South Sudan: A History of Political Domination - A Case of Self Determination, (Riek Machar)

South Sudan: A History of Political Domination - A Case of Self-Determination, (Riek Machar)



Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon
Chairman and Commander-in-Chief, SSIM/A.

Since the historic Nasir Declaration of August 28, 1991, the demand of the people of South Sudan for the right of self- determination, as a peaceful political resolution of the forty year war in the Sudan, has been a real challenging problem to Sudanese political forces and parties. The SSIM/A (formerly the SPLM/A-United) had been engaged in many peace initiatives with this present regime of the National Islamic Front (NIF) to find a solution to the conflict. Among these initiatives are: the Frankfurt Talks of January 25,1992; the Nigerian mediated Abuja Peace Talks of May/June 1992; the Nairobi May-June 1993 Talks and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) mediated Peace Talks , January 6th, 1994 through September 19, 1994. In these talks, the SSIM/A had demonstrated its commitment to the search for lasting and just peace in South Sudan and above all the SSIM/A had specifically underlined the right of self-determination for the people of South Sudan as the cornerstone for settlement that would meet their legitimate aspirations.

The people of South Sudan have been denied this right by the different regimes that ruled the Sudan since its constitution as a state. However, it is now imperative that peace shall prevail only when the people of South Sudan are acceded their inalienable right to self-determination.

On the other hand, although it is generally accepted that there is racial, religious, cultural, linguistic and historical diversity in the Sudan, these diversities have not been used to help enrich and consolidate the unity of the new state, but rather were used by the ruling Arab elites in the North to oppress, subjugate and exploit the people of South Sudan resulting in conflicts and wars.


To clarify the objective of the struggle of the people of South Sudan, it is important to go quickly over the colonial history of the South Sudan - the territorial unit claiming the right of self-determination.

Before the Turko-Egyptian invasion of 1821, the Sudan consisted of Kingdoms and tribal communities without modern forms of government as we have today. In other words, Sudan in its present boundaries did not exist.

The Turko-Egyptian occupation of 1821 was promoted by the expansionist ambitions of the Ottoman empire and its craving for wealth and markets. The main commodities of interest were slaves, gold, ivory and timber. South Sudan and her people became the main source of these commodities. The Turko - Egyptian and the North Sudanese collaborated in their raids against the South Sudan for slaves resulting in millions of South Sudanese people being taken into slavery in the Arab and new World.

Although the Turko - Egyptian rule lasted for a period of sixty years, it did not control all the Sudan. South Sudan in particular was not fully brought under the administration of the invading alien power. Similarly, the Mahdist administration of 1883 - 1898 did not succeed to impose its full authority on the whole of South Sudan.

The Belgians in 1892, advancing from the former Belgian Congo (now Zaire), captured Western Equatoria up to Mongalla and established the Lado Enclave as part of the Belgian Congo. During the same period(1892) the French led by Major Marchand occupied large parts of South Sudan (Bahr el Ghazal, Western Upper Nile up to Fashoda) and by 1896 they had established a firm administration in these areas. Another French expedition which started off in 1897 from Djibouti moving through Ethiopia and along the Baro and Sobat Rivers failed to link up with Fashoda expedition. The French had wanted to annex South Sudan to the French territories in West Africa. However, an international conflict developed between the British and the French over South Sudan commonly known as the Fashoda Incident.

Again, in 1898 the Sudan was re-conquered by a joint British and Egyptian forces resulting in the signing of the Condominium Agreement between the British and the Egyptian to administer the Sudan in its present boundaries.

In 1899 the British and the French concluded an agreement in Europe which made the French pull out of South Sudan handing over its portion of South Sudan to the same authorities who were already in control of North Sudan. A similar incident took place in 1910 when the Belgians withdrew from the Lado Enclave after an agreement was concluded in 1896 stipulating that the Enclave was to be handed over to the British after the death of King Leopold. The king died in 1910. The withdrawal of the French and Belgians from South Sudan ceded the territory to the British.


