Many Sudanese people – even the so called political thinkers and intellectuals – blame Sudan’s failure as a state on the myriad of ethnicities that inhabit it. If you care enough to hear out this preposterous blaming game, they all eventually end up blaming the British and their divide and concur tactics. Well, the British wanted to concur, is there a way of morally concurring a nation? There isn’t.
Almost 60 years on, you still get the occasional “Sudan Expert” – usually a Northern Sudanese – claiming to have found the solution to Sudan’s problems. And nine times out of ten that solution would be for us to “embrace” our differences. I’m sure, ever since Sudan’s independence this solution would have been proposed on a daily basis.
Recognizing the ethnicity issue as a cause for all the tumult is good. But blaming the country’s consistent failures on it is inexcusable. A variety of ethnicities with conflicting demands is certainly not unique to Sudan, which is uncommon belief among most Sudanese. We constantly think that we are the only country in the world with conflicting ethnic groups. But we’re not. We’re not even the only one in the region, let alone the world.
Nigeria, for example, is more or less divided into three regions with dominant tribes. There are the Hausa in the north, the Igbo in the east, and the Yoruba in the west. All these tribes have sub-tribes. Nigeria being the most populated country in Africa has done a very impressive job in establishing a pseudo-democracy given the number of tribes that it accommodates.
Rwanda is another example. Rwanda’s current stability should make every Sudanese feel ashamed of our failure to contain our differences. Not only does Rwanda have conflicting ethnic groups, but the dominant Hutu waged an all out extermination of the Tutsi minority. After the atrocities of 1994, the Rwandan government has managed to establish a functioning system of governance and a stable economy under the patriarchal leadership of Paul Kagame.
It is self evident from Sudan’s history that the ethnicity issue was never made a priority. Not one president or prime minister has ever made a veritable effort to address the people’s differences. It seems that this was the case because, technically, the only people to have voiced their concerns and taken up arms in the early years of independence were the southerners; a bold move which was seen as audacious from the ever so chauvinistic north.
So when the southerners first formed a rebel army back in 1955, it was viewed as mutiny. The Sudanese government’s reaction was not much different from the reactions of the current Arab despots slaughtering their people. It seems the decision makers at the time thought the southerners didn’t have the right to demand their rights. Which is exactly what happened in Darfur, and South Kurdofan.
There are many reason to why the northerners think they are superior to everyone else; colour, religion, race, education and the like. The putative intellectual superiority of the north should now be called into question and scrutinized. Mainly because if the educated few can’t link armed rebellions with demands for rights and equal share of governance then who can?
So ethnicity is not the issue, it’s our leaders. They have a tendency to be incompetent. They have a tendency to deny minorities their rights, their freedoms and sometimes their modest existence. So no, I do not buy this hypothesis of embracing our differences in order to make our co-existence plausible, because that will help no one. What might help is if our government fully recognizes every region as significant in its own way from a political point of view; we can leave the emotional bonding for a later time.