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Self-Determination: A Solution to the Sudan Problem Sam L. Laki Central State University, Ohio South Sudan is different from North Sudan in nearly every aspectethnicity , culture, history, religion and geography. It was misguided for the British colonial administration, under pressure from Egypt, North Sudan, and Britain, to annex South Sudan to North Sudan arbitrarily. Since Sudan's independence from Britain in 1956, the people of South Sudan have been subjected to racial, social, and religious discrimination. They have been relegated to second-class citizenry in their own country. North Sudan's sectarian parties have a vision of the country deeply rooted in sharia (Islamic) law, and correspondingly have pursued vigorously the policy of Islamicization and Arabization of South Sudan. The current National Islamic Front (NIF) government of Lt. General Omer El Bashir brags openly of its success in the application of the sharia law that has brought misery and immense suffering to the African population of Sudan. It is my contention that future changes of leadership in Khartoum will not bring any improvement to the conditions of the people of South Sudan. I would like to make it clear at the outset that the 'Sudan problem' is unique and has no comparison or similarity whatsoever with any local, regional or national problem in any African country. Precolonial Period The people of North Sudan are Muslims who lay claim to some form of Arab descent, and the South Sudanese are Africans who practice their own African beliefs mixed with Christianity. The diverse population speaks 400 different languages. This ethnic, religious, and racial mixture has been the root cause of the identity crises in Sudan.©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 3, No. 2 (New Series) 1996, pp. 7-20 8 Sam L. Laki Before the advent of the Anglo-Egyptian colonial era in 1898, the Arabs and Africans lived apart with nothing in common. The TurcoEgyptian administration (Turkiyya), from 1820-1881, and the Mahdi administration (Mahdiyya), from 1881-1898, never attained any measure of control over South Sudan. South Sudan remained a theater of war between the intruders and the indigenous populations. The legacy of the notorious slave trade poisoned the relationship between the people of South Sudan and North Sudan to an extent that the relationship between the Arabs and Africans had been characterized by hatred and violence. The Arabs plundered South Sudan looking for ivory and slaves. It is fair to say that the only contact the two peoples had was through the slave trade, when the North Sudanese Arabs made many incursions into South Sudan in search of loot and people to enslave. North Sudanese retainers and slave traders pillaged and disrupted life in South Sudan. This invasion of South Sudanese territory by the Arabs was conducted with the tacit approval of the Islamic leadership. It suffices to say that the Sudan is an artificial creation of Britain, Egypt and elites of North Sudan. The people of South Sudan have never been a party to it. The Condominium Period The British colonial policy was to foster Islamic culture in North Sudan and indigenous African culture in South Sudan. Keeping the two nationalities separate was an honest recognition by the British of the distinct difference in culture, religion, peoples and geography. The 1918 closed districts and passports ordinances sealed off South Sudan from Arab influence until the reversal of the "Southern policy" in 1947. The governor-general, Sir Harold McMichael, was responsible for the institution of the "Southern Policy," meant to keep the Africans separate from the North Sudanese. This policy had been designed to close South Sudan from the external Arab influence with the ostensible intention of preserving indigenous African customs, traditions and beliefs. The policy was a total failure because the Anglo-Egyptian colonial administration also never engaged itself in any form of social, political, or economic development of South Sudan. Self-Determination: A Solution to the Sudan Problem 9 As mentioned above, North Sudanese claim Arab ancestry and identify with Arab culture, and South Sudanese have African ancestry and identify with African culture. The distinct difference between the African Sudanese and the Arabs has given birth to the "nationality question" at the core of...


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