A Vision for Sudan

EDITORIAL, 26 May 2008

#10 | Johan Galtung

Dear friends in peace, Peace Be Upon You, Sala’am Aleikum!

My task at the end of this very impressive conference with 150 participants here in Hermansburg on the Lüneburger Heide is to flyabove the nitty-gritty of failing implementations of the many peaceagreements, report the visions, and indicate possible solutions thathave been tried successfully elsewhere.

In no way do I say “do this, do that”.  But I do report what comes tomy eyes at four levels: world politics, relations to neighbors, theSudan construction and the local level, particularly Darfur, the homeof the fur. Some years ago the focus was on the South.

Letme also start with a well known African proverb:  “When elephantsfight, the grass suffers, and, when elephants make love, the grasssuffers even more.”  You have two elephants let loose, the USA andChina, both oil drunk.  You have their drug.  Some Sudan violence is aproxy war.  Your neighbors tend toward one elephant or the other; so doparts and parties in Sudan.  We are in Cold War II since USA-NATO-Japanstarted encircling Russia-China-India and some more, leading to SCO,the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  You risk becoming abattle-field.

You may also riskthat one day they agree on quotas for your oil, and impose them uponyou.  Their egoism has no space for the effects on you, yet they areafraid of an all-out war. Let me make three points in addition toletting you, the grass, grow high, and very strong, and maybe evenpointed.

First, you are protected by human rights: the Convention on Economic,Social and Cultural Rights stipulates that proceeds from the naturalresources of a country should accrue to its people; neither toforeigners, nor to elites only. As you might expect, the USA did notratify that one.

Second, you might consider doing major processing yourself and pocketthe value-added rather than exporting crude only.  And you would ofcourse quote your prices in a hard currency.

Third, oil is fading out as a major key to global warming.  There aresuch alternatives as wind and solar energy, and you have plenty ofboth.  Oil may become your doom, not a  blessing.

Flying a little lower I see Sudan with its many neighbors defined bycolonial borders, not by your own African nations. The border betweenAnglophones and Francophones is one.  Some encroach on you, some courtone elephant or the other.  You might consider establishing aconfederation, a community of all of you, with as open borders aspossible, and much cooperation. Look beyond today’s frictions, some ofthem elephant-generated. And watch that EU elephant herd, now gettingits acts together.

One level lower Sudan fills the horizon: one state and many nations, byreligion, language, shared history and attachment to geography.  AnArab-Islamic nation claiming to own it all is as unacceptable asWestern colonialism.  It generates resistance and secessionism.  In theworld there are about 200 states, 2,000 nations, and 20 nation-statesin the world, the rest are multi-national. But there are threealternatives to unitarianism and secessionism: devolution, federation,confederation.

There are about 25 federations in the world, housing 40% of humanity;Switzerland, India and Malaysia being very inspiring. The generalformula for the about 25 functions of modern states: four are handledby the Center; joint foreign, security, finance and infra-structure. And the rest is handled by the Parts–like the 7 Sudanregions–particularly such sensitive topics as religion, language,history and the geographical attachments.  Separate, equal and united. Neither unitarian, nor secessionist.

Look at Switzerland: four languages, two Christianities and noneimposed on the other.  Federalism makes democracy  possible as nonational majority can impose itself.  Nor can sharia be imposed.  Butwatch out: customary, common law also carries a cultural code.  “Youhave your code and we have ours” is fine.  But even better is tocombine, like when the Archbishop of Canterbury opened for someapplication of sharia.  Courageous.

Federalism does not have to be symmetric.  Thus, the South may demandextra autonomies; and justice is not served by shoes of size 40 forall. A Constitutional Court may mediate disputes.

I then come closer to the people in this giant land, and to the worstof all problems: 90% on less than $1 a day. A golden rule: Firstpriority to the basic needs of the most needy.  And   four basic needscan easily be identified: survival served by orderly politicalprocesses and training in nonviolence, freedom served by democracy,identity served by federalism, and wellness served by food, housing,clothing, medical services, education through an economy with peoplenot only elite, priorities.  Best done by lifting the people up ratherthan threatening elites.

The land issue is at the roots of the Darfur International-Criminal-Court level violence (as you might expect, the USA did notratify that one). A distinction between public ownership and private,adequate, “usership” may be useful.  The right to food is a basicright.  To own land and not use it properly is anti-human, like lettingfuel for cars outcompete food for humans.

There is too much suffering in the Sudan today, too much violence asmonuments over conflicts in search of solutions. But reconciliationwithout solution is pacification, lollypops that fool nobody. Solutions of these four conflict areas, with reconciliation, is peace. Peace with us all.  Sala’am Aleikum.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 May 2008.

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