Look at the reactions in our Arab world to the Southern Sudan independence referendum, and what will follow on from it. Today the Arab world has shed tears for the unity of Sudan, and the fear that separation, or division, will be the fate of other Arab countries. But will these tears, or cries, change the reality on the ground? Of course not! The Southern Sudanese push for secession was not born today or yesterday, rather it is an old demand. Successive Sudanese governments – most of which came to power via military coups – did not offer the right solutions to ensure the survival of a united Sudan, a country which we used to refer to, in terms of its geography, as the ‘Arab food basket’. Today, when some in the Arab world are expressing their concern about what is happening in Sudan, and their fear that this will be repeated in other Arab countries, should we accept this and say they have the right to do so? The answer: No! To avoid the bitterness of separation, action should have been taken decades ago, not today. As yet, nothing is being done to spare other Arab countries from the same sad fate.
Let us take a moment to reflect on our own affairs. We will not talk about states here, but instead let us take the simplest example. This is the Palestinian issue, whereby its simplicity lies in its complexity. It is true that political or non-political movements are fighting for the political and military liberation of the Palestinian territories, as are all Palestinian factions, including the Palestinian Authority. Yet when the first opportunity arrived for a city to host both the Legislative Council and the government; an armed coup took place against the Palestinian Authority, as Hamas did in Gaza. Subsequently, Arabs become divided, between supporters and opponents of the coup. The result of this division is a deeper divide amongst the Palestinian ranks. Nevertheless, [instead of taking a stand against the Palestinian division] the Arab states continue to express their concern about what is happening in Sudan!
The same principle applies in Sudan, but under different circumstances. The regime which is overseeing the current vote on southern secession is the same regime that stood by Saddam Hussein during the occupation of Kuwait, and the same regime that welcomed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of ‘al-Qaeda’, to live in the country. What did the Arabs do? What was their decisive stance, not to oppose the regime, but to ensure that Sudan learns from its mistakes?
Therefore, if we are genuinely concerned that some of our states may separate, we must reflect on our own affairs. We are faced with many potentially divisive states, such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, as well as the disputed Western Sahara region in the Arab Maghreb. As long as we allow our petty disputes, which can only be described as bickering, our nations will be led to destruction. Therefore, in the future, it would only be natural to see states other than Sudan in the process of separation and division.
What we must learn is that nations are not based, and cannot survive, upon the principles of mistrust, pitting sides against each other, revenge, exclusion, or settling scores. Nations are not built on political naivety, but rather it is necessary to give priority to national interests, participation, and the right to citizenship. Differences must be taken into account; cultures must be respected, and so on. The unfortunate truth is that as long as we don’t take a decisive stand over what happened in Gaza, and we do not speak the truth about what is happening in some of our Arab states, there will be a long series of divisions and separations.