Freedom and Conformity

South Sudan is now independent.South Sudanese Flag

After two civil wars, broken treaties, and seemingly endless economic and military strife, the vast expanse of Sudan was split in two by a vote. A mere referendum toppled Khartoum‘s hegemony over ten states and ninety-eight percent of its oil reserves. So why did Omar al-Bashir give up without a fight?

Because the South Sudanese elected to secede with a majority of over 99%.

There is a deep cultural, ethnic, and religious divide between the North and South of the Sudan region. But ruling parties and united governments have dealt successfully with much more. But in the government controlled by the North, there was simply no place for a South Sudanese citizen. Even setting aside the killings in Darfur, Abyei, and South Kordofan, Khartoum showed with shari’a law, mandatory use of the Arabic language, and utter neglect of living conditions that millions of people simply had no right to live there.

When a government has no place for its citizens, they have no need for the institution itself. This is a lesson from which the world can learn. #

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6 responses to “Freedom and Conformity

  1. I don’t think it’s fair to reduce the issue to Enlightenment conceptions of government.

    Independence? Is a country really independent if it is about the least developed place you can find, and if all the refineries and export mechanisms are in the north? Bashir can still dictate policy through coercion.

    Another thing. While the American government certainly wants us to think that this is about liberal democracy, there was immense pressure from Western imperialism involved. There was talk of an intervention earlier this year, and we’ve seen in Libya how a “humanitarian intervention” is really a neo-colonial war.

    Religious and cultural divides don’t dictate socioeconomic conditions and conflicts. It should be the other way around.

    • South Sudan is still politically tied to the North, yes, but there’s really no going back now.
      The trend of a de jure change leading to a de facto one happens often in history — America wasn’t a true democracy until Andrew Jackson’s voting reforms, and was still deeply flawed until women’s suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement, but that was only made possible by the Constitution in the first place.

      Independence doesn’t solve the problems of development and health by itself, but it makes a solution likely. Were Juba still under Khartoum’s control, you can be sure that nothing would change.

      Just because there was pressure from the West doesn’t mean this development is necessarily bad — even if this plays completely into neo-colonial hegemony, a rich man employing a poor man is better than leaving him to starve.

      Even though the Libyan intervention is actively assisting the rebels, it is not a neo-colonial war, because a colonial war is a battle between colonial powers over colonies and spheres of influence. Again, even if the West’s motives are less than pure, Gaddafi being deposed is still both extremely beneficial to both the Arabs and Amazigh of Libya, and necessary for any further humanitarian progress. The National Transitional Council is at least in words committed to democracy and human rights. Besides, if anyone really liked the colonel, why haven’t we seen any pro-Gaddafi protests in Benghazi?

  2. I understand that Bashir no longer has total complete control over South Sudan. But if the old problems are gone, now there are new ones … Now let’s watch this degenerate into civil war, genocide, or international intervention. Or just another extremely undeveloped and poor nation with a corrupt oil export system and nothing else, to be manipulated by its stronger neighbors and “developed” Western economies. Just a new kind of dependence.

    As for Libya, I think there is no doubt this is a neo-colonial war, or at least an imperialist war. How can you say that the TNC is committed to human rights when their leadership contains a number of ex-Gadhafi minsters who themselves oversaw mass executions and other Gadhafi atrocities? Now they’ve even offered high leadership positions in the TNC to ministers very close to Gadhafi in the Libyan government who would join their side. In short, the ruling elite is having a war. I don’t know what it started out as — there is no doubt opposition to Gadhafi in the general population — but the people shall not profit from either outcome.
    (@your question, have we seen any pro-TNC protests in Tripoli? The only reason people apparently support the TNC in Benghazi is that they think it’s better than Gadhafi.)

    The language of imperialism is clear: people in high positions in the U.S. political establishment and armed forces have said they are defending their interests in North Africa, even if Obama continues to say this is just a no-fly zone (while bombing civilian structures left and right and violating both American and international law). The other major powers with stakes in the conflict (such as China) have opposed the intervention — they have profited from investment in Libyan oil.

    In any case, what is going on in Libya is a complete mess. But this is nothing new — remember how about 30 years ago the U.S. supported a round of Arab revolutions which brought in a set of pro-American dictators? They also supported the Taliban, the Khmer Rouge, and now the TNC. In Egypt, what started out as a popular uprising gave rise to a military junta, and now protesters are yelling that “Tantawi is Mubarak and Mubarak is Tantawi.”

  3. I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t have happened! Why are we even speaking in the subjunctive. I’m only expressing serious doubt that it will be much better.

    Everyone promises to be committed to human rights, because that gives them some legitimacy. Let’s judge them by what they are actually doing. There would be hope in the revolution if it was actually a popular uprising, not what has now become a bureaucratic puppet government! At first, the revolution’s organization was based on democratic councils of common people. But then the TNC was established… in order to *consolidate* the revolution — that is, to subject it to the bureaucratic state it is in now. Many revolutions started out as democratic, yes. Look at 1917. But when they are taken over by bureaucracy, we have to separate them from what they originally claimed to represent.

    I put an “also” in the sentence, and never meant to imply that those countries were Arab! (Have you noticed how Iranians are always associated with Arabs, even though they aren’t?)
    But my point is that the U.S. doesn’t care if the government is despotic. They supported anyone who was against the USSR for obvious reasons — competing empires. They supported any regime friendly to the U.S. and hostile to the USSR. The support of the West usually means that the “big boys” have had a fight over one country or another, and the question is not which side is “bad,” but that the whole imperial system is “bad.” All the talk about “democracy” is a cover-up.

  4. Well, do you think the revolution should continue or not?

    We can’t really judge the NTC yet — it’s only existed for a few months, and is mostly for conducting foreign policy; Benghazi and especially Misurata are autonomous at the moment. I don’t pretend to know whether it’s actually as devoted to human rights as it says it is, but neither can it be said that it is necessarily a “bureaucratic puppet government.” Even if it is, it does support the main goal of the Libyan people, to depose Gaddafi.

    You have to take the U.S. and the West (and Russia and China) completely out of the equation. That America supports democracy in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria but opposes it in Saudi Arabia and China tells us that American support or opposition is simply irrelevant to a political change. I agree that the U.S. doesn’t care — but even acting in its own interests, it can do good things sometimes, and supporting the Libyan rebels is one of them.

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