By Dr. James Okuk
Quote: “Nations need dreams, goals they seek in common, within which the smaller dreams of individuals can guide their personal lives.”(Ford Foundation, 1991).
June 1, 2010 (SSNA) — What is “Secession”? It is a formal withdrawal from an organization, state, or alliance. For example, the withdrawal from the Union of 11 Southern States in 1860 – 1861 that led to the formation of the Confederacy and the beginning of the Civil War in the USA until resolved by a federalist constitution that gave supreme power to the union of American people rather than to the state (See Encarta Dictionary).
And what is “Independence”? It is freedom from dependence on or control by another person, organization, or state. For example, after 30 years of Eritrean War of Independence (1 September 1961 – 24 May 1991) the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) defeated the Ethiopian forces and then declared their independence by referendum that took place thereafter in April 1993 (See Wikipedia).
I. How do these apply to the case of Southern Sudan in the context of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005? It applies trickily because of Machiavellianism played by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) commanders with their rival politicians of the Umma Party (UP), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and the National Congress Party (NCP) who changed guards at the Gordon Republican Palace in Khartoum during the eruption of civil war in the South and the resultant peace-talks.
Where is then the trick hereafter? It is in the confusion of the use of the terms “Secession” and “Independence” when mingled in both common and legal jargons. Legally “Independence” is a ‘closed-case’ accompanied by national sovereignty and international diplomatic recognition, while “Secession” is an ‘open-case’ susceptible to different manipulations of what can be interpreted and made out of it.
After declaration of any “Secession”, the following practical question comes up: Now that you have decided to secede, what kind of rule do you want for your seceded territorial jurisdiction? This implies that “Secession” usually ends up in “Federation” or “Confederation” or new “War-of-Independence” that uses fresh tactics of military victory, accompanied with politico-diplomatic negotiations for a new strategic deal of full autonomy and sovereignty. World History is rich of such kind of options (e.g., the USA experience, etc.).
The option of “War-of-Independence” out of “Secession” is what Southern Sudan might end up with, comes 2011. Despite the deceptive and malicious or ignorant songs of ‘peace-and-freedom’ chanted by both the SPLM/A and NCP/NIF leaders daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, the full revelation of truth will come up at the CPA ‘end-road’. That is, the “Secession” of Southern Sudan through a referendum might not end up with peaceful “Independence”. Please remember this projectional hypothesis even if I might not live to see the light of the dignified South Sudan in near or far future!
Why am I tempted to predict this option and create an alertive tone for it? Because the law does not have mercy on fools or ignorant people who act outside or in defiance to what has been codified and stipulated in constitutions, acts, statutes and precedents for obligatory execution. Reading and reflecting critically on The Interim National Constitution of the Republic of the Sudan (2005) – including CPA text), The Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan (2005) and The Southern Sudan Referendum Act (2009), I can sense the shock that shall be encountered at 11:59 hour when conformation comes up that the referendum for self-determination of the people of Southern Sudan has nothing to do with “Independence”. It shall be confirmed that the (YES) or (NO) questionnaire circles in the referendum ballot papers should only have “Unity” and “Secession” terminologies as the offered options.
Thus the circumstance shall be different from the Eritrean case (I will detail this below). Even President Isaias Afewerki has called on Southerners to remain united with the North! (See his message when he attended the inauguration ceremony of President Al-Basir, 27/05/2010). But why did he do this? May be because of spree of corruption and injustice in the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and in the SPLM/A, or perhaps he knows that the “Secession” mentioned in the CPA and other legal documents does not necessarily qualifies for “Independence” of South Sudan as a result of the 2011 referendum. You can also deduce some suspicion in the way Southern Sudan political parties were refused registration in the Sudan Political Parties Affairs Council (PPAC) and certification from the Sudan National Elections Commission (NEC), pending amendments of phrase “Independence of South Sudan” mentioned in their mission statements.
II. What am I trying to make out of this alert? I want to emphasize on the point that if the victory of the 2011 referendum ended up with confirmation of “Unity” of the Sudan, then there shall never be much tedious legal post-referendum battles. The unionists, at the top of which sits the Government of National Unity, shall say with utmost joy: Bravo and congratulations to Southerners for accepting “unity of government” with the Northerners!!!
Nevertheless, if the result became “Secession”, there the separatists shall stand straight and worried, while rolling up their sleeves for demonstrating tough fists of anger from the last minutes shock from red-cards lifted up by the gentlemen who knew the hidden unity’s tricks of the CPA in Machakos/Naivasha’s negotiation halls. The ‘Square-One’ that the CPA partners have been avoiding to jump in, might become the easiest short-cut to resort to. But under whose leadership shall the “War-of-Independence” takes place? Will it be Mr Salva Kiir, Dr Riek Machar, Mr Wani Igga, Mr Pagan Amum or Mrs Rebecca Nyandeng? A nightmarish to Southerners; indeed!
