Saturday, November 15, 2008

SPLM: The Wisdom of Celebrating Obama’s Victory or Rather the Lack of it

By John A. Akec

It was reported that the president of African National Congress (ANC- Sudan) and a former vice president of Sudan, Kongoor Arop, once told an angry gathering of South Sudanese parties opposed to SPLM that: "We cannot fight a woman carrying a baby at her back!."

Here the former Sudan’s vice president was referring to SPLM (Sudan People Libration Movement) as the woman. The baby referred to destiny of South Sudan and other marginalized areas of Sudan. Many South Sudanese, me included, would applaud Mr. Kongoor for his very nationalistic stand. And indeed, it is what SPLM will do in the next three years that will determine whether South Sudan will sink under oppression or attain its freedom (be it as an independent nation or free and prosperous region in a united Sudan). Yet, when the baby-carrying-woman (SPLM) wonders off the save path, there is a cause for concern least the life of the baby be jeopardized by any kind of misadventure.

Often times, innocent political gestures or decisions taken by a ruling party can have significant impact on the political interests of the people it represents. Most recently, the electoral victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential elections has taken the world by storm, all for different reasons. The Kenyan government immediately declared a public day of celebration. SPLM is also preparing to "celebrate" Obama’s victory.

OK, Kenya is rejoicing because Barack Obama’s father is a Kenyan by origin. However, if one might ask: what is SPLM celebrating? Will election of Barack Obama of African linage translate into better South Sudan – US relationships? Will President-elect Obama give better support to CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) than was provided by Republican administration under Bush? Which US administration in history has ever given serious attention or shown such interest to stop Sudan’s bloody wars? What signal is SPLM sending out to the Republicans who stood firmly with them and people of South Sudan until CPA was signed? Which administration has ever opened the door of the White House to the people of South Sudan than the outgoing Bush administration?

For most of us, as far as South Sudan is concerned, the answers to above questions are likely to negative, even pessimistic. The ineffectiveness of the Clinton administration to bring peace in Sudan is a case is well documented (refer to the attached blog article).

President Clinton in most part had maintained a hand-off approach to Sudan conflict. His Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright once said: "Sudan war is not viable." During his time, Al Qaeda was founded and fared. His actions in most parts were nothing but knee-jerk reactions such as missile strike of Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum in August 1998 as retaliation to bombing of two US embassies in East Africa that year. That action did nothing to promote the cause of peace and freedom in Sudan but only added fuel to the fire of anti-Americanism without serving any purpose.

With this abysmal Democratic record in view, the author fears that the coming Obama administration will be nothing but Clinton 2, courtesy of Obama. Besides, celebrating Obama’s victory could be construed by the Republicans as celebrating their defeat. This portrays South Sudanese as ungrateful and opportunistic lot, lacking any moral principle. This is what embracing a new president and shedding no tears for Republican party who did so much for South Sudan would mean.

My article need not be understood as being anti-Democratic party or the election of Barack Obama. It shows that the American people could not be hostages to the racial dogmas of the era gone by that judged a man by the colour of his skin and not by what he can do. It is a fulfillment of the prophetic speech of Martin Luther King at the step of Lincoln Memorial in Washing DC in August 1968 ("I have a Dream") in which he said:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

From this vintage, Obama’s electoral victory is well deserved for his magnetic character that is 100% American, his charisma, and his vision for America and the world. For a common man and woman, this is a victory for humanity that was brought about by the American people who have now silenced every doubting Thomas. Barck Obama is no lesser white than being black. He is foremost a human being regardless of other superficial considerations.

For SPLM party to appear as neutral in US’s political, it makes no sense for the party to "celebrate" Obama’s victory. I would rather suggest we (in South Sudan, SPLM included) hold our breath and fast until we get a clear sign that president-elect Barack Obama is not Clinton 2 and is going to give the same level of attention to and interest in the future of South Sudan and Darfur as the Bush administration did, or better.

And until that happens, it is wiser just to congratulate Obama and not "celebrate" his victory.
John A. Akec
Attached related blog article:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Democrat's Gain in US Mid-Term Elections Could be South Sudan's and Darfur's Loss

