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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 23. September 24, 1969

African rift

African rift

After reading Niel Wright (Salient 22) I can only wish that the Great African Rift were as simple as he thinks it is and the Sundanese politics were as straightforward.

I lived in South Sudan from 1962-3 and I find that Niel Wright's outline of Sudanese politics, though appealing in its simplicity, leaves out some important issues. For in the Sudan there is another great rift, namely bewteen Arab and African. Niel Wright knows of course that slavery of Africans by Arabs, though officially ended 80 years ago, still exists. Hence the African distrust of Arab domination in politics (in South Sudan as in Biafra) and hence South Sudan's distrust of federation with the north. But to complicate matters still further, there is a third great rift, this one between Islam and the Pagan and Christian religions.

I watched the enforcement of Islam and of the Arabic language in South Sudan. The reaction by school children all over South Sudan was to go on strike —in 1962, long before the older French students thought of it. Arab soldiers there wielded whips to force the children back, but without success, so the government closed the schools.

Now under the new military rule, the schools are to be reopened, after six years' closure. Major Nimeri is believed to be attempting also to rebuild the South's economy. For whose benefit? For the South has been a colony of the North since 1955, and colonialists are exploiters. Even so. Nimeri's words seem hopeful until one remembers the 1967 government headed by Saddik El Mahdi who, with the Southern representative Mr Deng, planned also to improve conditions in the South. Mr Deng was assassinated under mysterious circumstances and Saddik El Mahdi was done away with by his powerful relatives. What hope for Nimeri?

A correspondent for Time who visited South Sudan at the end of last month (August, 1969), says that the Anya Anya national movement has lost its sting. No wonder, when four-fifths of the Southerners have been killed by Arabs since 1962. (Leonard Barnes in African Renaissance and personal communication). Pacification of the remaining fifth should be relatively easy.

The writer included with her letter a copy of an article reprinted from Pacific Viewpoint (May 1968) which is available in the Salient office if anyone is interested. —Ed.

Pamela Searell.