Already the chief law-maker of the Sudan, Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir, on his re-election speech as the Speaker, vowed that his National Legislative Assembly (with about 75% of the NCP legislators) shall never be neutral on “Independence” of South Sudan because the country must remain united whether by thick or thin. Also President Omer Ahmed Hassan Al-Bashir pledged in his swearing-in ceremony that he shall ensure that the referendum for Southern Sudan takes place within the scheduled time (Inshallah- by God’s Will?) but with unity of the Sudan as the only desirable outcome. Not only this, but also one of the think-tanks of the NCP/NIF and a national legislator, Dr. Ghutbi El-Mahdi, hinted in the Sudan-TV discussion forum that the referendum shall only be about “Secession” and “Unity” options but not “Independence” of Southern Sudan. What a revelation!
A critical question poses itself here: What is the utility of “Secession” if it is only for “Unity” of the Sudan in different colours (be it “Confederation” as proposed by SPLM Deputy Chairman and Mr. Governor, Malik Agar with his 100% stand with unity, or “Federation” as proposed by Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi in 1998 before he parted ways with President Al-Bashir and his NCP)? Are Southerners fit to secede so that they remain united with the North by proxy? This is very funny but it portrays how comical the CPA show is. No wonder! That is why you see the SPLM/A and NCP/NIF quarreling and re-negotiating the CPA from time to time, and creating sideline deals to pass time.
III. Let’s state what the laws says exactly about the referendum for self-determination, but indicating the loopholes dug by the SPLM/A and NCP/NIF Machiavellians to let the separatists fell off the tipping cliff of CPA’s pending troubles, especially when the force of time expose the duplicity.
1. Articles 219, 222 & 220 of the Interim National Constitution: The people of Southern Sudan have the right to self-determination through a referendum to determine their future status (Article 219). A Southern Sudan Referendum Act shall be promulgated by the National Legislature at the beginning of the third year of the Interim Period [Article (220)(1)]. The Presidency of the Republic of the Sudan shall, as soon as the Southern Sudan Referendum Act is issued, establish the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission [Article (220)(2)]. Six months before the end of the six-year interim period, there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, for the people of Southern Sudan organized by Southern Sudan Referendum Commission in cooperation with National Government and Government of Southern Sudan [Article (222)(1)]. The people of Southern Sudan shall either:- (a) confirm unity of the Sudan by voting to sustain the system of government established under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and this Constitution, or (b) vote for secession [Article (222)(2)]. This is excellent but…!
Evaluation #1: The sub-articles No (2) and (b) above are vague and fit the general criterion that requires the constitutions to be written in a vague language so that the constitutional judges and lawyers can have a work to do; the interpretation and verdicts. But what work will the Sudanese constitutional judges do here? Shall it be a dirty work or a clean one in regard to interpretation and verdict on “Secession” of Southern Sudan, for example? Evaluate what those judges did regarding the objections raised during April 2010 elections process and you can tell which work they will do? Anyway, don’t worry about this! I will later tell you why you shouldn’t.
The sub-articles No (a) says it in a legal slyness that the referendum vote shall only be about sustaining the system of government established by virtue of the CPA and the constitutional dictates, the consequence of which shall be unity of the Sudan. The sub-articles No (b) remains silent on what follows if the majority choice becomes “Secession”. It is not even indicated that the “Secession” will be from what? We may just assume it as “Secession” from Northern Sudan but the law we have consulted does not say so decisively. Remember the cliché: Be Legal; Be Safe!
2.Article 9, 10 & 11 of the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan: [Article (9)(1)] reads exactly like article (219) of the Interim National Constitution. Any Southern Sudanese who has attained the age of eighteen shall have the right to vote in the referendum [Article (9)(2)]. For purposes of the referendum in sub-Article (1) above, a Southern Sudanese is: (a) any person whose either parent or grandparent is or was a member of any of the indigenous communities existing in Southern Sudan before or on January 1, 1956; or whose ancestry can be traced through agnatic or male line to any one of the ethnic communities of Southern Sudan as in Schedule G herein; or (b) any person who has been permanently residing or whose mother and/or father or any grandparent have been permanently residing in Southern Sudan as of January 1, 1956 [Article (9)(3)]. Articles 10(1), (10)(2) & (11)(1) read exactly like articles (220)(1) & (220)(2) of the Interim National Constitution except for the term “issued” changed with the term “promulgated”. The people of Southern Sudan, voting on a single ballot and by majority vote, shall either:- (a) confirm unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; or (b) vote for secession[Article (11)(2)].