Multiple Complexity and Prospects for Reconciliation and Unity: Sudan Conundrum
The author defines Sudan as multiple complexities. In this chapter, He examines these complexities that characterize Sudan’s environment and people. In doing so, the chapter focuses on Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP). The author argues that the refugee camps where IDPs are located have people of different ethnic groups. The IDP camps, in spite of hosting refugees from different ethnic groups, create new social class with new elites. After several decades of IDP experience, people of those camps are more aware of ethnic diversity, more tolerant to one another, and more importantly have stronger faith in peaceful coexistence. For the author, this is what may trigger the next problem. Repatriation and reintegration of these people into traditional societies of Sudan will create social problems.
He begins with a brief historical analysis of Sudan so as to make it more understandable. For him, population mobility has been a major feature of Sudan’s history. Over years, central Sudan became a melting pot where different ethnic groups started competing for its rich natural resources. As a result of this competition, new ethno-cultural identity had been established. He suggests that the settlement of the Arabs in Northern and central Sudan caused the displacement of the local people who scattered in all directions, especially towards the South and the West.
For Ahmed, the polarization of the Sudan goes beyond the issue of identity, religion and language to cover the fields of economics, politics, and the system of administration that are major determinants of the daily lives of its people. The difference between the North and the South of the country is greatly influenced by the inequity in economic development, the different systems of government in the local communities, and the dominant political parties that have essentially been confined to the North and have not penetrated the South.
Concentration of major agricultural development schemes in the central region was a colonial policy but it was pursued by the new elites. Mobilization of people forced them to move to more central regions of the country, creating food insecurity threats.
International media describes the North-South conflict as between the Arab North and African South. Ahmed disagrees with this view. For him, “the issue of underdevelopment and economic marginalization embedded in the notion of oppressors and oppressed is more relevant as an explanation of what went on over the decades”. He agrees that with the start of Arab migration to central and northern regions of Sudan and intermixing with the indigenous population have left considerable elements of Arab ethnic and cultural identification. Through competition over resources, Arab element is more emphasized than African element.
Ahmed argues that turning point in Arab-African divide was the time when Justinian sent missionaries from Egypt to convert Nubians in 17th century. Therefore, dichotomy on religious grounds is a creation of colonial administration. Colonial administration saw missionaries as a tool to penetrate the country but strong Muslim population in the North was the biggest threat. So, the eradication of Islamic influence became a major concern for missionaries and certain steps were taken to secure that end.
According to the author, the root cause of the Sudan’s conflict is not ethnic or religious dichotomies but colonial administration’s Southern Sudan policy from 1922 to 1947. Ahmed believes that this separatist policy was heavily influenced by missionaries and their desire was to block out Arabism and Islam from black Africa. South is black Africa for colonial administration, not for local people.
The author briefly examines Darfur conflict as well. He applies his theory this conflict and argues that the problem in Darfur is not ethnic or religious divisions. On the contrary both parties in the conflict are Muslims. For him, the conflict is between herders and farmers, which is consistent with his migration argument developed in the early pages of the chapter.