The news broke out early this week that representatives of the government of Sudan and the rebels of The Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), have reached some tentative agreements that signal the possible end to the 19 years long civil war in that country.
The agreement that was brokered by the Kenyan president, Daniel Arap Moi has laid a broad basis of understanding in the most knotty issues involved in the Sudanese civil war, namely, the implementation of Sharia Islamic laws in the northern, Islamic half of the country, and the issue of autonomy and self-determination in the south.
It was similarly expected that the basis agreed in the Kenyan rounds of talks would be strengthened eventually by the two sides to the tragic war that has sapped the vitality of The Sudan over the past two de-cades.
As President Arap Moi stated during the agreement-signing ceremony in Nairobi, both the government and the rebels should use the present agreement to strengthen their resolve to bring an end to the division, hatred and hostilities that have been generated Kin the years of bloodletting in The Sudan, Africa’s largest country. Daily Trust shares these sentiments.
The Republic of Sudan is a uniquely important country in Africa because it is the country where two streams of African humanity, the Arab and Negroid, have come to confluence to produce a uniquely African mosaic which has unfortunately not been properly harnessed to advantageous fruition as a result of the problems that have their roots in the suspicions arising out of the long history of colonialism, the different cultural and religious traditions of the two halves of the country and, in recent times, the combustible addition of the emergence of The Sudan as an oil producing country.
The people in the North are overwhelmingly Muslim and their desire to live according to the tenets of Islam has seen the manipulation of Sharia laws by a succession of military regimes starting from the imposition of the so-called “September Laws”, under former President Gafar Nimeiri in the late 1980s.
On the other hand, colonialism did not create the basis for the integration of the mainly African ethnic groups of the southern part of The Sudan into the fabric of the new Sudanese nation, and the post-colonial state too failed to achieve that integration.
The fact that there was a preponderance of animist beliefs amongst these peoples made them a fertile ground for Christian missionary proselytisation which further deepened suspicion that can similarly be exploited by the emergent educated, Christianised elite in the south.
Yet warfare, famine and terrible suffering are not necessarily inevitable given the potent mix that Sudan is. A lot of imagination, statesmanship and a spirit of tolerance and accommodation was what has been deficient in the politics of North/South relationships in The Sudan over the years. It is a discovery of these virtues that we believe has been achieved this week in the talks and agreement reached in Kenya by the two sides to the Sudanese civil war.
An end to the civil war, and agreement on the issues around Sharia laws and self-determination, will liberate the initiative of the Sudanese people and help to trigger a major reconstruction project that all its peoples can participate in actively as free citizens of a multi-national country; a reconstruction that can now be financed by the newfound wealth in oil. A Sudan at peace with itself will teach very useful lessons to Africa and such multinational entities as Nigeria that are also grappling with the problems of North/South divide and suspicious rooted in religion. This is indeed most welcome news out of The Sudan.