Conflict in The Sudan: A Revolutionary Pan Africanist View (PART II)

David Mafabi is a Senior Presidential Advisor/Special Duties at State House
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As we said elsewhere in the week, how far back in time should we go – in order to better understand the current armed standoff in the Sudan (Khartoum)? To the Sudan which is mentioned in all books of antiquity? To the 12th Pharaonic Dynasty in Egypt – which was black and Sudanese?
We have decided to share highlights of our paper on the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) – which we presented to a Pan African meeting in Kampala in February 1998. This is our entry point to the current conversation. It provides another backdrop to comprehending the current situation in Khartoum.
… the SPLM/SPLA is most decidedly not a freak, incidental or inconsequential factor in the Sudanese body politic. It has emerged as a major player, actor and driving force in the search for a national democratic consensus, of a just and permanent peace …
Conversely, the SPLM/SPLA cannot be understood without an appreciation of the overall reality within which it emerged, has existed and developed. To the extent that the SPLM/SPLA is a microcosm of the overall Sudanese reality – to that extent that reality has imparted inescapable fault lines into the SPLM/SPLA …
Our task, in all, can only be to mark pointers and indicators of main and general directions of development – given past and present reality. To attempt to do more, would to be extremely presumptuous.

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In presenting this short overview, we run the risk of being accused of of partiality, of presenting an SPLM/SPLA-centric view of the Sudanese problem. This could very well be the case – for how can one live 12 years in the middle of a war and not be passionate about the issues or influenced one way or other? That said, is there a middle ground between justice and injustice? Objectivity would not necessarily be compromised – for truth is after all, concrete.
The Sudan has been at war with itself for 31 out of its 42 (February 1998) years of independence.The ‘first war’ – the Anyanya war – lasted 17 years: from the Torit mutiny of 1955 (shortly before independence), to the Addis Ababa Agreement . It was during this period when the phrase and concept of ‘the Southern problem’ gained currency.
The Southern Sudanese elite then translated the immediate causes of the Torit mutiny (perceived racial intolerance, discrimination, conditions and terms of public service, etc) into a program of secession and independence for Southern Sudan. The ‘Arab – jalaba or mundukuru’ was the ‘enemy’.
Before the advent to power of Jaafar Muhammad Nimeiri in 1969, the only serious attempt to deliver a political settlement of the conflict came in the wake of the intifada (popular uprising) of 1964/1965, and the institution of the so-called 12 Man Committee – to look into ways and means of achieving a ‘just and permanent peace’. Elections and the short premiership of Sadiq el Mahdi and his Umma (the people) party, scuttled this process.
It was left to Nimeiri and his Sudan Socialist Union to propose a solution of regional autonomy for the South. The Anyanya signed for ‘peace’, and Gen. Joseph Lagu became head of the regional Government in Juba, and a Vice President of the central Government in Khartoum. About half of the Anyanya fighters were absorbed into the Sudan Army – including the younger people like John Garang de Mabior and Salva Kiir Mayardit.

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Unfortunately, the much celebrated ‘peace’ of 1972 turned out to be but a brief respite from war. On 16th May 1983, Battalions 104 and 105 of the Sudan Army – commanded by Majors Kerubino Kwanyin Bol and William Nyuon Bany – rebelled in separate incidents in Bor, Ayod, and Pachalla in Upper Nile Province of Southern Sudan. Col. Dr. John Garang de Mabior – who had been one of the leaders quietly planning and and coordinating preparations for the new revolt, moved South from Khartoum to take command in the bush. Capt. Salva Kiir Mayardit, from the Intelligence Corps of the Sudan Army, was part of the leadership. The new war – prosecuted by the SPLM/SPLA – had began.
The program of the SPLM/SPLA in 1983, was fundamentally different from that of Anyanya I and Anyanya II.
The SPLM/SPLA – as reflected in their 1983 Manifesto – did not see the problem as a problem of Southern Sudan. The problem was that on an entire system of the ‘Old Sudan’ – a neo-colonial Sudan of unequal development, where British colonialism had a practiced a policy of divide and rule and thereby set the stage for post-colonial conflict. It was a Sudan where a ‘northern bourgeoisified elite’ and ‘southern bourgeoisiefied elite’ colluded to preside over the disenfranchisement, marginalization and oppression of ordinary Sudanese (Arab and African, Muslim and Christian alike).
The SPLM/SPLA saw the traditional political parties in the North – particularly the Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party – as sectarian, with all committed to building theocratic Islamic states in one form or other. The Umma Party was based on the Ansar religious sect – with roots in the Mahdist movement of the 19th Century. The DUP was based on the Khatimiyya religious sect, and closely allied to Egypt.
The National Islamic Front or Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwana al-Muslimin) of Dr. Hassan el Turabi was unabashedly and openly committed to building an Islamic state in the Sudan. According to the SPLM/SPLA in 1983, these were part of the problem.
As for the Sudan Communist Party (SCP), this was urban and Northern centered, and had failed to take into account the need for mobilizing the peasant and pastoral majority in the North and South, for fundamental change.
The Strategy of the SPLM/SPLA in 1983, was to build a National Liberation Movement – galvanizing all in North and South in the creation of a New, United, Democratic and Secular Sudan. The Movement had started in the South for historical reasons. The task was to transform the ‘reactionary Southern movement for secession’, into a critical component for an all embracing National Liberation Movement.”
Next week we conclude this conversation.
David Mafabi
Senior Presidential Advisor/Political Affairs (Special Duties)
State House
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