Will independent South Sudan be like Somalia?
We have entered 2011 and there is strong indication that South Sudanese are going to vote for secession, starting from Sunday this week. That means we will now turn our focus on the future of South Sudan, or whatever the name of the new nation would be.
As part of the focus on the future of our new nation, the first question that I will try to answer is whether or not an independent South Sudan will be like the current Somalia. One could be tempted to dismiss the possibilities of the comparison of South Sudan with Somalia immediately, but that would be too quick a judgment. The correct answer is not yet clear even though we believe we will not be like Somalia.
South Sudan, on the one hand, will not be like Somalia if we follow the principles of democracy that brought us this far. These principles may not be what we mean as we say them, but they are the foundation of our forthcoming nation. These principles put the choice of leaders in the hands of the people. That was how the majority of the current leaders were chosen in 2010 even though some candidates contested the results.
On the other hand, South Sudan will be like Somalia if we return to the old way of doing things in Sudan. This old way of doing things is coup d’état. When leaders take power by coup, they disregard the views of citizens because citizens do not have a say in who should be their leader when leaders take power by force. They just accept what the powerful man or woman says.
Coup d’états often create chaos before the situation is brought under control. Sometimes, coup d’états create long term vacuums, resulting in lawlessness like the one in Somalia. Power vacuum that resulted in the current lawlessness in Somalia was caused by the car accident that severely injured President Siad Barre on the evening of May 23, 1986. Even though President Barre recovered within one month and resumed his reign in Somalia, the accident had unleashed a power struggle among Somalia senior army commanders, elements of the president’s Marehan clan, and related factions, bringing the country to a standstill.
The power struggle created two factions in Somalia: a constitutional faction and a clan faction. The constitutional faction was led by four army generals opposed to President Barre and the clan faction was led by President Barre’s members of his immediate family. The government was now divided into clans.
Due to the worsening conditions in the country, rebels of the United Somalia Congress (USC) led by General Mohamed Farrah Aidid attacked Mogadishu on January 26, 1991, ousting the government of President Barre. Somaliland then declared its independence in May, 1991. The clan-based war then followed, resulting in the current chaos in Somalia.
We in South Sudan can only avoid the above history if we are not power-hungry to the point of forgetting the principles of democracy that brought us this freedom.
One may argue that the current government will not lead us well in the independent South Sudan because it has many short-comings. Therefore, it should be removed immediately after secession. I agree that our current government has many short-comings, but there is no guarantee that anybody in the same government would turn South Sudan into a Paradise by usurping power. Leaders who take power by force often care less about people. They care much about themselves and their inner circles. We must be careful about their intentions.
We must understand that coup d’état is the outdated practice internationally. International community this time opposes any leader who takes power by force. The only fruit that a country under such a leader reaps is sanction, leading to weak economy and starvation. We must avoid this kind of practice if we are to keep peace and build our new nation successfully after secession. Democracy must be the only way of changing leaders in the independent South Sudan if we are to avoid Somalization in our new nation.
Zechariah Manyok Biar, BA. Edu., MACM, MSSW. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org