The 1965 Round Table Conference between the Southern Region and Khartoum Regime

Posted: February 9, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël in History, Junub Sudan, Mangar Amerdit

By Mangar Marial Amerdid, Juba, South Sudan

Aggrey Jaden

February 9, 2018 (SSB) — After the fall of General Abboud’s regime in October 1964, a caretaker government was formed under the leadership of Sirr al-Khatim who was sworn in as Prime Minister. At this time, William Deng wrote to Sirr al-Khatim stating that a conference be held on the Southern affair. The Sudan government agreed with the suggestion and se the t delegation to Kampala to talk to SANU members in exile. However, the division among SANU and Southern leaders ran deep. First, William Deng advocated for federation.

Second, Aggrey Jaden who was elected President of SANU favored the talk with the government since his group called for the political independence of the Southern Region. Third, Joseph Oduho who was recently replaced as president of SANU and appointed as SANU Secretary for Constitutional Affairs rejected talks with the government; he believed nothing fruitful would develop from the discussions. Fourth, the Southern Front called for self-determination of the Southern region with the authority of the South to determine its relations with the North. After extensive discussions, delegations from both the Southern region and Sudan government came to an agreement to hold talks.

On March 16, 1965, the Round Table Conference began with delegates from Southern region and Sudan government convening in Khartoum. Observers from the countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), attended the Round Table Conference. In the past, these countries played a neutral role and provided limited support to SANU since Sudan was a member of the Organization of African Union (O.A.U). Uganda was the only country that offered significant sanctuary to a large population of Southern refugee many of them students.

Among the six observer States, Uganda played a pivotal role in bringing South and North together to discuss its internal affairs. Uganda’s Minister of Home Affairs, Felix Onama publicly denounced Southern leaders in exile who refused to return to the negotiation table. At the Round Table Conference of 1965, the Sudan government called for unification of Sudan. Their proposal included the following:

  • “The Sudan, in its present boundaries, is one country having an international character and no part thereof is entitled to claim separation;
  • There are economic, political, cultural, and racial differences between the South and the North;
  • The South has a special status;
  • The political aspirations of the Southerners are to be recognized;
  • The South should have a Southern House of Parliament and local Council of Ministers;
  • The South must have special representation in the Civil Service Commission; and finally,
  • The Central Sudan Parliament is to deal with major issues such as defense, finance, foreign affairs and so forth, while the Southern Parliament is to be authorized to deal with matters of education, health, agriculture, etc. Other issues will be dealt with by the two Parliaments jointly.”

Furthermore, at the Round Table Conference of 1965, the observer States were against separation and supported assimilation of the South and North. This is clearly indicated by the speech given by the Nigerian Minister of Mines, Yousif Maitame, he stated, “the problems which you have here today are not at all peculiar to this country. We in Nigeria are quite familiar with such problems, problems that almost inevitably confront any country of your size and diversity. With God’s help and the determination of our leaders, we reached an acceptable solution based on a series of compromises which preserved both the general interests of the whole and the particular interests of the parts … I firmly believe that you too can do the same.”

In addition, Mr. Onama, the Uganda representative at the conference warned of the risks of foreign involvement in a country’s disagreements which could adversely lead to disunity among Africans. Upon hearing the speeches from the observers, the Southern delegates believed that any military campaign seeking separation of the Southern region from the Sudan government would receive minimal support from its neighboring States.

Sirr al-Khatim

As previously stated, on March 16, 1965, the Round Table Conference began in Khartoum. It was convened to sort out the internal affairs within Sudan with a particular focus on the Southern region. The attendants at the conference were 27 Southern delegates, 18 Northerners who represented the six Northern political parties and the six observer States from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.). Presiding over the conference was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Khartoum, Professor Nazir Daffala.

There existed a difference of opinion and proposals on effective means to solve the Southern issue among the Southern delegation at the conference. Aggrey Jaden and his SANU group sought political independence for the South, William Deng and his faction of SANU advocated for federation while the Southern Front proposed self-determination for the South. In addition, the Southern delegates refuted any claims by the Sudan government of a longstanding relationship between the South and North. Instead they emphasized the difference of identity and decades of brutal oppression of Southerners by the Sudan government.

The sentiments stated by Aggrey Jaden, a leading SANU member highlights this clearly. This is noted by Jaden’s remarks at the conference, he stated, “Sudan falls sharply into two distinct areas, both in geographical area, ethnic group and cultural systems. The Northern Sudan is occupied by a hybrid Arab race who are united by their common language, common culture and common religion, and they look to the Arab world for their cultural and political inspirations. For this reason, the Sudan became a member of the Arab league soon after independence.

The people of the Southern Sudan, on the other hand, belong to the African ethnic group of East Africa. They do not only differ from the hybrid race in origin, arrangements and basic systems but in all conceivable purposes. … With this real division, there are in fact two Sudans and the most important thing is that there can never be a basis of unity between the two. There is nothing in common between the various sections of the community: no body of shared beliefs, no identity of interests, no local signs of unity and, above all, the Sudan has failed to compose a single community.”

The North vehemently denounced the proposals from the Southern delegates. They based their rationale on the following: a) Sudan must remain united; b). to achieve economic growth and prosperity, Sudan must remain as one; c) Other regions of Sudan will seek separation if the South separated from Sudan; d) longstanding internal relations amongst the Sudan population makes self-determination of the South improbable; e) South and North relationship is not based on oppression or colonization, therefore, the South seeking federation is unjustified; f) Sudan administration would function under regional government.

The sentiments of the Northern delegation were further cemented at the conference by remarks from the former Prime Minister of Sudan, Ismail el-Azhar. He stated, “I feel at this juncture obliged to declare that we are proud of our Arab origin, of our Arabism and of being Moslems. The Arabs came to this continent, as pioneers, to disseminate a genuine culture, and promote sound principles which have shed enlightenment and civilization throughout Africa at a time when Europe was plunged into the abyss of darkness, ignorance, and doctrinal and scholarly backwardness.

It is our ancestors who held the torch high and led the caravan of liberation and advancement; and it is they who provided a superior melting pot for Greek, Persian and Indian culture, giving them the chance to react with all that was noble in Arab culture, and handing them back to the rest of the world as a guide to those who wished to extend the frontiers of learning.”

Needless to say, the Round Table Conference of 1965 did not succeed. You might ask who caused its failure; Southerners or Northerners? Historians deduce that both sides were unprepared to compromise or seize the fighting. Given the marginalization and oppression Southerners were facing, the spirit of governing their own internal affairs as a sovereign state was palpable. Thus, Southerners continued their difficult struggle to freedom against insurmountable obstacles.

The author, Hon. Mangar Amerdid, is the National Coordinator of Northern Corridor Integration Projects (http://www.nciprojects.org/) for South Sudan, the Chairman of SOS Children Villages International for the Republic of South Sudan, and the Founder of the Leadership Institute of New Sudan (LIONS). He graduated with Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and a minor in Economics from University of Colorado, USA. You can reach him via his email: mangaramerdid@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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