Volume 1 Number 8
01 April 1988

Since independence from Britain and Egypt 32 years ago, Sudan has seen violence and discrimination between racial and religious groups. This has invited harsh military dictatorships and further deepened the rifts between the Sudanese people.

Sudan is the largest country in northeast Africa, covering nearly one million square miles - an area as large as central and southern Europe put together and ten times the size of the United Kingdom. It is bounded by eight countries: Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Zaire, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea.

Sudan is home to 21 million people, some of whom have mixed African and Arab blood and live in the north of the country, while those in the south are black Africans with no Arab ancestry. The Northerners regard themselves as Arabs and Muslims and the Southerners regard themselves as black Africans and followers of traditional religions and Christianity.

Since independence from Britain and Egypt 32 years ago, Sudan has seen violence and discrimination between racial and religious groups. This has invited harsh military dictatorships and further deepened the rifts between the Sudanese people.

In the media today, Northern politicians are accusing Southerners of being `stooges of Western imperialists and dangerous propagators of communism'. In turn, Southern politicians accuse Northerners of being `Arab racists who use Islam to gain more power and privileges, while suppressing the majority of non-Muslim Africans'. In fact, both sides have employed sharp words which have generated bitterness and enmity. They have used racial and religious differences to gratify their craving for political power, something no less dangerous than trying to impose borrowed foreign ideologies on the reluctant Sudanese population.

Dare to admit
One sometimes wishes for the chance of a frank talk with these politicians - Northerners and Southerners alike. Our habit of shifting the blame for all our ills on our former colonial masters, even three decades after their departure, is unjust and dishonest.

The time has come to re-examine our style of politics. It may not be unstatesmanlike to laugh at ourselves once in a while. If we dare to admit our mistakes and failures publicly, this may help us to see more clearly where others have been either right or mistaken. Coupled with an honest apology to those who have been wronged, acceptance of our failures could produce miracles in our politically difficult situation. Just solutions to many of our problems could follow.

Our eight neighbouring countries are currently facing similar problems - racial, religious and ideological conflicts. A Sudan whose politics were inspired by specific moral standards of honesty and unselfishness would be an example which could be emulated by many nations around the world. Powerful countries like America and Russia, whose leaders are making every effort to avert a nuclear catastrophe, would be forced to take note of us.

As a Muslim and a Southerner, I feel utterly ashamed of the misrepresentation of Islam by some of our Muslim leaders, who often put on an air of superiority towards non-Muslims as well as non-Arabs. A Muslim who rejects their view that 'Arabism and Islam are two sides of a very thin coin' is branded as `not a true Muslim'.

But Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, once said to the Arab Muslims: 'An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, and a white is not superior to a black. Best among you is the most devout in Islam. Verily, you are all from Adam and Adam is from dust.' Discrimination against non-Arabs and non Muslims is therefore against the teachings of true Islam.

Having talked frankly about these problems, it is only fair that I talk about my own wrong-doing. I had an implacable hatred against Northerners for looking upon me and my people in the south as uncivilized and inferior. Every time a Northerner reminded me of being the son of abid (slave), I swore to take revenge on all Northerners, regardless of their differing views on the southern Sudan problem. My feelings towards them were like that of a poor worker towards a capitalist.

My encounter with Moral Re-Armament brought a change in my attitude. It helped me realize that I was wrong to judge the Sudanese people on the basis of race, religion and colour. That would only complicate matters and create more disunity and fragmentation for Sudan. So I decided to stop and apologize for my part. This freed me to fight even harder for the rights of all Sudanese, regardless of race, tribe, religion or sex. I found my new role more challenging and revolutionary than the previous one.

Warring camps
Sudan, some people say, has already been liberated from colonial rule. In this context, liberation means the replacement of foreign rulers by native rulers. But I think that in its wider sense liberation includes freedom from poverty, hunger and disease. It also means freedom from sectarian ideologists who use religion, race and tribe to gain political power, dividing the people into warring camps in the process. Sudan still needs this kind of liberation. Without it, violence and instability will continue and lives will be lost, as has been the case since we gained independence in 1956.

But I believe that there is still hope for a liberated, fear-free and hate-free Sudan. A Sudan where people of different races, nationalities and religions can live in coexistence.

Sirr Anai Kelueljang is Editor-in-Chief of 'Heritage', an English language weekly in Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan. Under the previous military regime (1969 -85) he was imprisoned four times without trial for his outspoken articles.

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