Saturday, 15 September 2012

A stretch of choices or another form of contestation in northcentral Africa*

Despite the increasingly grave level in the rise of tension between the Sudan and the South Sudan over a mutually acceptable borderline demarcation between the two states, it should be stressed that it is not inevitable that another war is the way forward to settle this dispute. The South Sudan has signed the November 2011 “border roadmap”, drawn through African Union mediation, but the Sudan still refuses to endorse this document, arguing that “to do this (sic) could prejudice final settlement negotiations on the subject”.

But the Sudan must now know that it cannot destroy the independence and sovereign rights of the South Sudan despite several decades of war and the resultant catastrophic death tally of 2.5 million people, mostly South Sudanese. The eventual, most painful success of the South Sudan resistance, since 1955, has been an historic boon to African determination to halt the agelong expansionism of the Arabo-imperium in this pivotal strategic region of the continent. Furthermore, with its 98 per cent “yes” vote in last year’s referendum to free itself from the Sudan, the South Sudan has decisively shaken the foundation of that seemingly ossified architecture of the “Berlin state” in post-(European)conquest Africa of which the Sudan, pointedly and ironically, is the “first to be run” by “African” management. Few now doubt that, thanks to the landmark decision in this referendum, the “Berlin state” in Africa is, at long last, in free fall. Current frenetic developments on this score in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa underline the deep yearnings of the peoples to now begin to construct and transform their own states and societies, themselves, based on the precepts of their respective aspirations and worldviews. We are invariably on the eve of a dazzling age of African social transmutation. As I have argued severally,[1] the “Berlin state” in Africa is the bane of African existence and progress. This state is at once genocidal and immanently anti-African. Since the cataclysmic 1966-1970 Igbo genocide, it has murdered 12 million additional Africans in further genocide in Rwanda, Darfur (west of the Sudan – continuing), Nuba Mountains (south of the Sudan – continuing), South Kordofan (south of the Sudan – continuing) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ongoing), and in other wars across the continent.

The Sudan has been at varying shades of devastating war and crippling immiseration since 1955. It is from this background of staggering brutalisation that the Republic of the South Sudan emerged! Surely, the peoples of the Sudan and the South Sudan deserve life’s immense choices for freedom, peace, and productive possibilities. Or don’t they?

For the regime in Khartoum, particularly, there are indeed other arenas of contestation with its southern neighbour, which it had probably never thought of, instead of planning for yet more campaigns of certain death and deprivation. The Juba administration, for its own part, must no longer allow itself to be boxed in a quagmire of indefinite conflict with the Sudan that only further impoverishes its people. Instead, both states can embark on the following track of competition which will mark a charging break from the past. The timeframe for this contest is five years – 2012-2017. It will be monitored by a team of African-centred scholars which starts work right away and the results will be published in October 2017.

The rule for the contest, with the content and scope many would probably adjudge as too modest,[2] is simple and straightforward: which of these two states – the South Sudan or the Sudan will achieve the following set of goals by 15 September 2017:

1. 100 quality primary and secondary schools with excellent world-standard curriculum content, equipment, staff and study environment

2. One university of worldwide standard, attracting staff and students from across the region and world

3. 1000 apprenticeship opportunities to study at excellent technical schools, producing a skilled workforce of electricians, builders, plumbers and mechanics

4. Pave 1000 kilometres of well-constructed road linking towns and cities

5. Engage 1000 new farmers in agricultural work, providing technical and financial support 

6. 100 quality primary health care centres with excellent facilities, equipment and medicine 

7. Fifty per cent of the population have access to clean pipe-borne water

8. Fifty per cent of population have access to power 24 hours a day, seven days a week

9. Fifty per cent of young people, 18-25, have access to small-scale loans to start business ventures

10. Fifty per cent of women have access to small-scale loans to start business ventures

Now, Both – Get Set! Ready: Go!

*I wish to thank Dr Okwuonicha Nzegwu for her contribution to this commentary

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

[1]See, for instance, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011).
[2]It is well to reflect that if every African “leadership” which has been in power since the so-called restoration of independence on 1 January 1956 (in the Sudan!) has envisioned and achieved this track of objectives enumerated here during just five years in office, African post-conquest recovery and transformation, presently, would be second to none.  

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