Sometime in mid 2008 I made a stopover in Khartoum on my way from Egypt to Kenya. I recall being awed by the beauty and infrastructure of Khartoum. Basically because it was more "developed" than I had expected.However this mesmerisation was quickly dissolved after a conversation I overhead among some relatively young Arab Sudanese men.I had been sitting next to one of them on the plane and we had engaged in what I had considered a civilized and informative conversation with topics ranging from school, work and world news.
The plane landed in Khartoum and since I was not getting off I said bye to my acquaintance – that is, the young man, whose name I forget. He politely said goodbye and stood up to disembark since he had reached his destination. He had earlier told me that he was returning home from Egypt where he had gone on holiday at some expensive tourist resort at the Red Sea. No sooner had he stood up than a couple of young Arab men about his age began a conversation with him in Arabic.Now I do not claim to speak Arabic but I can swear that it is close enough to Kiswahili for one to figure out a topic under discussion. And for me the topic was revealing. The young men began talking, gesturing, laughing and severally used the word "shetan" which in Kiswahili means shetani which in English means the devil.
I quickly put two and two together and realized they were asking my acquaintance why he was talking to the devil! This was no faux pas. It was a deliberate, hateful, ingrained worldview of these young men. It is common knowledge that some races feel superior to others and I know that as long as we are of different colours in this world, racisim will always be with us.
It is also common knowledge that some religions regard themselves superior to others.When you read of such truths in textbooks and media stories, they sound far-removed and only become a reality when you are directly and personally affected. That someone should equate you to the devil says volumes about how they justify treating you like one.This week, southern Sudanese took to the ballot box to determine whether or not to secede from the North and hopefully become the newest independent country in Africa. After my experience with those Arab men on the plane calling me the devil, this referendum vote is now personal. I cannot imagine living with such hatred and bigotry from so-called compatriots. Southern Sudanese must choose freedom and emancipation than continued enslavement in unification. The essence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for southern Sudanese is aptly captured in the famous American Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
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