BIRTH OF SOUTH SUDAN REPUBLIC
The birth of South Sudan Republic after 22 years of uninterrupted civil war confirms the belief that repression cannot quench the popular will of an oppressed people for freedom. Happy birthday songs filled the air July 9, 2011, the day the five-year peace deal led to the liberation songs, thus ending Africa's longest independence war. South Sudan thus becomes Africa's 54th independent nation and 193rd member of the United Nations. South Sudan becomes the second country to obtain independence via a prolonged civil war, after Eritrea which broke away from Ethiopia in 1993.
This freedom birth was delivered at a huge cost: about two million people were killed in the process and over four million persons displaced and scattered in various neighbouring countries. This is not to mention the huge material losses. The lesson from these avoidable losses is that other African nations facing similar conditions, especially Nigeria, that once lost over one million persons to a similar 30-month civil war, should put their house in order.
The major causes of the Sudan war were ethnic rivalry, hidden agenda by the ruling class, selfishness, intolerance and attempt by one section to dominate the other. Trouble started shortly after Sudan's independence from Egypt and Britain in 1956 when the military officers from the south mutinied, sparking off a civil war. The south accused the north of backing out of an agreement to install a federal system of government and trying to impose Islamic Sharia and Arab identity on the young country.
The north is made up of mostly Muslims of Arab identity, while the south is made up of largely traditional religious Africans along with Christian populations. In a referendum early in the year, about 99 percent of people in southern Sudan, mainly blacks, voted overwhelmingly to be a separate country and to be free from the domination of the north, mainly of Arab Islamic stock. The turnout for the referendum was over 60 per cent of total population benchmark.
Indeed, Sudan is a good case study of how the popular will of a people, to resist oppression, ethnic or racial domination, sit-tight dictatorship and bad governance, cannot be conquered or extinguished, no matter the magnitude of brute violence or length of injustice. In 1983, the intermittent wars became a prolonged war when the Sudanese authorities, again, reneged and cancelled the earlier autonomy granted the south after the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement. Sadly, more than two million people have been killed in the bloody conflict that has ravaged the old Sudan for more than 50 years of its 54 years of independence.
However, beyond the euphoria of freedom, South Sudan authorities must be very careful in nursing the new baby to health and adulthood. Both sides of the divide must still see each other as neighbours and forget the scars of the old wounds for the peace and progress of both countries. The same oppression of social, political, religious and economic groups for which the South Sudan fought relentless wars should not be allowed to rear its ugly head within. This is to avoid distractive battles over the spoils of war of independence, which may further pauperize the people, already war weary.
The fact that the oil fields are located in South Sudan and the refineries and oil pipelines located in the old Sudan does not in any way mean that a healthy economic relationship cannot be worked out. After all, from Nigeria's ugly experience, oil resources alone do not constitute progress and development, unless well harnessed and not stolen. What should be top priority for the South Sudan authorities now is to embark on what Nigeria did in the 70s after emerging from its own war: reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation, the 3Rs. The global community should help in nursing the new baby to life.