With the independence of South Sudan fast approaching, North Sudanese citizens are coming to terms with the biggest change in the history of their country. For many, supporting independence is bitter-sweet, or tinged with retrospective regret. Others are unconflicted and happy about independence, although the happiness could sometimes be a result of a ‘good riddance’ attitude towards secession. I have observed many emotions and reactions to the independence of South Sudan amongst North Sudanese citizens, and based the following observations on the famous Kübler-Ross model for dealing with loss, commonly known as ‘The Five Stages of Grief.’ These observations are from the perspective of North Sudanese people only since I am assuming that the near unanimous vote for secession by South Sudan is enough proof that they are not considering this a cause for grief–
1- Denial — “Sudan will never separate. The South needs us and we need them.” “They can never run their own country, they have so many tribal issues” “Separation plans are just rumors by outsiders who are trying to destroy Sudan”
This stage sadly lasted from independence, throughout most of the war, until the signing of the CPA agreement when some people’s perception of a unified Sudan was rattled. A pivotal point was the death of John Garang, where the vision of unity for many people died with him.
2- Anger — “Why do they(the South) want to separate from us (the North) they are traitors!” “Why do they think we treat them badly?” “They are destroying our country and being very unpatriotic and selfish.” “Let them go to their country, they were depleting our resources and taking our jobs anyway.”
I believe this stage actually lingered quite a bit for most Sudanese people, ultimately causing feelings of resentment towards the South, which only acted as a catalyst to the South seeing the necessity of indepenendnce, evident by the referendum vote for secession. Anger, bitterness, and feelings of betrayal caused many to look for ways to justify the impending division of Sudan. I have heard everything from African Union conspiracy theories to the usual and necessary ‘blame it on I-I-I-Israel!’
3- Bargaining — “Parliamentary seats? Here South, take these 40 extra seats”; “Power of veto over constitutional changes? You got it!” “Let’s not discuss Abyei right now, it’s going to be alright, we promise”
Some, namely Sudanese politicians, reached this stage months if not years before the referendum, when many were still in denial. They knew what was coming and began utilizing every propaganda tool to make unity appealing for all. Suddenly we began to see more South Sudanese representation on Sudan TV, billboards calling for a United Sudan popped up all over Khartoum, and many promises were made for the improvement of conditions of South Sudanese citizens. However, not all bargaining efforts were necessarily positive or advantageous for South Sudan, as there were some brinkmanship attempts and political pressure. Needless to say, all efforts proved ineffective.
4- Depression — “This is very disheartening, I’m losing my country, my people” “John Garang died and so did a united Sudan”; “I have always loved the South and I am so depressed over losing them”
The silence of many Sudanese might have been interpreted as apathy, but many of them were in fact simply dismayed and severely hurt not only because they are losing Sudan as they know it, but because they felt too helpless and powerless to do anything about it. Many Sudanese people completely disconnected themselves from the issue in order to cope with the grave reality of their beloved country falling apart. (I sincerely hope that no one felt this depression about the economic shock Sudan will endure as a result of $2-$3 billion annual oil revenue losses. Really guys, it’s no big deal. I’m fine without that money. Whatever, no biggie. No really…. who cares? *cries my capitalist self to sleep*)
5- Acceptance “The South deserves a shot an independence.” “I am happy for them and truly wish them the best” “Regardless of my stance on secession, I will support their decision”
This is the last stage of dealing with bereavement. At this point, nothing can be done, we can’t reverse the votes, we can’t change their minds, all we can do is respect their wishes and support them in the development of their new country.
Personally I think I went through the five stages a bit out of order. Whatever stage you’re on, please make sure you strive to reach acceptance by July 9th, 2011, at this stage, I think the best Sudan can do is wish South Sudan all the best and promise not to rain on their independence parade.