Monday, September 13, 2010

To Confederate or not to Confederate is a Matter of Strategy

By John A. Akec

Success in anything, in my view, is determined by getting our goals right from the outset and then adopting the best strategy we can muster in order to attain the goals. Get any of the two elements wrong, and we are doomed to failure.

Strategy is loosely defined as a means to a goal. It is not an end in itself. To get to a goal, one needs to devise a winning strategy and then employ best feasible tactics that operationalize the planned strategy. Oftentimes, the uncanny fails to the see the distinction between strategy, tactics, and goal. Tragically still, mistaking a strategy for a goal or deploying the wrong strategy to pursue a goal is still very commonplace.

This partly explains the recent negative reaction in quite significant quarters in South Sudan to the proposal by a number of political commentators and later AU mediators that SPLM and NCP should consider tabling confederation as one of post referendum options in the bipartisan negotiations on post-referendum arrangements. According to such misconceived views, confederation equals unity and therefore equals bondage. And in the like manner, they try to make us believe that secession equals freedom. And this, in essence is confusing a strategy with the goal.

Those who know the history of the struggle of the people of South Sudan will recall how hundreds of combatants needlessly lost their lives when fight broke out in 1983 in Bilpham in Ethiopia between the forces of "separation" and forces of "unity" in the SPLM and Anya Nya II, as we were told later. Looking back in retrospect, it should be abundantly clear that the bloody confrontation was really a power struggle dressed up in form of differences over goals and strategies.

So what is the goal of the struggle of people of South Sudan? The goal was and still is for South Sudanese to live in their own country as free citizens with equal rights and dignity as the rest of Sudanese. One of the quotations attributed to Fr. Saturnino Lohure, one of founders of Anya Movement in Southern Sudan, goes as follows:

" The South has no intention of separating from the North, for had that been the case nothing on earth would have prevented the demand for separation. The South will at any moment separate from the North if and when the North so decides, directly or indirectly, through political, social and economic subjection of the South" – 1958 speech in the occasion of opening of Sudan second Parliament.

Reading Fr. Saturnino correctly, I would like to argue that the goal of the struggle waged by the South is to achieve a reasonable level of political, social, and economic equality with North Sudan, and not secession as such. Secession is one of strategies adopted by the protracted struggle to achieve freedom.

Put in another way, the goal is to have a country where no one is discriminated against on the basis of religion, tribe, ethnicity, or social standing. The goal, in the words of Dr. John Garang, is to have Sudan "where no body is above me, and I am above nobody." And if I must borrow the Afro-American expression, it is basically a Sudan "where nobody is gona carry nobody!"

Give me such a Sudan, and I will see no reason to wage war on anyone nor do I see need for seeking to break away. This is not to say we have attained such a Sudan of equality.

While we may disagree and fight over the best strategies and tactics that will enable us to achieve our goal of being free citizens with full dignity; it remains that unity, separation, independence, confederation, and similar terminologies that fill our daily political vocabulary are nothing but means to an end: freedom. They are not goals in themselves. Some strategies are better than others. Some strategies are winning, others are self-defeating.

Believing that all political activists worth their salt and who currently fill our political scene are genuinely fighting to advance the noble cause of liberating ourselves from yoke of oppression, each according to how they perceive it, would it not be more constructive if we were to see our differences of opinion in the right perspective, as opposed to resorting to derogatory categorisations that are patronising as they wrongly portray the arguments as those of 'heroes' versus 'traitors'; 'mentally liberated versus mentally enslaved'; or light heartedly if you prefer: as 'monks versus demons'?

Such dichotomies are divisive and block all the avenues to creative thinking and constructive dialogue as we examine the post-referendum options which South Sudan can pursue if the outcome of scheduled referendum in 2011 is secession. This is because it is the most likely outcome, gauging the current mood of the South.

And because no two countries are exactly the same, every people must chart their way to a free future by crafting winning strategies that are drawn from their very unique geopolitical environment and the political landscape on which the battle for freedom is waged. Namely, the terrain determines the type of weaponry and ammunition deployed at the front.

And while we may agree that voting for secession is one of the smartest choices South Sudan can make in January 2011, we may differ over what course of action that follows the secession vote. And here is the departure from the conventional thinking.

For South to really protect its interests (economic, political, and social), it can enter into strategic partnership with the North in form of renewable confederation between two sovereign states. What falls under confederal government and what goes under sovereign will be the subject of further debate and deliberations, provided we all agree in principle that confederation following a successful secession vote is a smart strategy for the South. Some of my previous suggestions included a rotating presidency, fighting crime, monetary union, open border trade. The rights of citizens of the South and North include freedom of movement, settlement, ownership, and employment in the two sovereign states. Institutions of high education such as universities can also come under confederation for example in the next 10 years and be reviewed after 5 years.

One of great advantages of confederation is that it will allow for a smoother transition for the South to build its institutions on solid ground without the distractions of social and economic upheavals it may find itself in should it opt for immediate severing of all political and economic links with the North. It will also appease the unionists in the North and South as it leaves the door ajar for future reunification of Sudan on voluntary and new basis if and when the peoples of the two confedral states feel ready for it. While ceasing full control of its oil resources, South should render a good share of its oil revenues to the North (this is cheaper and smarter way than spending billions of dollars on expensive arm race in order to fight or scare the North!).

This article cannot close without pointing out that South Sudan, if it really aims to be free in the right sense of the word, should desist from temptation of paying the North, its perceived oppressor, with same coin. Such approach will blind the South from identifying its interests (or mutual interests with the North to be specific).

Besides, politics of hate and vendetta has never been and will never be the tools of a successful liberation struggle to which we all aspire. All successful liberation struggles do acknowledge and condemn the evils of the repression (past or current) without the slightest reservation, and fight to transform this oppressive reality into free and more humane future for all concerned without any exceptions.

This should be the guiding ideology for South Sudan in all its quests to redeem itself from current and past oppressive reality.


  • This article hits home with me, considering all the issues we have had to faced in the struggles against the yoke of Islamic regime. Only a blind southerner who is being thrown crumbs on the table of Bashir would refute everything said in this article. Otherwise It is truth point blank! God bless you Dr. Akec for being so blunt when it comes to facts and truth. This makes me a fan for life!

    By Blogger Whispers, At 12:03 PM  

  • This article hits home with me, considering all the issues we have had to faced in the struggles against the yoke of Islamic regime. Only a blind southerner who is being thrown crumbs on the table of Bashir would refute everything said in this article. Otherwise It is truth point blank! God bless you Dr. Akec for being so blunt when it comes to facts and truth. This makes me a fan for life!

    By Blogger Whispers, At 12:05 PM  

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