Sudan and European Ignorance

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

After decades of bloody conflict in Sudan, Europe is still applying double standards to Africa and does not recognise the right of the South Sudanese to decide their own future, wrote Savo Heleta, author of the book ‘Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia’, in a letter to EURACTIV. 

The following text was submitted to EURACTIV for publication.

Speaking at a press conference in Egypt, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, said that he does not support independence for South Sudan. 

As agreed in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended one of the longest and bloodiest wars in Africa, South Sudan will hold a referendum on self-determination in 2011 where the people in the south will decide if they want to remain a part of Sudan or form an independent country. 

Despite all that, Solana already dismisses the will of the people in the south and emphasises: “It is very important that the country remained unified.” 

“I looked at the chart, I looked at the distribution of resources, and I looked at the situation as a whole. I am for the unity of the country,” said Solana. 

It’s that easy and straightforward for Europeans to make crucial decisions regarding Africans, their lives, and their future. Just take a look at the charts, numbers, resources, and then make a quick decision. 

It happened before, when white Europeans, during their ruthless scramble for Africa’s resources, decided what the map of Africa should look like. 

A few centuries later, white Europeans still want to make final decisions that will profoundly affect the lives of Africans. The fact that the southerners in Sudan have been treated as lesser human beings first by the British colonial administration and then by the successive Arab governments in Khartoum for over a century does not matter at all to Javier Solana and Europeans. 

It doesn’t matter that millions of southerners have been brutally murdered by the Islamist regimes in Khartoum since 1956. 

It doesn’t matter to Solana and Europeans that the military regimes in Khartoum have marginalised the south politically, socially, and economically for over five decades. 

Given the Sudanese post-independence history and the deep-rooted, protracted, and bloody conflict between the north and south over power, resources, religion, ethnicity, and self-determination, a peaceful separation may be the best solution for Sudan. 

But the European Union does not seem to care what’s best for Sudan and particularly the people in the south. It seems the Europeans have already made up their minds regarding the future of Sudan. Never mind the hopes and aspirations of the people in South Sudan. 

A few years ago, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia and was supported by Solana and the European Union. Then Montenegro had a referendum where people voted for independence and this was also fully supported by Solana and the European Union. 

But when Africans in South Sudan want to decide in what kind of a country they want to live in, then Solana and Europeans have a problem. They want to dismiss their legitimate right for self-determination just to keep the status quo in Africa and the world. 

After decades of unthinkable discrimination and brutality by various Khartoum regimes, people in South Sudan should disregard ignorant politicians such as Javier Solana, who like to play games with people’s lives around the world, and decide for themselves in 2011 about their future.

*Savo Heleta holds an M.Phil degree in Conflict Transformation and Management from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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