21 January 2014

South Sudan: To Solve South Sudan Problem, Look At Zanzibar

Photo: Samara Scott/U.S. Army Africa
East Africa member states criticise Uganda for sending its army to fight alongside S. Sudan forces (file photo).

One of the outstanding crimes colonialists are accused of having committed against Africa was dividing it into unrealistic and artificial blocks.

Lots of scholarly work has been devoted to this subject of boundaries. J. Barron Boyd in an article titled African Boundary Conflict: An Empirical Analysis, published in African Studies Review, illustrates this point.

As a result of the capriciousness of the European partition, Barron says, a typical African boundary may group together many ethnic groups in one state. It may also cut across many ethnic or national boundaries of the past. It may create a state whose physical characteristics hinder political, social or economic stability.

Like many Africans, I entirely agree with Boyd. But because many African leaders are hypocrites, they permanently drum up this accusation but sponsor no resolution at the African Union (AU) or the United Nations (UN) to have the boundaries re-drawn.

In fact, what African leaders have invested in, is procurement of military hardware to suppress any group that proposes or the wants these colonial boundaries re-drawn. Eritrea became a sovereign state in 1991 after a bloody war with Ethiopia.

South Sudan, mainly a black and Christian territory, fought for decades to attain independence from Sudan which is mainly an Arab state. Two explosive communal conflicts are raging on in Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The latest images from Bangui show a mob of Christians killing and setting ablaze bodies of two Muslim men. The same mob attacks a convoy evacuating Muslims to Cameroon and murders 20 of them.

This conflict pits the Muslim minority mainly from the northern part of the country against the Christian majority from the south. In South Sudan, the war raging on is almost being executed along the same lines - Nuer fighting Dinkas. In Kenya the ethnic killings mainly between communities following the disputed 2007 elections were extinguished after the killing of more than 1,000 people.

The Rwanda war that brought the current administration into power in 1994, I think has been the most horrible of all. I am surprised the sponsors of this war have never been arraigned before court and they are aging quickly.

You can only be insane not to expect genocide when you sponsor an ethnic group or ally with it to wrestle power from another. And I see us repeating the same mistake in South Sudan. I write about this because of my recent visit to Zanzibar together with the parliamentary football and netball teams. Several Ugandan teams, including the wonderful She Cranes, (national netball team) were also invited.

We were in Zanzibar to participate in festivities marking her 50th anniversary. Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Yoweri Museveni attended the main function. Zanzibar, with an estimated population of 1.4 million, is semi-autonomous but still part of Tanzania. Zanzibar has its president and parliament.

I personally think it should be allowed to become a sovereign state. In Africa, and maybe in the entire world, poverty is measured by statistics but my naked eye saw it on the streets of Zanzibar city. This island has very fine beaches run mainly by Europeans.

The coastline, which is all beaches, is very prosperous yet the centre stinks of poverty. I saw big planes from Italian companies landing at the medium-sized Zanzibar airport bringing in tourists. I might be wrong but I think if left to manage their affairs, the people of Zanzibar will develop faster with this tourism potential.

I think as a continent, we need to develop a criterion people can follow to attain sovereignty. Blocks that are big enough or distinctive should be allowed to grow into semi-autonomous territory and later sovereign states. Ethnic groups that were rudely separated during the drawing of colonial boundaries should decide in a free and fair referendum where they want to belong.

Aggrey Awori has brothers in Kenya. I hear Kalekezi Kayihura's cousins are top intelligence officers in Rwanda. Tensions can be brutally suppressed but in truth they don't die. Erias Lukwago is a Muganda and an elected lord mayor of Kampala. For him to be brutalized by police and military officers whose cousins are in Rwanda is a "dangerous sport".

There is absolutely no reason why Buganda, Bunyoro, Busoga, Busgisu, Ankole, etc are not semi-autonomous entities under Uganda. United Arab Emirates is made of seven sovereign emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain, each with its ruler.

J. Isawa and Prof. Ali Mazrui, in Nation Building And Changing Political Structures, observed: "in many ways the greatest threat to national identity in independent Africa is the legacy of artificial boundaries created by the colonial powers." In the case of South Sudan, I think the blame is not to the colonialists.

In Uganda, the most influential military generals are Bahima and in South Sudan they are Dinkas. In fact even when a Muganda is appointed, he is given less power because this is not his government. That is what drives me to support federalism. Pretentious people will clamour for bigger regional blocks yet back home they are building a military force full of their kinsmen.

The clamour of a Musoga, Muganda or Mugisu president is ingrained in this natural fact of us being different. We can tolerate one another but we will never be the same.

South Sudan is three times bigger than Uganda; why don't you sub-divide it allowing each community to take charge of its affairs?

DR Congo is almost a subcontinent; why not divide it into five sovereign states capable of stamping authority in their respective territories?

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

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