By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 31st January 2019
In his speech, during the signing of the Khartoum Declaration in Sudan a little over a week, SPLM/A-IO leader Dr Riek Machar said the Agreement will build confidence between Sudan and South Sudan and normalize the relations between the two countries.
“…the fact that north Sudan can assist South Sudan to become peaceful and stable and can assist South Sudan to revitalize its economy…it’s something that we cherish…. [the agreement] will also open the way for implementation of 2012 nine mutual agreements after independence of South Sudan…If at all our relations had been a little bit rocky, this agreement will normalize the relations between the two Sudans—which means our people will live happily…It is going to be an agreement that will integrate us…” said Dr Machar.
President Salva Kiir’s government, as well as other South Sudanese in the various political and civil society groups, have also time and again echoed the importance of normalization of relations between the two Countries.
Indeed despite the painful history of betrayals and long decades of deadly conflicts, both South Sudan and Sudan still have a lot in common—in terms of trade, a very long border of nearly 2000 Kilometers, cultures, history, and many more. South Sudan’s most important source of revenue, the oil, pass to the market through Sudan. It is absolutely necessary that there are normal relations between the two countries.
Dr John Garang would say “Sometimes it is necessary to go back in order to gain momentum in order to go forward…That is why you see sheep, you see rams moving backward first when they fight. They gain momentum before they lock horns…We very much need to do this exercise in the Sudan. To go back thousands of years so as to rediscover ourselves. Gain momentum and then move forward with the momentum of 5,000 years to propel ourselves and snatch ourselves into history once again. And we have a very long history indeed. Peoples and kingdoms have lived, thrived and disappeared in the geographical area that constitutes the present modern Sudan.”
Though Dr Garang was speaking in 2005 during the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA in Nairobi, the arguments he raised remain valid and we in both South Sudan and Sudan can still apply to move our two independent Countries forward. South Sudan also should be able to contribute for a just peace in Sudan and put an end to the political crisis and armed conflict between the northern rebels and the Sudanese government.
It was just due to egos and lack of a clear vision that the leaders of SPLM in the South and NCP in the North failed to rise above their ideological differences and bitter history of conflict. They failed to utilize available opportunities for reconciliation between themselves and the people of the two Countries after decades of bitter civil wars and even after the secession of the South.
The current normalization of relations being talked about should be based on mutual benefits and respect of the sovereignty of each Country. No country should be able to support a war in the other. The normalization of relations should not be a deceit or blackmail of any side. South Sudan leaders should never accept to become pawns (puppets).
It is however very important for our people in South Sudan to understand that, practically, bringing peace to a divisive, war-torn country is very expensive. Apart from the blood we all know our people have shed, there are other costs for bringing peace. These may include making hard compromises such as paying different forms of direct or indirect incentives. That is how the world today works. Should we pay a little incentive and be able to attain some sort of peace so that our entire suffering population and the displaced millions be in a position to once again pick up their lives and prepare their children for the future? Or should we go on fighting, losing more resources and fellow humans in war, insecurity throughout the Country including the capital Juba? And several others also die because of hunger and of the poor health systems which are all results of bad governance coupled with economic crises created by the same war? Think about that!
Indeed our people shed blood for several decades to get the CPA we had, and our independence which we attained in 2011, after sustained support to both processes by Igad Countries and the international community. But it was not just referendum and the results thereof that let to our prompt recognition as a sovereign nation by several countries and the world shortly after. Yes, many countries supported us and were sympathetic to our suffering and years of struggle. But in some cases, there were a lot more about that.
Anyway, I’m not saying our leaders should be allowed to throwing away our sovereignty and resources. I’m only saying, practically, there are costs for us to pay in order to attain peace now. But that cost should be reasonable, affordable and should never be a source of threat to the future of our children and the next generations. It is our collective duty to ensure our leaders do not go out of that line
In conclusion, let me say, in fact, not just normalizing relations with Sudan is necessary, South Sudan needs to come up with clear foreign policy that represents the interests of its people and one that shall be able to promote beyond our borders the ideals of freedom, democracy, economic empowerment, mutual cooperation and respect, and all which, several decades ago, prompted our struggle against oppression and indignity.
South Sudan should be able to contribute to the benefit of its citizens and the unity and growth of our friends in the region, the African continent and the World. And certainly, all of that requires normalization of relations with our neighbours and old friends near and far who have fallen out with us for one reason or the other, including due to our people’s inhumane, brutish, barbaric, criminal actions which continue to shock the world since 2013.