Is United Sudan Still Possible?
Worldbulletin, Oct. 2010
The biggest county in Africa, Sudan, is going to start coming new year with a referendum which may pave the way for independence to its semi-autonomous South Sudan region. It seems that the referendum result will change millions of southerners’ future in some degree. It will affect cultural, economic and population balance of whole Sudan in general as well. Moderate change for political and religious balance in the East/Central Africa can also be expected after the referendum. Even the Nile water discussion between the countries in Nile Basin Initiative will get new dimension if South gets independency since it will demand construction of new dams and water projects for its agricultural activities.
As Sudan is getting close to the historic referendum, some crucial problems between north and south is still outstanding. Border demarcation, foreign debts, citizenship and distribution of oil resources are eminent issues waiting to be solved until referendum date. Especially, discussion on oil-rich Abyei region that located on south-north border should be completed. It is expected that simultaneously with South Sudan general referendum, another regional referendum will be organized for Abyei. Neither the central government nor the semi-autonomous government in South is willing to lose control over oil-rich area Abyei due to petroleum income which each side needs for economic development. For that reason, future of Abyei looks more important than rest of the South Sudan’s future.
Apparently, both sides (north and south governments) have different motivation regarding the future of South Sudan. While the central government, led by President Omar Al Basher’s National Congress Party (NCP), supports unity of Sudan for economical and geopolitical reasons, Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), ruling party in South Sudan led by Salva Kiir, considers secession idea more than unity for Sudan. Recently, South Sudan President Salva Kiir addressed world leaders in United Nations General Assembly and revealed that the idea of united Sudan was no longer his party SPLM’s priority. In the same session, US President Obama asked for free and transparent referendum and explained US efforts as mediator between north and south wings. Further, after his return to Southern capital Juba Kiir announced his own vote color and said he will vote for independency in the referendum.
President Salva Kiir’s SPLM has been running secession campaign in South Sudan territory since Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005. By %92 of general votes, SPLM received huge support in recent April election in the South for presidency. It is a very important indicator for prediction of expected referendum result which followed with great concern by all sectors in the country. However, NCP’s campaign statement for unity remains still weak in the South since what it promises for South’s future is not very clear. How Unity can change Southerners life standards should be explained more clearly by ruling NCP. In current situation it seems that while SPLM basically vows independency for Southerners, NCP vows continuation of current conditions for them. But present circumstances in South Sudan needs more improvement in all directions especially infrastructure, health and education sectors. For instance, the capital of South Juba has only 60km. paved proper road and definitely needs more than this.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has stressed South Sudan’s willingness for secession in his recent speeches in and out of Sudan. According to his idea, South Sudan might conduct its own referendum if President Basher’s NCP attempts to hinder the historic referendum. South Sudan and SPLM seems decisive for South’s independency till now. Their effort for the long awaited self-determination referendum is also supported by international community, Western countries and religious leaders of South Sudan churches. On the other hand, President Omar Al Basher and his party NCP have accused South President Salva Kiir of supporting for the South’s secession in public. NCP has stressed that Kiir’s open support for separation was clear violation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which terminated two decades of civil war between north and south in Sudan. The Unity campaign of NCP receives support from Arab and some African countries in general. At the latest Afro-Arab Summit in the Libyan town of Sirte, Arab leaders gave huge support to Sudan for its Unity. Besides, they all agreed that secession of South might have negative effect on African continent as well as some Arab states. In the Summit, Libyan leader M. Gaddafi described Southerner’s demand for the referendum as contagious disease that affects the continent. However, Gaddfi’s statement was in contrast to comments he made in March after the Muslim and Christian clashes in Nigeria.
In conclusion, it seems that Sudan is in important phase which might change identity of millions of Sudanese citizens. If the historic referendum result provides south to establish a new state in Africa, Southerners should also establish their own new identity. So far, SPLM’s campaign for secession gained more support than NCP’s unity campaign amongst Southerners. As previously mentioned, NCP should be clearer in his statements for Unity. As well known in history, “independency/freedom” is the strongest statement of all times.