Africa, Christianity, Economy, Human Rights, Islam, oil, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, War, World

South Sudan – The revelry and perils for a new nation

Sudanese refugees

On the ninth of July, the former Republic of Sudan split to form Sudan and the new Republic of South Sudan. It is inevitable that some people will disregard this ‘unimportant nation’ as no news of any concern at all but I think that is pitifully naïve, and here is why. First, before it split, it was the largest country in Africa, with a potentially huge emerging market for businesses and entrepreneurs who were willing to go into the warzone. Secondly, since the current president of Sudan (the old president of the two combined countries) is wanted for crimes against humanity and genocide against the South Sudanese.

This split is, if nothing else, a triumph of diplomacy to avoid such mass scale killings. Thirdly, the combined international importance of the oil wealth in South Sudan alongside being blacklisted by USA as a sponsor of terrorism means there is a potent arrangement we need to understand, if we care about either of those issues.

Now, this is by no means a success. Needless to say, South Sudan is riddled with ongoing problems. Apart from the curses of horrific health, education, and lack of general standards of living that benight most African countries, this split introduces fresh difficulties. But even these crises will be eased by the simple creation of the new country.

This can be seen when comparisons are made between the relative health and education standards between the north and south before the split. The infant mortality rate, percentage of children finishing primary school, disposable income per household, among many other indices were significantly better in the north because the previous government was stationed there, and as is natural in such developing countries, it concentrated the wealth gained by the oil in its stronghold. Now that South Sudan’s government is devolved to its own people, it can distribute its own wealth.

Or that is the theory. In fact, although most of the oil reserves are contained within its territory, the only working pipelines are through Sudan. Hence, one of the first issues to decide is how to share the profits. This author suggests a 50-50 sharing, as it was before the split, for a few years while a prospective new pipeline is created through Uganda. This should be done as quickly as possible so that the southern state is not economically dependant on one country. Another inheritance that should be shared is the debt the previous state accumulated. Although it may be tiresome to calculate fully, the debt should be transferred according where the investment has gone. That seems the only fair solution, so everyone is responsible for their own repayment. This is the easiest way we will get our money back as well.

Sudan should not be forgotten in all these considerations. Sudan did not celebrate. It stands to lose its main source of wealth – oil – as well as facing mass emigration of people returning to their homes in the south, for those who want it. What remains of Sudan is predominantly desert (as opposed to South, which contains fertile soil ready to be cultivated and exploited), and it is still one of the poorest places on Earth.

There is one further setback which seems to reflect the hasty decision of this whole affair – it has to deal with rebels in several of its regions in its southern provinces, namely Abyei and South Kordofan. Abyei was not given the chance of a referendum to choose whether it will join the new country, and this has precipitated further clashes.

Under the agreement of independence in January, it was concluded that the rebels, who are essentially from South Sudan, will be assimilated into the regional army, or disarmed. This has the potential for further escalation, especially since there is already a border dispute as to whether Abyei belongs to the north or the south. It is right now annexed by the north, and this seems a temporary amelioration of two evils. Otherwise, we are faced with an all out war. As the Sudanese journalist Mahjoub Mohamed Salih reports: it has all the markings of a genuine conflict between two countries. If Abyei remains with the north, and its troops withdraw within a few years, this seems the best solution, enforced by the 4200 peacekeepers soon to join the area.

The road ahead for South Sudan is perilous, at best. Even the reason for its independence creates potential conflicts, as – unlike the Arab Muslim north – South Sudan is a mixture of over 200 ethnic groups with their own languages. Moreover, the largest ethnic group amounts to over 40% of the population, while another four remaining large ethnic groups are another split fairly equally.

There is already talking of the interim government excluding delegates from certain groups. It is imperative that when the constitution is created, along with elections and parliamentary institutions, proper power devolution is given to these groups – as that would place power with the individual. There should also be a pact to teach English to everyone, alongside their local language. However, despite all these looming problems, we have to celebrate the introduction of another country to our overpopulated, chaotic world, and the South Sudanese must try to make their place in it. We should learn our lessons from past mistakes in Somalia and not so easily give up on the South Sudanese.

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “South Sudan – The revelry and perils for a new nation

  1. Very interesting read. Thoughtful and well written. As a Duutch native I thank my luucky stars I live in a couuntry that is stable and safe.

    Keep uup the good work!

    Gunt Muulbus

    Posted by Gunt Muulbus | July 13, 2011, 7:19 pm
  2. very quickly… I will just pick on the 2 economic points you raised… the sharing of the oil will be key… if the South decide not to share the oil I dont think these 2 countries will ever find peace… the result will be a even more desperate Sudan and as you said Sudan has nothing in terms of resources… for similar reasons I dont think that the sharing of the debt as you suggest wont be viable…
    Interesting your article raises deeper questions like the arbitrary borders of Africa, nation building process in Africa etc.. Now Can anyone guarantee that the majority group within the South will not oppress minorities? Anyway… It sets a precedent and I am hoping it will work out for them…

    Posted by Moustapha | July 13, 2011, 8:08 pm
    • Thankyou for your comment Moustapha, I apologise for the late reply, I wanted to make sure I wrote an adequate reply. Though the South definitely should share the spoils of the oil, they should have a larger share, at least in the future. This reflects the pre-independence policy of most of the wealth being distributed to the north. What you describe is a sad situation, where the threat of a Sudanese conflict spilling over gives them an inflated power. This is unfair to the South Sudanese, and that was my reasoning behind the settling of the debt. If while still one country, they were irresponsible with the aid money provided to them, it would be unfair for the South to get a bigger proportion of the debt. Of course, with international cooperation and good relations between the two countries, South Sudan can decide to share the burden.
      As to the second point you raise about the South oppressing minorities, this is a real risk which could escalate, and like you, I say we can only hope that they will be fairly represented, as this will be a good first step. Afterwards, the creation of a national identity may allow the several minorities to remain in peace.
      All in theory… Anyway, thank you for your comment.

      Posted by pragmaticgogo | July 15, 2011, 7:12 pm
  3. Well done, great analysis! You are so very positive about the future of the country despite extent of desperation of the economic/political/human development state of the both parts of Sudan or the nearly none existent development record of Africa. I truly hope, you are right and I am just very pessimistic 🙂

    Posted by Noora | July 13, 2011, 10:10 pm
    • Hi Noora, thank you for your comment. I agree that I am being optimistic, but the creation of a new country indpendent from oppression brings people together unlike anything else (I refer you to the example of Bulgaria becoming independent in 1878) Yet, even in that example, there were several wars involved within a few years of its creation, internal fighting and bickering, but of course this is a fierce process. The only thing we can hope is that their drive for betterment continues, and the international community does not give up if there is a war/conflict.

      Posted by pragmaticgogo | July 15, 2011, 7:16 pm

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