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Sudan's last chance in the South

With the best of intentions, the interim Sudanese government is trying to end its Southern problem

On Saturday 14 February negotiations will open in Juba between the government, led by the Prime Minister, Sirr el Khatim Khalifa, and representatives of the Southern Front and its émigré spokesmen, the Sudan African National Union (SANU). But there are several distinct camps among both Northern and Southern politicians:

1) Some Northerners, led by the resurgent Umma Party and its young Mahdist leaders, feel that toughness should still be shown to the South. The policy of military repression under the regime of General Ibrahim Abboud failed completely. But this group believes that a break-up of Sudan would not help the Southerners themselves and can only be avoided by making it quite clear that separatism will not be allowed under any circumstances.

2) Other Northerners recognise that Southern grievances are so entrenched that considerable concessions will have to be made to keep the South as part of the country at all. This group, which includes the Prime Minister, has been keen to start (and finish if possible) negotiations before the elections for the country's Consituent Assembly – this will be responsible for writing the constitution. It would be better to discover Southern opinion and its minimum conditions for compromise before constitutional redrafting takes place.

3) Among Southerners there is a group which is so embittered that it believes only full separation will end the military domination by the North.

4) This group is now weaker than those who are prepared to negotiate continuing membership of the Sudan nation for the South but their demands for concessions are large.

The position in the South
Negotiations about the negotiations themselves have been going on for several weeks. Agreement on the Juba meeting was only achieved after Abdul Latif Daoud, a former Governor in Wau and a Northerner trusted in the South, had been sent to Kampala to convince SANU of the government's genuine intentions. The government had wanted Khartoum, and the Southerners East Africa, as the place for the meeting. Agreement on Juba was the first compromise.

The negotiations are technically not with the government as such but with the political parties of North and South – with elections coming up, no other system was realistic if a commitment lasting after the elections was to be obtained. Both sides will have 18 representatives.

A special correspondent recently in Juba writes:
The South will put forward not only SANU men from outside the country. For the first time, Southern leaders still in Sudan will be involved. One of the greatest illusions of the North has been that all the Southern political leaders who matter have gone into exile. The true position is as follows.

SANU is the public face of the Southern resistance movement. Its leaders, like Joseph Oduho, have been able to make public statements from Kampala and Nairobi – and to negotiate with Sudan on questions such as the return of refugees under amnesty. (They have had enough authority to influence the 10,000 or so refugees south of the border not to go home.) But SANU's actual control of the situation within the three provinces, and of rebel activities, has not been close, despite good communications with Juba, Malakal and Wau. SANU has been divided amongst itself: William Deng, the best known SANU member who has been living in Leopoldville [Kinshasa] has now lost most of his following (the North still has illusions about his importance).

The Southern Front came into existence after the October Revolution as a real force. In part it represents Southerners in the North who are lobbying for their region's interests. But, now that it is a respectable political party, the Front has also emerged (particularly within Juba) as the body which is really in control of the situation. It was able to reduce the amount of direct rebel activity in the three provinces after the December tour – and appeal for a ceasefire – of Clement Mboro, the Interim Minister of the Interior, who is not only a Southerner but now the key figure in the North-South dialogue.

The Free Southern Front, recently formed in Khartoum, carries no influence in the South. It is regarded as the creation of men so much committed to the North that they are in effect Northerners. And some of its members, like lawyer Joseph Garang, are regarded as too left-wing. The South is in general anti-Communist.

Anya Nya: the name comes from the Moro tribe. It is a particularly unpleasant vegetable poison, which is traditionally administered by mixing it with thorns which are then left for the victim to walk on. The victim dies of itching. The militant rebel organisation is far closer to the Southen Front than most people would like to admit. Its activities have been cut down voluntarily since October, but it still controls the greater part of the countryside in Equatoria and Upper Nile Provinces. Government officers admit that, in Equatoria, they only hold the main towns like Juba, Yei and Yambio. Outside there, there is no administration at all. No taxes are being collected and all except favoured private vehicles need to be convoyed. Rivalry between the police and the army since October has not helped.

The degree of Anya Nya's organisation has not been realised yet in the North. During the military government, the South was completely shut off from the North and the people now running the government had no means of knowing what was going on.

But we learn, with certainty, that in some areas the rebels have gone as far as creating a shadow administration of their own. In some places they collect taxes. With a small educated leadership, largely Christian, there have been recent attempts to purge from the rebel forces those elements that were criminal and whose motives for joining the movement were less than political. An indication of the degree of Anya Nya organisation is the enquiry which they have set up in their own ranks into last August's killing of a tobacco firm's British manager on the Yei-Juba road. (The man was shot when driving a blue Peugeot and the rebel assumption is that he was mistaken for one of the number of Northern 'Arab' merchants who have the same sort of car.)

Rebel difficulties, now that army pressure has been reduced, come chiefly from lack of arms. Contrary to many reports, they have received virtually no arms from Congolese rebels – except those they have taken from them by force. Convoys of Algerian and UAR [United Arab Republic, Egypt] arms being taken down to the Congolese by the Sudan army have been attacked. In December, a so-far unreported rebel success took place when two trucks were captured from one of these convoys – and a third burned, in an ambush on the Yei road.

We can reveal that the Anya Nya has had a camp for some time now within Uganda near the east bank of the Nile.

There are, however, wide differences in the degree to which the ceasefire is being observed. It is nearly complete in the Yambio area, where the administration is largely staffed with Southerners. But in parts of the 'East Bank' in Equatoria, there is still active terrorism. Much depends on the tribes concerned. The Zandi, Moro, Madi and Kakwa have been the backbone of the local movement, often with intellectual leadership from the Shilluk and Nuer from Upper Nile Province. But tribes towards the Ethiopian border, such as the Latuka, have been a law unto themselves.

Southern demands at the negotiations will be influenced by the confidence that comes from knowing that the movement is still strong, despite the fierce repression of the past. They will include:

1) The return of all Southern administrators who were, in the military period, sent to posts in the North. By this it is hoped to build up a predominantly locally staffed administration. (Without Northern agreement to this, it will be almost impossible to re-extend government control outside the towns.)

2) Southern control of the police, which should have the main responsibility for law-keeping. In return for this, the South would accept that the army should be kept as one entity – which, in view of past ferocity, Southerners regard as a considerable concession.

3) Permission for at least those Christian missionaries involved in medicine and school teaching – and some in theological training – to return. Since their expulsion last year, most schooling has stopped. The government has built new schools but in most places these are not being used. Many African teachers are drawing salaries but not doing any teaching. (The North will find this demand difficult to stomach although most missionaries were non-political, a small proportion of those expelled were deeply involved in the Southern resistance.)

4) Greater contact with the outside world. There is deep resentment at Northern refusal to allow international bodies to assist in such things as flood relief. The last four years of Nile floods have been the most disastrous in history. Tens of thousands of square miles in Upper Nile Province are now flooded permanently.

5) Devolution of many government functions to the Southern provinces.

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