Owing to the geographical, political, historical and cultural differences between North and South Sudan, the British devised a system of a separate administration for the two countries. To guarantee the effectiveness of the separate administration policy the British passed the Closed Districts Ordinances of 1920s. In consolidation of this policy, the Passports and Permits Ordinance was promulgated in 1922. This ordinance required the use of passports and permits for travellers shuttling between the two countries of North and South Sudan. The permits were to specify the conditions and purposes of the visits. The Immigration Policy was further strengthened by the permits and trade order enacted in 1925. This law required North Sudanese to obtain permits to conduct trade in South Sudan. Finally, a Language Policy was developed and enforced in South Sudan in 1928. This policy adopted English as the official language for South Sudan and approved the use of the following local languages: Dinka, Bari, Nuer, Latuko, Shilluk and Zande. Arabic was categorically rejected as a language in South Sudan. The cumulative effect of the immigration and trade laws coupled with the language policy was to maintain South Sudan as a separate country from North Sudan. In fact, colonial governors from South Sudan used to attend regular administrative conferences in East Africa instead of Khartoum.

After the establishment of the Condominium rule, the British continued to consolidate its position in North Sudan by creating the necessary administrative and political structures for the state of North Sudan. In an effort to prepare the North Sudan for self-rule, the North Sudan Advisory Council Ordinance was enacted in 1943. The ordinance covered all the six North Sudan provinces: comprising of Khartoum, Kordofan, Darfur, Eastern, Northern and Blue Nile provinces. This council was empowered to advise the condominium authority on how to administer North Sudan in certain specific areas. Members of the Advisory Council were all North Sudanese. The ordinance had no application or relevance to the territory of South Sudan. Thus far, North and South Sudan were regarded as two separate countries colonised by the British and Egyptians.


Instead of establishing an advisory council for South Sudan similar to that of North Sudan, the resolutions of the Administrative Conference held in Khartoum in 1946 surprisingly advocated the colonisation of South by North Sudan. It must, however, be pointed out that the conference took the decision at the back of the people of South Sudan as they were not represented and because the conference was meant for administrators in North Sudan only, the British administrators in South Sudan did not attend. Consequently, this unexpected outcome revealed the conspiracy between the British and the North Sudanese supported by Egypt to hand over South Sudan to North Sudan as a colonial territory. Certainly, this plan provoked bitter reaction from the South Sudanese and their sympathisers.

The betrayal of South Sudan by the British was finally concluded in the infamous Juba conference of 1947. Precisely the conference was convened to inform the chiefs of South Sudan of the irreversible decision to hand over South Sudan to the new colonial masters from North Sudan. This unpalatable decision was crowned by the promulgation and establishment of the Sudan Legislative Assembly in 1948. Thirteen (13) delegates from South Sudan were handpicked and forced to represent South Sudan in the Assembly. The Cairo Agreement of 1953 was no exception to the rule. Once again, the colonial masters from Britain and North Sudan masquerading as representatives of national political parties with tacit support of the Egyptian government conspired to grant self-determination to the Sudan without the participation of South Sudan. The people of South Sudan were deliberately excluded on the pretext that they had no political parties or organizations. This was yet another ploy made by political parties of North Sudan to claim representation of South Sudan with the erroneous and unjustifable assumption that the Sudan is one country. Nevertheless, the people of South Sudan regard themselves as 'internally colonised people'. The deliberate hand over of South Sudan to North Sudan by the British was one of the greatest blunders ever made in the diplomacy of the British colonial history. If the British had felt that South Sudan was not yet ready to become an independent state by itself then, they should have either handed over its administration to an international body like the UN instead of North Sudan or should have left North Sudan get independence separately as they did with North Rhodesia. It is now up to the British to correct this serious error of judgement, that has cost millions of lives of the people of South Sudan, by supporting the call of the people of South Sudan for full independence.

