(Lessons from the first (mis)steps following modern Africa’s independence)
Those who have a knowledge of post-independent Africa will, sadly, not be surprised by the turn of events in South Sudan today. Macabre, but true. Indeed, they would have expected it and, like Mandela and his team, have prepared for it, to try and avert it. South Sudan’s road to independence has been long and winding. She began her life in the modern African world as a region of an arab-dominated Sudan which was herself the joint colonial property of Egypt and Britain. Even before their first modern independence – that of Sudan from Egypt and Britain – Sudan was divided into an arab-speaking islamic north on the one hand, and on the other hand a south full of a myriad black tribes speaking different tongues, mainly Christianised, partly adherent still to ancient African religions, and basically lacking a sense of united nationhood amongst themselves. What united them was their wariness of the north in the face of a long history of slavery and wars; whereas the north itself was focused on achieving independence from its external colonisers. And independence indeed eventually came, but it did not bring peace with it. Acrimony between military and politics, disputes between Marxists and non-Marxists, moslem-christian religious animosities, and the distrust between north and south, ensured that years of coups, civil wars, genocide and violent disunity would follow. Decades after independence, seemingly unable or unwilling to find a lasting workable peace between north and south, in 2011 they parted ways acrimoniously. Soon after, in the newly independent and sovereign South Sudan, the very same quarrels, accusations and maneuverings that had plagued newly independent African countries five decades earlier, reared their stubborn heads here too and South Sudan degenerated into a hydra-headed civil war. Finally, the tribes of the South, lacking any other external adversary, seemed all too willing to turn their guns on each other and destroy what it now seems that they never had nor ever really tried to cultivate during the decades of tribulation: internal Oneness, inter-tribal political unity. And, unfortunately for them, it seems that they, too, have no Madibas amongst them.
Take any African region, north, west, east and south, and study its collective post-independent or post-liberation history. Examples abound, enough of them. The wound cries out like a disjointed pack of scattered wild voices screaming from a burning house: the lack of reconciliation; the lack of representative, inclusive, democracy, of socio-political unity. Some will call it the lack of national common sense. In Africa, for some reason, political office is not voluntarily terminal, whether or not the constitutions stipulate such, and power is not shared. Leaders seem to love only the concept of their country, the fact of having a country, but do not also love all the peoples of the country, their welfare, their liberties and their peacefully united future – not if it requires that the rulers and their support groups themselves equalise themselves with the rest of the country and subject themselves to a rule of law that stands above everyone. Instead, everybody wants to grab the crown, and sit on the throne, and then ostracize, under-develop and punish his enemies. No matter what effects this has on the country in the long and short run.
… continued in PART 5
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.