Brothers face one another on the battlefield, each garbed with a uniform. A uniform consisting of different patterns; different patterns of the same colors. The colors of one family, the colors of one nation. Glaring with eyes of steel, they are blinded by material objects. Beating with hearts of stone, they harbor grievances of the past. They share a nostalgic smile, of what they once shared; one that quickly vanishes as each lifts his rifle, aims, and shoots.
This is the story of the secession of the great African nation of Sudan. Beyond the borders, the politics, and the government, this is my story. As a young adult with a long family history imprinted in the soil of the lands of Northern Sudan, I found the recent secession an overwhelming and surreal turn of events. Throughout the past decade I’ve been forced to witness my hometown split apart by civil war. Paradoxically, it has transpired into a war without a trace of civility. A war that pitted neighbors, brothers against one another. A war that sank its venomous teeth into the very foundation of my family, of my well-being.
My most cherished childhood memories comprised of annual summer trips to my hometown in Omdurman, Sudan, a small city just outside the capital of Khartoum. As I reminisce, my mind instinctively drifts to the warmth of my grandmother’s small country house, where I spent long afternoons running along the dirt roads, under the scorching sun, with my cousins in an endless game of tag. I can clearly remember excitedly running to the corner store with our gold shillings to buy a packet of popsicles that we would indulgently enjoy under the shade of a nearby tree; moments of undeniable bliss nestled within a place of safety and familiarity. However, as I matured to understand the complexities of the struggles ensuing within the very lands I once carelessly scurried about, I lost that sense of security and my memories become increasingly tainted by fear. Fear, daunting and unnerving, of a fateful phone call that would inform me of the grim reaper’s intrusion into my family tree.
Sudan gained its independence in 1956, after a relentless struggle to free itself from the shackles of Egyptian and British imperialism. However, Sudan’s power clashes were long from over as it plunged into a seventeen year long civil war shortly after its independence. The root of Sudan’s conflicts was between the two different regions of the North and the South. The North is known for its strong Arabian culture and ethnic ties with the Middle East. The majority of the North is populated by Muslims who are governed by the central administration of Khartoum, located in the North. Conversely, the South is a region more widely controlled by indigenous African tribes. Southerners practice the religions of Christianity and Animism. The South has preserved traditional African customs, dialects, and rituals.
The political controversies lie within the South’s opposition to the central government, which blatantly establishes policies in favor of Northern territories. Furthermore, an economic aspect is intertwined in the midst of the conflict because of the fact that 75% of the oil reserves within Sudan are located in the South; however, the oil refineries in the South are sponsored by Northern governmental companies. The abundance of oil within Sudan has aided its economic stability and international relations with the United States and China. Therefore, the abundantly clear economic and political implications along with the stark ethnic and religious differences between the two factions led to a second civil war in 1983 which was resolved by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. With the consent of the Sudanese president, Omar Al-Bashir, the agreement granted autonomy to the South and a referendum in 2011. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan officially seceded from North Sudan, with an overwhelming majority vote.
In retrospect, the separation is a beneficial initiative for both groups of people to have a right to peace, a right to sleep at night without fear of retribution. The separation can allow each government to freely serve the needs of its public, that which encompasses similarly minded ethnic groups. Furthermore, with a dumbfounding total of 2.5 million lives lost and many more left displaced throughout the civil wars, separation seemed like the most suitable and peaceful decision. Even so, witnessing the largest and most abundantly rich- in resources as well as culture and history- country in Africa split in half was overwhelmingly disconcerting. Being an American citizen, I respectfully owe my allegiance to the United States; however, my Sudanese culture has always been a major aspect of my life. The fact that almost my entire family’s existence is settled in the small town within the catalytic nation keeps me tightly bound to Sudan, emotionally as well as hereditarily. Moreover, despite my physical absence, my soul has always been connected with my Sudanese heritage and will continue to be, regardless of malicious assumptions or accusations.
As empathetic human beings, we like to believe in hope. Hope for a brighter future in which the past can be overcome and new ambitions can be realized. After much tribulation, North and South Sudan have reached an agreeable compromise and can proceed to move forward on divergent paths. Their histories bind their pasts, but their futures remain untarnished prospects of progress. Questions regarding the structure of their governments and issues of demarcation remain in the minds of political leaders. However, the beauty of the separation is the ability of each nation to utilize the lessons learned from the mistakes of their previous failed partnership to establish governments, economies, and liberties that better suit the needs of their citizens.
The secession of Sudan brings to light multifarious paradigms, including the exemplification of the consequences of violence. The separation of Sudan also serves as a quintessential example of the significance of compromises, which are necessary for the evolution of progress. Every action has a reaction, and whether the effects ripple through an entire nation or a sole individual, the awareness of opposing perspectives is imperative.
The news of Sudan’s recent turmoil has attracted international media attention, occupying the cultural sections of many newspapers within the past couple of months. However, once the initial commotion has died down, the stories dwindle, finding themselves at the bottom of our weekly recycling. Unfortunately, what many fail to realize is that these heinous events serve as manifestations of the repercussions of human vices and that it becomes our civic duty, as maturing adolescents, to thrive within our culturally rich environment, to understand and acknowledge these vices in hopes of learning to overcome them. And, ultimately use that knowledge to construct a superior society for the upcoming generations.
It seems to me that only when the power of love overcomes the love of power can the world know peace. Although the world has a little ways to go before achieving a utopian harmony, the success of Sudan in resolving a seemingly endless battle spurs one to contemplate what minor societal defects you are capable of resolving. We, as competent beings, possess the capacity to mold a future that provides a testament for the previous struggles we faced, while welcoming our children with open arms. We, as brothers and sisters, have the willpower to forgive, lay down our arms, strip our discriminating facades, and unite as one, eternal family.