By John A. AkecLondon, UKAs a democrat and socialist by inclination, you may think I was going to dance at the news of the recent control of both the Senate and House of Representatives by Democratic majority following the US mid-term elections on November 7, 2006. Nothing could be further from truth. In fact, I am very concerned that the good days of handshake by Sudan opposition leaders with the US president in the Oval Office could soon be numbered.
I have every good reason to mourn the Republican loss in recent mid-term elections. I like their decisive, black-and-white approach to issues. Only a Republican administration could have appointed Sudan US peace Envoy (Senator John Danforth), pass a stronger version of Sudan Peace Act, pressure SPLM and the government of Sudan to conclude Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Kenya in January 2005, call Darfur war a genocide, and push for AU and UN intervention in Darfur.In contrast, countless fellow South Sudanese, author included, witnessed with absolute dismay how our people suffered in wilderness of Clinton era.
The Democratic administration under President Bill Clinton maintained a hand-off approach to Sudan civil war. During that period, Khartoum became the global centre for Islamic fundamentalism, and a training camp for terrorists - all targeting American foreign policy and interests, and declaring Jihad war on marginalized people of Sudan in the South, East, and West. Khartoum’s contempt of the US was manifested in hosting of Osama Bin Laden between 1991 and 1996, playing a role in first attempt to blow up World Trade Centre in New York in February 1993, the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (a committed US ally in the region) in Addis Ababa on June 25 1995, and the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar Al Salaam (Tanzania) in June 1998.
As far as the problem of war in Sudan was concerned, the US interest to get involved in ending the war under Democrats did not go further than setting up expert testimonies and hearings within subcommittees for East African Affairs in the State Department. Sudan civil war was never an issue that concerned the Congress to merit a serious debate on the floor of any of two chambers. The efforts by Carter Centre for Peace to mediate between Sudan warring parties were neither effective nor influential to commit the Clinton administration to play a more active role to end genocide in Southern Sudan and bring about a lasting peace.Vain threats and feeble attempts to frighten Khartoum regime with economic sanctions and missile strike on Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in August 1998 as a retaliation for Sudan's role in the bombing of US embassies did nothing but emboldened the Nationalist Islamic Front (NIF) regime in Khartoum to adopt a more hostile and extreme anti-western and anti-American posture, and to invite Bin Laden to pitch his training tents for his followers outside Sudan capital, Khartoum. Moreover Bin Laden was able as to fund commercial enterprises in Sudan that helped greatly to boost his financial muscle that allowed him to expand his Al Qaeda organisation.
Madeleine Albright, who served as the Secretary of State under president Bill Clinton was very reluctant to commit America to bring peace in Sudan. She was famously quoted saying: "Sudan war is not viable." It goes without saying that Secretary Albright did make a number of controversial statements, not just on Sudan political problems, but on many international issues, some of which she later came to regret and describe as "stupid." This was Albright's own word, not this author's.
The lack of interest to get involved to end African ethnically fuelled wars was in stark contrast to the more active role played by the Clinton administration to intervene alongside NATO in ethnic wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina that pitted Muslim Bosniaks and Croats against Christian Orthodox Serbs between 1992 and 1995. The US took a similar stand in war between Serbs and Albanian Muslims in Kosovo between 1996 and 1999. All the efforts eventually led to the break up of Yugoslavia and creation of new independent states.The role of the US under President Bill Clinton to end genocide against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, the US involvement to end sectarian violence in Northern Island (the ancestral home of president Clinton) that resulted in signing of Good Friday Agreement in Belfast on April 10, 1998; and his lack of interest to aid the repressed Africans in Sudan are hard to reconcile.
Nowhere is this lack of will to get American hand dirty in Africa apparent than when Clinton ordered withdrawal of US forces in Somalia when 18 US soldiers were killed in an ambush by Somali warlord in October 1993, leaving the country to degenerate into anarchy. Compare that to the number of American servicemen dying in Iraq since 2005 while the US forces continue keep security in that challenging country. What conclusion do you come up with? Was it because Somalia was not viable? Or is it that Bush is made of a different metal? Tell me if you have a reasonable explanation.
Although as a youngster, I grew to view Western conservative governments of all flavours with suspicion and regarded them as anti-immigration, anti-social justice, and anti-black. I was attracted to Western socialist parties because, in theory, they stood for social justice, equal opportunity for all, equitable distribution of national wealth, and global economic fairness. After living in the West for decade and a half, I have seen little evidence to believe that this always the case. Whether in the government, or outside the government, socialist ideals seem to make little difference, if any, when it comes to the kind of geopolitics that has continued to discriminate against Africa. African problems seem to be the last thing on everyone’s mind. Democrats too, are guilty, and very guilty.
The United Nations, being the hotchpotch of sovereign states has been often been bogged down in debilitating divisions amongst its members to be able to intervene in timely fashion to help the repressed groups within states. What goes in the UN is basically that of "you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours. UN has proved not to be an effective world policeman and a restorer of stolen rights.Furthermore, "old" Europe is addicted to constructive engagement that maintains the status quo - good or bad.
In Africa, it is open secret that there is a unanimous consensus that colonial boundaries between sovereign states must be respected at any cost. They must be preserved like Catholic marriages - where divorce is not an option under any circumstances. That whatever evil that goes on within those 'sovereign states' it ought not be anyone's business.All above has left a great gap in the world for a powerful and just arbiter to correct the sins of grave injustices such as cruelty of man to man. It therefore begs a huge moral question whether or not America as the sole superpower should intervene and settle issues of injustice or break a political stalemate such as Sudan wars.
The Republicans administration under president George W. Bush Jr. seems to have done just that. Bush vowed that he was going to fight alongside those who wanted to be free. He used American might to intervene in Iraq. Like the biblical good Samaritan, George W. Bush promised during his first inauguration speech that he would not pass by if he sees a victim of injustice fallen by the way side.And true to his word, President George W. Bush tried his very best to do the right thing and paid the high political price. He bullied the strong to give to the weak.
By sending more Democrats to the Congress, America is signalling to Bush administration to pull out of Iraq and to slow down his interventionist policies elsewhere.It is worth reminding ourselves that United States Congress is comprised of two chambers: the House of Representatives, made up of 435 elected members, and the Senate formed of 100 elected senators. All directly elected. As the result of recent elections, Democrats now control a majority of 229 seats, while the Republicans control 196 seats. In the Senate, Democrats have 51 seats, and the Republicans hold 49. This seems like a small difference, but it is very significant.As prime legislative body, a Democrats controlled Congress has powers to pass new law or block new bills from being passed into law. It also has powers to block presidential decisions on home affairs and can initiate investigation or probe into previous decisions by the White House as it sees fit. Foreign policy is still largely the responsibility of the president and the State Department.
The president is also empowered to veto certain decisions against Congress' will. Hence, all is not lost. It is not as if president George W. Bush, the liberator of people of Iraq, South Sudan, and Darfur, is dead and gone. But, it does mean that our liberator is now highly constrained in what he can or cannot do. It also does mean South Sudanese and people of Darfur will now face very uncertain future and should strive to make the most of Bush’s commitment and sympathy while he is still around. As a democratic country that America is, people's decisions must be respected.
The American people have spoken: no more freebies for the oppressed and marginalized people of the world. Let us therefore accept their decision ungrudgingly. At the same time, let us be ready to face the law of unintended consequences, be it good or bad.