(Photo: Paula Bronstien/Getty Images)
On the 9th of July 2011 the world welcomed the new country of South Sudan and sent best wishes to this new independent nation. But what most didn’t see, even in Sudan, is that another nation had emerged on that same day. Overnight, the Sudanese people were compelled to redefine themselves. Now, when I talk to any foreigner I have to be clear from which Sudan I am; am I northern or southern Sudanese? This is not so new for most people in both countries, but what is new for us in Sudan is that we are facing, for the first time in our history, the real need to identify ourselves for ourselves, not only for others.
The referendum’s results showed that 98% of Southern Sudanese preferred to live without us northerners. I always stood in favor of secession and for southerners to create their own country. My argument was that they knew who they were to the extent that they would die for independence. In the north, we don’t know. That is why the south can always have new
beginnings and move forward; their struggle with the north brought out their defined identity and united their dreams. Yet, our wars and fights are for the protection of our possessions; neither to defend the unity of Sudan nor to fight insurgencies from Sudan’s governors for the past 60 years.
The independence of South Sudan was a real shock to northerners. Economically, the country lost 70% of its financial resources and fell into bankruptcy in less than a year after secession. But independence also shocked us socially and psychologically. The bitterness of the rejection, the feeling of being lost, acted as symptoms of a trauma. Some chose to fall back on their ethnic and religious “superiority” and followed racist movements such as the “Justice and Peace Forum”. This movement, led by President Bashir’s uncle, joined together to call for the expulsion of all remaining southerners from the North – a call formally adopted by the Government.
Others coped with their trauma by convincing themselves that secession was the choice of southerners and that we’d rather live in peace and separated rather than at war with each other in one united country. These people mostly adopted the Government’s post-secession propaganda while others, mostly the opposition parties and the Sudanese elites, are living in what I would describe as extreme denial; they still promise us that history will change its course to bring them back to a reunited country.
Sudan’s failure to define itself was the initial problem that led to the secession and it is this failure that keeps bitter memories alive and is driving the country into further, endless wars. As the Government fights those in the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, we are creating new southerners and a new South. It seems that northerners cannot identify themselves unless they find southerners to fight.
The new country of Sudan is at a critical crossroads. It can face its past honestly, stop living in the illusion of ethnic and religious superiority, move forward to Choose Peace for the future and allow us to redefine ourselves as a diverse country that can coexist with its own people and the rest of the world. Or, Sudan could experience our past again and again, running away from the truth, and refusing the incredible opportunity to become a new country too.
Nazik Kabalo is a 27-year old human rights activist and blogger from Sudan. She documents and campaigns against human rights violations in the Nuba Mountains. She is currently in exile.
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