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Sudan, Entitlement, and the Death of Ubuntu.

(By Vick Lukwago Ssali, Aichi Gakuin University)

Dear Mama Africa,

where can I start, but by thanking you for bringing us forth, and for sharing with all of us your children the love, the beauty, and the spirit of Ubuntu, which, though defined as such by only one of our brothers, is indeed the philosophy that defines all of us your children: "I am because we are." Or, Mama, that’s what is supposed to define us. That’s how you brought us up. You always teach us the importance of community and social harmony. You teach us to see ourselves as part of a larger community. You teach us that our well-being and happiness are interconnected with the well-being and happiness of others.

But Mama, why are some of our brothers forgetting what you have taught and given us? Look at your two sons in Sudan, Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and paramilitary commander Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo! How could they think what they are doing now is for the sake of social harmony? They have started a civil war that is clearly not a fight for democracy and the well-being of all your Sudanese children. After all, these two have always been part of another military regime that denied this great nation, and many of your children in it, democracy and the most basic of human rights! They were enforcers for former military dictator Omar Al-Bashir, and they commanded his forces in the Darfur region which escalated in 2003, and where hundreds of thousands of fellow Sudanese were killed and millions displaced. The other year, they together staged a coup against the people’s coup! You remember, Mama, most of your children in the Sudan had become fed up with the violation of their rights for over 30 years by a small group of their military brothers. They cried, they demonstrated, they fasted, they matched, and Bashir was overthrown during this protest movement. You must have smiled, Mama, when these two generals took up positions on the ruling council that was going to work out a power-sharing transition that would restore sanity to the Sudan.

Now they have turned a closely watched plan to create a democracy into a civil war. We have seen this crazy descent into violence among your sons far too any times, Mama. Usually the story (in the culprits’ heads) goes, I guess: “I don’t care about old-fashioned Ubuntu, I live for God (or Allah) and my stomach!!” What a violation of the values about God that you have vigorously taught us over the centuries, Mama Africa. “God and my stomach!?” This is a terrible motto, which unfortunately most of those among us your children whom you have put into positions of power have made their own. And I almost burst with laughter all over last week when I saw media coverage of officials from South Sudan and some other neighbouring countries mediating or being called upon to mediate for peace and negotiations to end this power struggle. I had to restrain myself from laughing, Mama. This family affair is no laughing matter. But I choked on the irony, nevertheless: haven’t millions of your South Sudanese children been held hostage for years by two of their leaders tussling it off “for God and their stomachs?” Were the hopes of a new independent South Sudan not killed and buried due to a sheer lack of the generosity for the land and her women and children who tend to suffer most when greedy men fight for, or cling to power? How can the same leaders from South Sudan be seriously intervening for peace in the Sudan? It is a joke, Mama!

Show me your Ubuntu, and I will show you your moral authority. It is going to be very difficult for most of Sudan’s neighbours to intervene to any good effect. They are your beloved children too, Mama Africa, but their hands are soiled, and their consciences heavy. They can only offer half-hearted, and haphazard mediation, if any. Indeed, in my own part of the home we call Africa, the Ugandan government said after the people power movement had toppled Omar el-Bashir in the Sudan that they would consider offering asylum to him despite his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bashir faces an International Criminal Court arrest warrant over the death of an estimated 300,000 people during an insurgency in Sudan’s western Darfur region mentioned earlier. Uganda could also soon be intervening to “restore peace” in the Sudan! Never mind that the Ugandan leader himself has been in power for 37 years most of which he has invested more power and resources in keeping himself in office than taking care of the people’s basic rights and needs.

But back to Khartoum, Mama. All those who came to help solve your Sudanese children’s self-made problems are running away to safer places. The other day I saw the news on TV, about the evacuation of a former Japanese diplomat Naoyuki Kawahara, who has been involved in providing medical support in Sudan. It was sad to watch because Mr. Kawahara, according to an earlier Japan Times report, had “quit his job as a medical attaché for the Embassy of Japan in Sudan to set up a non-profit organization, Rociantes, and provide much-needed medical care in Sudan (Japan Times, April 21, 2018). But he is only one of many hundreds of thousands of people, including Sudanese, who have been working every day to make other people’s lives better. Isn’t Ubuntu a mark of psychic unity, Mama? That it eludes some people, including those two sons of yours, Sudanese Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and paramilitary commander Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, is not your fault as a mother. We, your children are at fault.

Many other children of yours, our own brothers, have been at fault, and others are still at it. The Mugabes and Munangagwas of Zimbabwe: why, after the fall of the former, didn’t the latter listen to you and his conscience, mother, and let Zimbabwe take another course in the hands of a younger, fresh generation? Paul Biya of Cameron, president since 1982, cannot be thinking of anything else but how to securely stay in power until death! How can Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea still be useful after ruling for 44 years? He, who is not a hereditary king is mainly credited with corruption and abuse of power. In 1986 you chose your beloved revolutionary son, Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni to reorganize Uganda. He told us then that “The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.” 37 years later, these words must be haunting him!

The real problem is entitlement? The inevitable consequences are patronage, clientelism, and corruption. Entitlement stopped South Sudan in its newly independent trucks! Entitlement is creating hell for millions of innocent Sudanese!! You must be sad for these your sons, Mama. You have cried and pleaded with their consciences to no avail. You have even given them the example of Madiba. He is no doubt the one child you are most proud of, and they all know it. They hail and praise him in speeches, but they never emulate him. That, Mama, is the problem of Africa.

Vick is also editor-in-charge and producer of the JSAS Newsletter. Contact him at if you have any voices you want to send out to "Mama Africa."

"Dear Mama Africa" can be a good, serialized platform for all types of opinions on current issues on the continent.

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