Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sudan: The war of fiction

In 1884, in the Berlin Conference, the Europeans decided to set off for Africa. Which in the mid 1800's was considered a land ripe for violation - they, of course, used the terms trade, exploration and settlement. In arrogant rhetoric, the Europeans considered Africa a "disputed territory".

This disputed territory was "disputed" because it didn't belong to any of the prominent countries at the time; and because it didn't have any squiggly lines encompassing a name of a country written in Times New Roman font. And so the rampage began.

Africa was divided between seven European countries. The conquest of Africa was done in an astronomically condescending fashion, with no regard to local customs, culture or belief systems. The locals were tamed forcefully and financially.

Britain got Sudan, and unfortunately for them, Sudan was complicated. They found a medley of remnants of old civilizations and religious conquests, local tribes and seasonal nomads. They were discombobulated.

When they finally left, the British left Sudan as how we see it today - including South Sudan. They were well aware of the differences between the North, South, East and West.

It is fair to say that the border demarcations throughout Africa have been done arbitrarily with colonial interest in mind. They were drawn up to either ease control of the area or for trading purposes.

The Africans were then made to believe that they belong within these borders, and regardless of culture or religious beliefs they have a moral duty to the land demarcated for them.

Sudan's border dispute with South Sudan is not unique, it has been plaguing Africa for decades now ever since the 'Scramble for Africa'. It is a shame that we argue for and against war based on lines drawn by foreigners for us to manage. We base our patriotism on these arbitrary lines, and call out others on not respecting them. We sacrifice the lives of the poor and desperate to protect what is 'ours'.

The current conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is a direct reflection of Western arrogance and assumed superiority. The United Kingdom even has the audacity to comment and 'urge restraint and cooperation'. Whether it's a resource war or not, border disputes are silly and wasteful. We buy weapons from Western countries to defend borders they have drawn up for us. Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

We can always argue that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement addressed the border issues and that there should be legal consequences. However, the CPA itself was somewhat conjured up and supported by the West.

In this context, patriotism based on borders is a flawed concept for us, and the foundations for this war-to-be are as fictitious as Omar Al Bashir's reading abilities.