A case of Self determination by Dr. Riek Machar

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news001pxSouth Sudan: A History of Political Domination – A Case of Self-Determination, (Riek Machar)


Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon
Chairman and Commander-in-Chief, SSIM/A.

Since the historic Nasir Declaration of August 28, 1991, the demand of the people of South Sudan for the right of self- determination, as a peaceful political resolution of the forty year war in the Sudan, has been a real challenging problem to Sudanese political forces and parties. The SSIM/A (formerly the SPLM/A-United) had been engaged in many peace initiatives with this present regime of the National Islamic Front (NIF) to find a solution to the conflict. Among these initiatives are: the Frankfurt Talks of January 25,1992; the Nigerian mediated Abuja Peace Talks of May/June 1992; the Nairobi May-June 1993 Talks and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) mediated Peace Talks , January 6th, 1994 through September 19, 1994. In these talks, the SSIM/A had demonstrated its commitment to the search for lasting and just peace in South Sudan and above all the SSIM/A had specifically underlined the right of self-determination for the people of South Sudan as the cornerstone for settlement that would meet their legitimate aspirations.

The people of South Sudan have been denied this right by the different regimes that ruled the Sudan since its constitution as a state. However, it is now imperative that peace shall prevail only when the people of South Sudan are acceded their inalienable right to self-determination.

On the other hand, although it is generally accepted that there is racial, religious, cultural, linguistic and historical diversity in the Sudan, these diversities have not been used to help enrich and consolidate the unity of the new state, but rather were used by the ruling Arab elites in the North to oppress, subjugate and exploit the people of South Sudan resulting in conflicts and wars.


To clarify the objective of the struggle of the people of South Sudan, it is important to go quickly over the colonial history of the South Sudan – the territorial unit claiming the right of self-determination.

Before the Turko-Egyptian invasion of 1821, the Sudan consisted of Kingdoms and tribal communities without modern forms of government as we have today. In other words, Sudan in its present boundaries did not exist.

The Turko-Egyptian occupation of 1821 was promoted by the expansionist ambitions of the Ottoman empire and its craving for wealth and markets. The main commodities of interest were slaves, gold, ivory and timber. South Sudan and her people became the main source of these commodities. The Turko – Egyptian and the North Sudanese collaborated in their raids against the South Sudan for slaves resulting in millions of South Sudanese people being taken into slavery in the Arab and new World.

Although the Turko – Egyptian rule lasted for a period of sixty years, it did not control all the Sudan. South Sudan in particular was not fully brought under the administration of the invading alien power. Similarly, the Mahdist administration of 1883 – 1898 did not succeed to impose its full authority on the whole of South Sudan.

The Belgians in 1892, advancing from the former Belgian Congo (now Zaire), captured Western Equatoria up to Mongalla and established the Lado Enclave as part of the Belgian Congo. During the same period(1892) the French led by Major Marchand occupied large parts of South Sudan (Bahr el Ghazal, Western Upper Nile up to Fashoda) and by 1896 they had established a firm administration in these areas. Another French expedition which started off in 1897 from Djibouti moving through Ethiopia and along the Baro and Sobat Rivers failed to link up with Fashoda expedition. The French had wanted to annex South Sudan to the French territories in West Africa. However, an international conflict developed between the British and the French over South Sudan commonly known as the Fashoda Incident.

Again, in 1898 the Sudan was re-conquered by a joint British and Egyptian forces resulting in the signing of the Condominium Agreement between the British and the Egyptian to administer the Sudan in its present boundaries.

In 1899 the British and the French concluded an agreement in Europe which made the French pull out of South Sudan handing over its portion of South Sudan to the same authorities who were already in control of North Sudan. A similar incident took place in 1910 when the Belgians withdrew from the Lado Enclave after an agreement was concluded in 1896 stipulating that the Enclave was to be handed over to the British after the death of King Leopold. The king died in 1910. The withdrawal of the French and Belgians from South Sudan ceded the territory to the British.


Owing to the geographical, political, historical and cultural differences between North and South Sudan, the British devised a system of a separate administration for the two countries. To guarantee the effectiveness of the separate administration policy the British passed the Closed Districts Ordinances of 1920s. In consolidation of this policy, the Passports and Permits Ordinance was promulgated in 1922. This ordinance required the use of passports and permits for travellers shuttling between the two countries of North and South Sudan. The permits were to specify the conditions and purposes of the visits. The Immigration Policy was further strengthened by the permits and trade order enacted in 1925. This law required North Sudanese to obtain permits to conduct trade in South Sudan. Finally, a Language Policy was developed and enforced in South Sudan in 1928. This policy adopted English as the official language for South Sudan and approved the use of the following local languages: Dinka, Bari, Nuer, Latuko, Shilluk and Zande. Arabic was categorically rejected as a language in South Sudan. The cumulative effect of the immigration and trade laws coupled with the language policy was to maintain South Sudan as a separate country from North Sudan. In fact, colonial governors from South Sudan used to attend regular administrative conferences in East Africa instead of Khartoum.

After the establishment of the Condominium rule, the British continued to consolidate its position in North Sudan by creating the necessary administrative and political structures for the state of North Sudan. In an effort to prepare the North Sudan for self-rule, the North Sudan Advisory Council Ordinance was enacted in 1943. The ordinance covered all the six North Sudan provinces: comprising of Khartoum, Kordofan, Darfur, Eastern, Northern and Blue Nile provinces. This council was empowered to advise the condominium authority on how to administer North Sudan in certain specific areas. Members of the Advisory Council were all North Sudanese. The ordinance had no application or relevance to the territory of South Sudan. Thus far, North and South Sudan were regarded as two separate countries colonised by the British and Egyptians.


Instead of establishing an advisory council for South Sudan similar to that of North Sudan, the resolutions of the Administrative Conference held in Khartoum in 1946 surprisingly advocated the colonisation of South by North Sudan. It must, however, be pointed out that the conference took the decision at the back of the people of South Sudan as they were not represented and because the conference was meant for administrators in North Sudan only, the British administrators in South Sudan did not attend. Consequently, this unexpected outcome revealed the conspiracy between the British and the North Sudanese supported by Egypt to hand over South Sudan to North Sudan as a colonial territory. Certainly, this plan provoked bitter reaction from the South Sudanese an