War and Peace in Sudan: A Tale of Two Countries

By Khalil, Mohamed I. | The Middle East Journal, Autumn 2003 | Go to article overview

War and Peace in Sudan: A Tale of Two Countries


Khalil, Mohamed I., The Middle East Journal


SUDAN War and Peace in Sudan: A Tale of Two Countries, by Mansour Khalid. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. [First published in 2002 by Kegan Paul Limited.] xxxi + 510 pages. Appendix to p. 516. Sel. bibl. to p. 527. Index to p. 536. $144.50.

In a book bearing the somewhat unoriginal title of War and Peace in Sudan: A Tale of Two Countries, but which is otherwise analytical and well documented, Mansour Khalid traces the root causes of Africa's longest and most devastating civil war, the failure of Northern majority governments since the country's independence in 1956 to comprehend fully and address Southern grievances, and the various attempts at mediation. The book ends with a postscript on the present United States-brokered peace process, which resulted in the signing in July 2002 of the Machakos Protocol (a multistage plan for peace) by the Sudan Government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in July 2002.

The North/South strife has roots in the distant past. The South had for many years been looked upon as a source of slaves and ivory, and Northern adventurers were instrumental in making their coveted acquisition available to foreign merchants. Although the British colonial administration established peace and security and banned the slave trade, the South was kept separate and otherwise completely neglected. It was, therefore, natural that the Southerners expected independence to usher in an era of freedom, development, and prosperity. Nevertheless, the successive Northern majority governments have persistently denied the Southerners all but a modicum of government jobs, political positions, and economic opportunities. Early legislation providing for substituting Friday for Sunday as the day of weekly rest in the South, the expulsion of foreign missionaries, and the imposition of restrictions on the right to open church facilities aroused mistrust and fear of forcible acculturation.

One particular source of grievance is Northern failure to honor a promise, given on the eve of independence, to give serious consideration for the Southern politicians' demand for a federal form of government. It was on the strength of that promise that Northern parliamentarians were able to short-circuit the procedure for the attainment of independence. A 1953 agreement between the Condominium powers, Great Britain and Egypt, provided for the holding of elections for a constituent assembly to determine the country's future "as one integral whole." Instead, Parliament proceeded to pass a resolution declaring the country's independence from the Anglo-Egyptian rule. It was the unanimity of the resolution that persuaded the co-domini to regard it as a legally valid measure to obviate the holding of elections for a constituent assembly.

The Southerners have ever since decried the Northern politician's breach of a critical promise solemnly made at a turning point in the country's history. Abel Alier, former Vice-President of the Sudan, in his book Too Many Agreements Dishonored, considers this as the principal cause for Southern mistrust of Northern intentions. But Mansour Khalid goes further. Indirectly casting doubt on the legality of the independence resolution, he writes on page 71: "In strictly 'legalistic' (sic!) terms, the Parliament's resolution in December, 1955 was an act of betrayal of majestic proportions." One ground for such a conclusion is that the measure "went against the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement and made nonsense of the sanctity of international agreements," an assertion that might have been understandable, if it had come from a colonial zealot. Besides, as the resolution was accepted by the parties to that agreement as a valid interpretation of its terms, who can claim to be vested with a more overriding judgment? Another ground for this astounding judgment is that the act "frustrated the will of the people to determine their own future." There is not the slightest doubt that if elections had been held for the establishment of a constituent assembly, its composition would have been a replica of the then existing parliament. …

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