A painter from northern Sudan says he will burn his works to protest against the possibility of his country being split.
|A cartoon in Al Intibaha shows an SPLM leader telling a southerner “this is your new country”|
As Southern Sudan is voting on its potential separation from the north, the daily street hustle and bustle is carrying on as usual in the capital, Khartoum.
Occasional police sirens go off announcing the passing by of a VIP convoy. Tea ladies are sitting down by the side roads with their tea pots and customers on small stools are chatting while sipping tea.
In the midst of colourful flags and banners promoting unity, there are also signs that carry a different message – those of the Justice and Peace Forum Party.
The movement is the only party in the north that openly calls for the south’s separation. Its newspaper Al Intibaha has been labelled by some as racist towards people in the south.
Al Taieb Mustafa, the chairman of the party and its newspaper, is a man still carrying the scars of the civil war. He lost his son during the civil war. He describes the unity of Sudan as a ‘bad forced marriage” and believes that the only way forward is that the separation goes ahead.
Wearing a traditional white jalabya and white northern Sudanese head wrap, he says with a big smile: “I am going to celebrate big today. This is the real independence day for Sudan.”
His party has three major events planned on Sunday, the first day of voting in the south.
“We are going to slaughter sheep and cows to mark this historic day,” he says.
‘Enough is enough’
He blames the British colonialist for the “bad forced marriage” between north and south. “It’s been a very bad marriage. It’s like trying to force a cat and rat to marry.”
|On the first day of voting, Mustafa happily
removes a map of the united Sudan from his wall
Mustafa does not believe in diversity and unity with the south. “This is nonsense. We have had more than 60 years to integrate and clearly that has not happened.
“Unity can’t be achieved when there is so much hatred.”
He says that despite the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the conflict continued.
“We cannot live together. We need to cut the root of the problem. It is better late than never… “Enough is enough, 60 years of tears and bloodshed is enough.”
He cites cultural and ideological differences as the main reason why the country cannot be united, saying it is not a religious issue.
“There are Muslims in the south as well, but we are still different.”
‘Cut like a cancer’
When asked about the risks that could come with the separation in terms of water and oil sharing, he uses a metaphor of medicine and side effects.
“There may be many side effects but you still have to take the medicine. It’s like dealing with cancer, you need to treat it.
“I think the south should be cut like a cancer.”
He says the problem is not with the people in the north, because millions of southerners fled to the north during the civil war and nothing happened to them.
“We don’t have the same ill feeling that the southerners feel toward us in the north.”
When confronted with the accusations of racism his party and newspaper are facing, he gets agitated and says promptly that the racism allegations are “nonsense”. He says his newspaper and party would never look down at anyone.
“It’s against my religious beliefs. God created everybody equally, we all come from Adam and Eve.”
Mustafa defends his newspaper’s stance on separation by saying it is time for the people in the north to have a voice. “Some southerners, in their TV channels and newspapers, continue to portray us in the north as the colonisers, and they demonise us.
“We used to be silent, but that has changed now, we’ve had enough. It’s time to speak up.”
“”Peaceful separation is the answer… All the cures and all the medicines have failed to cure the problem.”
Al Taieb Mustafa
He says his party is trying to convince people in the north that unity is not an alternative.
“Peaceful separation is the answer. You cannot cure cancer with Panadol.
“All the cures and all the medicines have failed to cure the problem. Let’s just cut the cancer.”
When asked if the separation could trigger other states, namely Darfur, to also want secession, he says comparing the two is nonsense. “You can’t compare cancer to a headache. Darfur is just a headache, and it can be treated.”
He reasons that the difference between Darfur and the south is that the politicians in Darfur are not getting the power from the people but from their guns. “The rebels there don’t have the people’s support and they are not calling for self-determination.
“Southerners don’t trust us, They always assume that we are conspiring against them, they hate us. We can’t compare them to the people in Darfur, it’s not the same.”
Mustafa is confident that the referendum will result in secession, and says he does not think southerners should remain in the north after the vote.
“If they decide to stay, they will remain as foreigners.
“I hope that this hatred will not continue. Now they will have their country, so they can get out of our business and leave us alone in peace.”