POST COLONIAL ERA: North - South Relations

Independence for Sudan meant nothing for South Sudan but a change of masters as the North Sudanese took over the colonial state. The North Sudanese elites failed to evolve policies that would have consolidated national unity and stability. As a result, the Sudan has been plunged into continous state of political, constitutional, economic and military crisis till today. Various governments and regimes in Khartoum waged war and denied the South Sudanese equality, social justice, freedom and effective participation in the running of the State.

In brief, North - South relations since independence until now has been characterised by the following:-

-Political marginalization of the South through under representation, discrimination, and other restrictions that did not permit South Sudanese to occupy certain important constitutional posts.

-Deliberate retardation and neglect of socio - economic development of South Sudan as all socio-economic development projects are concentrated in North Sudan.

-Cultural subjugation through imposition of Arabic culture and Islamic values on the people of South Sudan in a deliberate attempt to destroy their African culture and heritage. The declaration of Sudan as an Islamic state by the present regime has relegated South Sudanese to third class citizens. This imposition of cultural and religious laws - Islamic sharia - is a negation of common citizenship which could be the basis of national unity, equality and social justice in a heterogenous state such as the Sudan.

-The crisis of national identity is a creation of North Sudan which defines the Sudanese identity in Arab and Islamic terms. The North political elites consider the Sudanese citizenship as a transition to full integration into the Arab identity. This undermines the right of the vast African majority to whose identity should be fully embodied in the character of the state.

-Abuse of fundamental human rights of South Sudanese people through the following practices:-

a.Decimation of the population of South Sudan through prosecution of war and perpetrating large scale massacres of innocent people by various North regimes:-

-Yei, Maridi and Kodok Massacres in 1964 were carried out by the regime of Abboud.

-Juba, Wau, Torit, Warajwok, Bor, Akobo Massacres in 1965 were carried out by Mohammed Ahmed Mahgoub government.

-Dhaein Massacre 1987/88 in which 3,000 South Sudanese were killed by government militias and police.

-Wau Massacre in 1987 in which more than 100 people were killed by government army.

-Jebelien Massacre in 1989/90 in which more than 2000 South Sudanese were killed by government militia.

b.Indiscriminate bombing and raiding of civil population centres leading to massive displacement of people from their homes. Already there are over 3 million South Sudanese in the North living under sub- human conditions in the outskirts of Khartoum and other major cities in the North.

c.Denial of basic human needs and use of food as a weapon for conversion into Islamic religion.

d.Forced Islamization and Arabization of the educational system in the South with the aim to kill indigenous languages and cultures to accentuate Islamic and Arabic dominance.

e.Political executions, detentions without trials and disappearance of South Sudanese in the government controlled towns.

f. Reviving of slavery and slave trade during this war.

The enumerated violations and pratices are true evidences of the failure of the two parts to co-exist and live harmoniously as a nation. As matter of fact, it is the people of the South who are the victims of this tragic situation. Attempts made in the past with the successive regimes that came to power in Khartoum to find a durable solution to the problem of South Sudan all ended in failure. Even the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 which brought relative peace and stability to the South was unilaterally abrogated by General Numeiri in 1983 returning the Sudan to war.


On the basis of the facts stated above, it is obvious that the Sudan has been at war with itself for the last forty years. This state of affairs if allowed to continue would work to the detriment of the people of the Sudan in both North and South, and could have negative consequences on regional peace and stability. It is our strong belief that the only way forward in the resolution of this conflict and the attainment of just and lasting peace is to allow the people of South Sudan to freely exercise their inalienable and democratic right to self- determination through an internationally supervised referendum.


In this connection, it would be recalled that a major breakthrough was made between the SSIM/A (formerly SPLM/A-United) and the NIF government, particularly in the Frankfurt Talks of January 25, 1995 and in the Nairobi Talks of May 1993, where the NIF regime conceded referendum to people of South Sudan. Yet, we are concerned by the fact that the same NIF regime has respected neither the agreed issues in the Frankfurt nor Nairobi Talks. This intransigent attitude, if maintained by the regime, will not bring to an end this tragic chapter of war, suffering and hopelessness in the Sudan.

