War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan

By Francis M. Deng | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Northern Dominance: Colonialism Revisited

The relationship between the North and the South, historians have argued, has essentially been one of internal colonialism, in which northern culture and religion were forcibly imposed on the southerners. Southerners did not regard any government in Khartoum as having legitimacy over them. In their view, northern rule was a transfer of colonial control from the British to the South's traditional enemies in the North. The commission of inquiry into the 1955 disturbances in the South reported, "The Northern administration in Southern Sudan is not colonial, but the great majority of Southerners unhappily regard it as such. . . ."1

Dunstan Wai elaborates this point: "The monopoly of political power by the North confirmed to them the beginning of a second colonial era. On the other hand, the North felt that it had the legitimate right to formulate and carry out policies which would affect the entire country. The failure of the Northern Sudanese politicians to share political power with political elites from the South continually reinforced a feeling of alienation by the South and the belief that the North was, in essence, a colonial successor to Britain. Also, attempts to coerce the South into the Northern fold worsened rather than benefited the perception of Khartoum governments as illegitimate, ultimately leading to armed rebellion."2

By all standards, successive northern Sudanese governments in Khartoum and their administrators in the South used the tools of control that they had observed applied by the British. In particular, they resorted to the ruthless suppression and repression of local resistance and the attempted assertion of law and order by crude military and police forces reminiscent of the early British administration in the South. The British saw the South as a wild frontier where only might ruled and government meant forcing the natives to submit to law and

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