September 1, 2010 (JUBA) – A southern Sudanese politician representing
the south’s governing party – the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)
- as minister for oil in the national government in Khartoum has come
under fierce criticism for voicing his support to maintain the unity of
Sudanese oil minister Lual Deng became the first high profile Southern
figure to publicly express his support for the country’s unity ahead of
a self-determination referendum due to take place early next year in the
Most observers expect an overwhelming vote in favor of independence
after two decades of bitter civil war (1983-2005) that claimed an
estimated 2 million lives. Since independence in 1956 the south has
complained that mainly Arab-Muslim north has marginalized the region.
Despite this, the oil minister who is from Bor Jonglei State as the
former SPLM leader the late John Garang said that unity is a better
option for the southern Sudanese.
"I’m a unionist in the footsteps of a unitary leader [late SPLM
leader] John Garang de Mabior. We studied for PhD together at the
University of Iowa. But I consider myself his disciple. The reason for
this was that I was, initially, a separatist. But Garang convinced me on
the virtues of one Sudan," Deng said in an interview with the London
based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper during a private visit to Washington.
The statements by the minister have angered both politicians and
ordinary people in southern Sudan. A member of the SPLM in the Southern
Sudan Legislative Assembly in Juba, Arop Madut, criticized the comments
made by Lual Deng, describing him as somebody who behaved as if he did
not eat three meals a day in his life time until he became the minister
of oil in Khartoum.
Arop, who represents Abyei in the Juba-based parliament, said during
his interview on Southern Sudan Television (SSTV) on Tuesday and
Wednesday that Lual Deng - whom he also explained that his real name is
Lual Achuek, but had to prefer ‘Deng’ instead of ‘Achuek’ - was not
following the footsteps of late John Garang as he claimed.
He said late John Garang was for a unity based on justice and
equality while the unity Lual Achuek called for had no basis.
Daniel Dut from the University of Juba also criticized the minister
for his unity stance, saying Lual commented without evaluating whether
unity had been made attractive or not on the new basis.
"I think the minister [Lual Deng] was simply commenting to please the
National Congress Party in his new job in Khartoum because his support
for unity had no basis. It sounded as if he was supporting unity just
for the sake of it,” he said.
The minister of oil however acknowledged that if referendum was to
take place today it will be in favour of independence. He also expressed
optimism that confidence building measures between the north and south
over the next four months may avert such outcome.
The southern figure said that the people of southern Sudan are
already ruling their own region with a substantial presence in the
federal government with opportunities not even available for Northerners.
"What do we [southerners] want more than that?" Deng asked.
Dut in his reaction to the question posed by the minister said he was
stunned by the unfortunate copying of the question from northerners,
adding that the South wants something more than semi-autonomous
administration or some jobs in the federal government.
"We want freedom as an independent nation, justice, equality and
development," he said.