You can't brush away the devastation of colonialism

23 Dec 2013

When you have caused a situation, it is wrong to turn a blind eye and wash your hands of the panic you have created. It is not wrong because it breaks the law; it is wrong because it is irresponsible and careless. Britain has a tendency to carry this ‘it’s not my problem’ attitude to levels of extreme offense. Yesterday, I had been watching the popular ‘Andrew Marr Show’ on BBC One, as I do on a Sunday morning for some interesting political banter. During the paper reviews they covered the Nigella Lawson case, Syria, the Lockerbie bombing and the death of David Coleman and just as they were going to discuss the issue of possible war in Sudan they decided it would be better to talk about something more ‘cheery’. So, instead of discussing the potential civil war, they discussed who they put their money on to win Strictly. I couldn't believe it. 


Perhaps we should start by looking at the origins of much of the conflict in Sudan. The British first began to use the Sudanese people as a means of profit when they started to seize slaves out of the nation in the 1800s (yes, it runs that deep). This gave the north of Sudan much profit, as they undertook to capture many individuals from the south to sell to the white man and ultimately to be processed into the slave trade. They therefore instilled a deep fear and hatred in the hearts of south Sudanese people towards themselves. This internal conflict was the strongest of them all. 

From this point onward, Sudan was under a condominium rule (joint ruling between Britain and Egypt). We know that Britain does a terrible job when intervening in other countries (did I say intervening? I meant colonising and destroying, intervening is far too polite). Indeed, this governing condominium harmed the Sudanese people in more ways than one. Britain loves to crown itself as the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’, housing democracy like a prized possession. However, this arrogant, saviour mentality was not passed onto the Sudanese who they ruled so fearlessly. When we think of the civil wars in Sudan we usually associate them with religion as being a prime divider between the north and south. However, what we fail to realise is that the British did not have as much ease trying to control the south as they did the north. They built up the north and they blessed it with their Western forms of democracy, appointing leaders where they felt suitable and as a result we have since seen endless bloodshed. In order to gain power they placed so much effort and care into the north, trying to build its economy and essentially modernise them the ‘Western’ way; but the Western way isn’t always the right way. The south had already established a political system in which it had tribes, tribe leaders and principal figures. They wished to stick to their own infrastructures; they were content with their way of life. However, their way of life was simply too primitive, not good enough for Britain. Christianity was therefore used in south Sudan as a way to manipulate and break down their seemingly basic structures. Through this, the conflict only grew stronger.

Another huge mistake carried out by the condominium was the merger of south and north Sudan. This had incredibly shocking impacts on individuals from both sides. In 1946 the deadly deal was made and many southerners were petrified about the consequences. The north being conditioned by Britain for so long and having a history of war, terror and abduction shook the lives of many southerners. I slam my head against the table with anger as I write this, as I still cannot begin to fathom how much of an awful move this was. When Britain evacuated Sudan, awarding them independence after years of ruining the nation, they left behind 800 administrative posts for people of Sudan to take up. Unsurprisingly, out of that 800, only four of them were southerners. This heightened the manifesting tension in Sudan, creating political unrest between peoples and civil war for decades- killing millions.

After a second split in 2011, things seemed on the upward trail and news of conflict had quietened. However, today in the news we fear more conflict, as 40,000 civilians have taken refuge in United Nations bases in the country, and a death toll of 500 and counting in south Sudan is steadily rising. There are now growing fears that this could cross the border and create another civil war. So yes, admittedly Strictly Come Dancing does seem like the light-hearted happy story to satisfy most viewers. But, at the end of the day, Britain has a duty to individuals in Sudan. Being so deep rooted in their conflict and history, Britain must play its part in its revival; it cannot and should not shirk that responsibility.

By Chante Joseph

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