1.2.11

Meanwhile in Sudan...

Approximately 99 percent of South Sudan’s population voted in favour of succession. It is no less a revolution than what has occurred in Tunisia and what may happen in Egypt. After decades of war borders drawn by colonial governments may be dissolved and the boundary between South and North Sudan will be drawn largely along racial and religious lines. As the late John Garang said in 2005 “This peace agreement will change the Sudan forever. Sudan cannot and will never be the same again as this peace agreement will engulf the country in democratic and fundamental transformations, instead of being engulfed in wars...”
Of course President Al-Bashir of Sudan may still renege on the agreement; South Sudan has huge reserves of oil and most of the region’s arable land, two common incentives for war. Demonstrations in Khartoum yesterday against Al Bashir will not help the situation, a region as volatile as the Middle East can only take so much destabilisation. A change in government in Sudan would undoubtedly threaten South Sudan’s prospects for peace as will further upheaval in Egypt. Dictators across the world are digging in their heels - reinforcing armies and transferring massive sums of money to Swiss accounts, this may not be an opportune time to have half your country secede and take most of your oil money with it.

There is also the threat of internal strife in the new nation, oil and land as I mentioned are sparks in the powder keg of South Sudan’s heterogeneous population. Will petrodollars be a blessing or a curse to the new nation? In five years will we see, as in Angola, mushrooming presidential palaces, glittering shopping complexes and car parks filled with UN Landcruisers driven by highly paid expatriates “addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable” with foreign donor funding?

Photo B. Cutner; Transit returnees from North Sudan

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