Historically, the other Sudanese political parties, namely:- the Umma Party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the National Islamic Front and the Communist Party have been against acceding to the people of South Sudan their inalienabe right to self-determination. However, since the historic Nasir Declaration of August 28, 1991 some of these parties started to make public pronouncement about self-determination. Since 1983, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has been fighting South Sudanese groups that called for the right of self-determination for the people of South Sudan. This was epitomised in the bitter wars the SPLM/A waged against the Anyanya II 'separatist' from 1983 to 1991 and against the Nasir faction of the SPLM/A since 1991. Despite the hostility of the SPLM/A against SSIM/A, the SPLM/A reluctantly recognised the right of self-determination in Abuja I Peace Talks , the Washington Declaration and Common Agenda for IGADD Peace Talks. The Communist Party of the Sudan has been discussing the principle for sometime but with no commitment to its implementation. The Umma Party has made a move to recognising self-determination as stated in Sayyed Sadiq el Mahdi Discussion Paper of 10 November 1993 and reinforced in the Chukudum Agreement beween the Umma and the SPLM/SPLA. In addition, all the Sudanese opposition political parties that met in Bonn recognised this principle, except the DUP which inserted a reservation. Although, the DUP has consistently stood against the right of self- determination for people of South Sudan but it recognized the principle at subsequent meetings in Asmara .

Internationally, the right of self-determination for people of South Sudan has gained credence and has been recognised as a basic human right as well as a democratic principle for resolving conflicts by Pan-African 7th Congress in Kampala, April 3-9, 1994 and IGADD in its Declaration of Principles (DOP). It is now imperative that the demand of the people of South Sudan for exercise of their inalienable right to self- determination has gain substantial grounds in the Sudan, regionally in Africa as well as internationally and therefore cannot be anymore ignored .

Thus, should the NIF government and the other North Sudanese political forces concede to the people of South Sudan the exercise of the right to self-determination in an internationally supervised referendum then the following issues could be discussed:-

a.Cessation of hostilities and cease-fire;
b.Details of the conduct of the referendum;
c. The length of the interim period;
d. The status of the South during the interim period; and
e. Security arrangements during the interim period.
.Nasir Declaration: Why Garang must go now?, August 28, 1991.
.Frankfurt Statement, January 25, 1992.
.Sudanese Peace conference, Abuja I, Communique 26th May 1992.
.Nairobi Peace Talks 25 May 1993, Joint Communique.
.Common Agenda for IGADD Peace Talks, 6 January 1994.
.IGADD Declaration of Principles, 20 May 1994.
.SSIM/A Manifesto.
.SSIM/A Constitution.
.SSIM/A Charter.
.SSIM/A Programme of Action.
.SSIM/A Convention:- Resolutions on Political Issues.
.Unification of the SPLM factions peace delegations in Abuja 1992.
.Washington Declaration, October 22, 1993.
.Umma Party on Self-Determination in the Sudan - a Discussion Paper, 10 November 1993.
.Political Agreement between the Umma Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) on Transitional Arrangements and self-determination, Chukudum, December 12, 1994.
.Resolutions on Bonn Conference by Sudanese Opposition Parties and Movements, June 26-28, 1994.
.Declaration of Political Agreement, Asmara, 27 December 1994.
.Conference of the National Democratic Alliance on Fundamental Issues, Asmara, June 1995.
.Establishment of a Pan African Commission on the right of self-determination in Africa.
.South Sudan: The Struggle of the people for their inalienable right of self- determination, 13 July 1995.
.SSIM/A Position on Interim Arrangements for ending the war.


From: (Ben Parker) Date: 19 Nov 95 08:51:28 +0300 Subject: document Message-Id: