Southern Sudan Anti Slavery Referendum faces resistance by AU dictators by Prof. Muse Tegegne
The 2005 Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreementt (CPA) ignited  the long awaited vision  to self-determination in the  Greater Horn of  Africa subgegated and colonially divided people of Africa. CPA  is hope and victory against slavery and religious extremism in Africa. The southerners  have been victims of an abolished slavery in 21 first century. They merit to determine their future in their own hands. They are not fighting for self determination only but also for the eradication of slavery from the last bastion of the institution in Sudan.

Though slavery never completely died out in Sudan, there has been a relatively recent upsurge in slave-taking that has its roots in Islam. According to John Eibner, an historian and human rights specialist writing in Middle East Quarterly:

Sudan is the only place where chattel slavery is not just surviving but experiencing a great revival. This renascence of the slave trade began in the mid-1980s and resulted directly from an upsurge of Islamism in Sudan at that time, and especially from the Islamist emphasis on the renewal of jihad. After gaining the upper-hand inKhartoum by about 1983, the Islamists’ immediate goal was to transform the multi-ethnic, multi-religious population of Sudan into an Arab-dominated Muslim state, and to do so through jihad. Under Turabi‘s powerful influence, the ruler of the time, Ja‘far an-Numayri, declared himself to be (sounding like a caliph of old), the “rightly guided” leader of an Islamic state.”

As Kampala hosts the African Union (AU) summit the question remains: Is Africa neutral with regard to the unity of the Sudan? AU chairman Jean Ping put it clearly during Africa Day last May, with due respect to the outcome of the coming referendum, that AU favours ‘making unity attractive,’ and cautioned against possible southern Sudan independence in 2011.

CPA weakened many  dictators who   are  submitted to the international justice led by the International Criminal Court (ICC) through some international pressures by organiztions line Genocide Watch   giving hope to  regions of post colonial countries of  scrambled continent a hope of self-determination  though referendum.

International pressures took place in some channels after the ICCIndictment and the issuing of the arrest warrants against Omar al Bashir, the leader of the dictatorial regime in Sudan and some gangs in the Darfur Rebels who committed war crimes in the western region of Darfur. Soon Ethiopian  and another dictators will follow having regions fighting and claiming self determination.  Somaliland would be the next candidate for international recognition to put a silver lining to find a lasting solution of Somalia.

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The AU believed that the  southern secession would set a dangerous precedent for Africa. This position was expressed by many African leaders, particularly by Idris Deby of Chad and Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea  after assuring his  own independence in 1991.  The  Group of African Ambassadors at the United Nations held a meeting last month at the AU mission in New York, in the presence of the panel’s chairman, Thabo Mbeki, and called upon the Sudanese people to benefit from the historic experiments and dedicate efforts to bolstering unity through a strong support from Africa.

The Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement consists of the Machakos Protocol, the Power Sharing, the Wealth Sharing, the Resolution of the Abyei Conflict, the Resolution of the Conflict in the two States of Southern Kurdufan and Blue Nile, the Security Arrangements, the Permanent Ceasefire and Security Arrangements Implementation Modalities and Appendices, and the Implementation Modalities and Global Implementation Matrix and Appendices.

CPA will voile for the first time the  historical position  which is is not in any way circumstantial but and in retrospect, a rather a systematic and principled position that streamlines and concords with that of the founding fathers of OAU, for whom the inviolability of states boundaries remained an article of faith. This was manifestly reflected in their firm rejection of almost all secessions bids in Africa in Nigeria, Congo, Somalia or elsewhere.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by  the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, the Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA) and Ali Osman Mohammed Taha, First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan.

Slave girl and boys

Many African leaders on behalf of the Intergovernmental Authority of Development (IGAD) witnessed it with other representatives of the regional authority. The other witnesses from the area included representative of the League of Arab States and the Chairman of the African Union and the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Au leaders had accepted in 1964  though mindful of the artificial frontiers drawn by imperialist powers, meant to divide the peoples of Africa, our founding fathers were keen to deny the colonialists a chance to reap any fruit for their divide and conquer policy; by denying secessionists legitimacy.

However, if secession is to prevail, and the post-referendum negotiations have started, let us concur on appropriate benchmarks and measures that would guarantee a peaceful transition. At the same time, try to draw a roadmap for an understanding that would pave the way for a near future reunification.

Representatives from the international political powers included the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Special Envoy of the Netherlands, the Norwegian Minister of International Development, the British Secretary of State for International Development, the United States Secretary of State, the Representative of the European Union.

Paradoxically, Malik Agar, the deputy chairman of the SPLM and the governor of the Blue Nile State, was fiercely attacked and incriminated recently for being true to the CPA, calling for the unity of the Sudan. Indeed there is widely held concern that secession shall make the south more susceptible to yet more violence or even further secessions. Relations between and within communities and regions in the south remained strained by competition for natural resources such as water, grazing land as well as by cattle raiding, local power rivalries and disputes.

Southern  Independence is not  what the Khartoum government is  definitely  aspires for. The government, while dauntlessly launching a massive campaign for unity of the Sudan, affirms now and again that the decision of the southern Sudanese people will be respected regardless of the outcome of the 2011 referendum. Simply applying cost-benefit analysis in the current circumstances indicates that unity remains at its worst scenario a lesser evil. Sudanese unity is not beyond repair; let us agree on new viable institutional formula that may keep unity intact for the sake of Sudan and Africa at large.

by Prof. Muse Tegegne

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Omar al-Bashir, fresh off press crackdown in Sudan, defies ICC in visit to Chad

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir today flew to Chad on his first visit to a full member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) since his arrest warrant was issued. He left amid a severe crackdown on press freedoms at home.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir (r.) shakes hands with First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit as he prepares to leave for Chad, in Khartoum July 21. Chad said on Wednesday it would not arrest al-Bashir who arrived in the country for his first visit to a full member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) since his arrest warrant was issued. Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh/Reuters

By Rebecca Hamilton, Contributor / July 21, 2010

Khartoum, Sudan

Buoyed by a win in the disputed Sudan election in April, President Omar Al Bashir continues to thumb his nose to critics at home and abroad, jailing journalists and challenging an arrest warrant for war crimes and genocide.

Mr. Bashir today flew to neighboring Chad on his first visit to a state member of the International Criminal Court since he was indicted in March 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC ruled July 12 that Bashir is now also wanted on genocide charges. The ICC has requested that any member, including Chad, arrest Bashir upon arrival in the country.

His controversial visit comes a week after his government handed prison sentences to three Sudanese journalists for writing articles that suggested Bashir lacks popular support and that a Sudanese factory is making weapons for Iran and Hamas.

The prison terms, which range from two to five years, are the latest development in a crackdown on local media that began after Sudan’s national elections.

The crackdown is a stark turnaround from Bashir’s decision in September 2009 to lift the government’s pre-publication censorship of newspapers. The decree was a small concession to Western pressure to create free and fair conditions for Sudan’s first democratic election in 24 years.

But Bashir’s victory in the April polls, after most major opposition parties boycotted the vote, gave his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) almost total control over the institutions of the state, and the new government rapidly moved to shut down several newspapers.

On July 6, the government resumed pre-publication censorship across the board, limiting freedom of expression beyond what it was before the pre-election period.

Bashir emboldened

The three recently jailed journalists all worked for Rai al-Shaab, a newspaper of the opposition People’s Congress Party (PCP). Two weeks after Bashir’s election, the government’s ubiquitous internal security agents arrived at the newspaper’s office in Khartoum, arrested four journalists, and shut down the paper. The next day they arrested PCP leader Hassan al Turabi, who was imprisoned for 45 days before being released without charge.

Mr. Turabi says he was surprised by the government’s actions. “I thought they would want to appear democratic for a while – at least to put on a show for the West,” he says.

