South of Sudan and the coming referendum: it’s time for Northerners to show some respect

By ABDULKHALIG ALHASSAN

Unless a miracle happens, the definite secession of the South of Sudan will take place in less than a month, on January 8, and the current Sudan will never be the same. It is going to be one of saddest moments in the history of ‘modern’ Sudan and an alarming sign for possible national break-ups in many other regions of Africa. However, what is going to happen is not too hard to predict for anyone with some knowledge of modern Sudanese history.  The failure of the post-colonial state  to come up with a sustainable development model and a multicultural system, stem from the reality that Sudan is multi-ethnic, but with no real history of peaceful co-existence. The national governments of the past half a century, exclusively came from the North, and have a long history of prejudices against the other ethnicities and cultures. As a Northerner, and despite the emotional attachment that I feel towards the old Sudan, I find it very hard to regret what may happen in January, not because I have run out of patriotism, but because I believe that a home that failed in making all its people feel part of the nation and feel a sense of belonging doesn’t deserve to survive.

The current moaning and bitterness, even the outrage from diverse groups of intellectual Northerners is very understandable, especially from those who are opposed to the Islamic regime, but they too lack sensitivity to the plight of Southerners and other ethnic groups. The blatant fact is that they belong to the mainstream culture, the culture that has denied the Southerners and the rest of the Sudanese people an equal citizenship and excluded them from development and progress. The enormous concerns that characterised most of their articles about how the Southerners are going to run their new state, and as well as their scepticism is unjustifiable, and is proof that we northerners have yet to get rid of our arrogance that for ages, has dominated, our relationship with the people of the South. To my knowledge, there is no evidence that the new state will be worse than the region in which the people have been treated as second-class citizens in the united Sudan.  It doesn’t matter in what shape we wrapped up these views of ours in many articles that we have published, not matter how sympathetic or well intentioned we have been to the people of the south,  what really matter now is that we accept the result of the referendum. I have no doubts that respect, support and trust are the things that the Southerners expect from their friends in the North.

However, all this doesn’t mean that things will be all right, or that the break-away is going to work and that all obstacles in the way to success will instantly disappear. But, we Northerners do need to show some faith in the people of the South and avoid those attitudes of superiority that rendered us self-righteous even when we had the best of intentions.

Realistically, political failure is very common in Africa. We should not be surprised if the new state failed to match its people’s expectations. Tribalism, corruption and ethnic prejudices won’t go away as if by magic. However, it is too early to judge a not yet born state, and it would not be fair to do so now, especially by those who once had the chance to save their country from falling apart and failed to do so.

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