizenship qualities are not present in the people of South Sudan since they still embrace ethnic grouping and tribal mobilization as a means to retain governmental powers.
The FFC and the New Sudan’s Vision in Sudan
In the prophecies of Dr. John Garang, stated in his hypothesis of the three modalities of prospective Sudan states, he predicted that an independent state in South Sudan would have been the experimental state for the New Sudan vision. He sensed that the implementation of the New Sudan vision in South Sudan would attract the Sudanese and establish values of democracy, social justice, equity, and equality. Furthermore, he sensed that working on socio-cultural commonalities between the two nations would expand the circle of trust, which could lead to realizations of the New Sudan’s values among the citizens of Sudan.
However, Sudan—who once resisted the concept of a New Sudan—has become the flag bearer of the SPLM vision. Conversely, the idea of the New Sudan and the formation of an equitable and inclusive society somehow faded and was replaced by an ethnopolitical system based on tribal affiliation. The SPLM cadres in South Sudan have failed to understand, articulate, and sensitize people to the ideals of the liberation and the effective policies to address sociopolitical and economic grievances that led to decades of war with regimes in Khartoum. Instead, they have conformed to ethnic militarism and rule. In short, the SPLM in North Sudan should learn from the failure of the SPLM in South Sudan and promote the ideals of the New Sudan for building a just and equitable society with a focus on addressing historical grievances of the marginalized people. Otherwise, the years of struggle of the SPLM/A as a liberation movement will end in the destruction of Sudan as witnessed in South Sudan.
In conclusion, the SPLM has abandoned its social and political agenda of liberty and prosperity and has succeeded in cementing ethnopolitical rules that are backed by tribal and communal stakeholders. Therefore, it is too late to consider the implementation of the concept of the New Sudan or the SPLM political transformation in the country. The system is conformed to ethnic politics and is controlled by neo-NCP political elites with no affinity for the cause of liberation and socio-economic development within the country. Most of the SPLM cadres who believed in the cause of liberation died, rebelled, or were marginalized by their colleagues.
Ironically, the FFC in Sudan has informally revived the call for New Sudan and the adaption of the SPLM social and political ideals of equitable distribution of power and wealth as the best means of rebuilding a new inclusive society in Sudan. Again, political maturity and nationalism in the absence of ethnic politics may help Sudan realize the emergence of the New Sudan sooner than South Sudan.
The author Kon K Madut is Part-time Professor with the University of Ottawa and a Civil Servant with the City of Ottawa municipal government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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