A few days later, pre-publication censorship resumed on three other papers. As the squeeze on opposition voices tightened, it became clear that the ruling regime had no concern about keeping up appearances.

“Immediately since they came back to power, they believe they cannot be touched,” says Salih Mahmoud Osman, a human rights lawyer and member of the Sudanese Communist Party. Mr. Osman believes that the international community’s acceptance of the election results, despite the admission that they were flawed, has emboldened the regime.

Operating under adversity

Other newspapers have been given a choice to either remove sensitive content or cease publication.

The computer room of the Sudanese Communist Party’s Al Midan newspaper is a veritable hive of activity for a paper out of circulation for more than a month. On June 6, security agents demanded the right to censor Al Midan’s work before they sent it to the printing press. Al Midan’s editor refused, citing the freedom of expression guarantees in Sudan’s internationally sponsored Interim Constitution.

But with security agents stationed at the printing press, he could not get his paper published. Since then, Al Midan journalists have continued to come up with a paper three times a week. Each time, they send it to the printing press, and each time it gets sent back. But they are finding other ways to get their message out.

Using a dusty old printer, the Al Midan staff produce 15 black-and-white copies, which they staple together and distribute to civil society groups in the area. And they are also managing to publish on the web. While the government sometimes blocks their website, journalist Mohamed Al Fadih says that the government’s web censorship is “not very sophisticated.” There is a bigger constraint looming, however. With no actual paper to sell, there is no money for staff salaries.

The latest wave of censorship also targets newspapers that are not affiliated to a political party.

“It’s really very serious. We don’t know when they will close us down,” says Alfred Taban, editor of the Khartoum Monitor, which was also placed under pre-publication censorship this month.

With 50 staff to pay, Mr. Taban has not accepted the effective ban that would result if he refused the censors. So each night, at about 8 p.m., security agents come to the Khartoum Monitor office, demanding to see the next day’s copy and removing whatever they don’t like. Mostly the journalists scramble to replace the prohibited articles with less sensitive material or with photographs.

Some nights, the need for a small act of defiance wins out, and the journalists leave half a page empty, “to show our readers we are under censorship,” Taban says.

All in the name of unity

Before the elections, journalists say that the government’s main “red lines” were the publication of articles on the International Criminal Court’s case against the Sudanese president, and on the conflict in Darfur. Now though, the government has a bigger concern – the unity of the Sudanese state.

In January next year, the people of southern Sudan will have a referendum on whether they want to become an independent nation. The right to self-determination was granted to southerners in a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the NCP and the main southern political party, the SPLM. In theory, both parties were supposed to spend the six years until the referendum making unity an attractive option. In practice, neither have done so, and there is a widespread belief that next year’s vote will see Sudan split in two.

Mariam Sadiq Al Mahdi, spokesperson for the opposition Umma Party, says the NCP cannot afford secession for two reasons. The first is the ensuing loss of resource-rich southern land. “The government budget is more than 60 percent dependent on oil, mainly from the south,” she says.

Second would be the historical stigma on Bashir’s government: “They took over a unified country and then it was divided under their rule.” At the eleventh hour, the NCP is trying desperately shift course – less by actually making unity attractive to southerners, and more by repressing anyone who speaks of secession.

Ministry of Information advisor Rabie Abdul Atti says that it was journalists who forced the government to resume pre-publication censorship, by writing articles in favor of secession. With just six months until the referendum, what matters now is unity.

“Secessionist views,” he says, “are against the Constitution … the government will not allow anyone to act against the constitution, or make trouble for the Sudan.”

According to Dr. Atti, articles about the ICC or Darfur are no longer a serious concern for the government. Apparently, it’s also of no concern to ICC member state Chad. The mayor of the capital, N’djamena, presented Bashir with a key to the city upon his arrival today.

This article was supported by funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


By Prof. Muse Tegegne

Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change & Liberation in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Americas. He has obtained Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva. A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies. He wrote on the problematic of the Horn of Africa extensively. And Lecture at Mobile University..

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