Al-Ahram Weekly Online   7 - 13 July 2011
Issue No. 1055
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Hoping for the best

There are three possible scenarios for South Sudan after independence, writes Asmaa El-Husseini from Juba

The nascent state of South Sudan, which will be officially declared on Saturday 9 July, is lucky to have already secured legitimacy as well as regional and international recognition, after 99 per cent of its residents voted for secession in a referendum of self-determination on 9 January. The referendum was stipulated in the Sudanese peace agreement signed in 2005 between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), and sponsored by the international community.

The state of South Sudan will be created automatically, without complications from 193 UN members. It will be member 54 in the African Union, and possibly even member 23 in the Arab League (AL) if the new government decides to become a full member of the AL ê" an organisation which welcomed the notion, as stated by former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. Or it could be satisfied with having observer status, such as Eritrea. The original state of Sudan will be the first to recognise the state of South Sudan as repeatedly stated by Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. Egypt will be the next in line to recognise the nascent state, as affirmed by its Foreign Minister Mohamed El-Orabi.

Even before official independence, the Republic of South Sudan has been warmly welcomed with a barrage of promises of cooperation and assistance by many parties. This augurs well in terms of support of the choice of the people of the South, who for a long time suffered the longest civil war on the African continent, to build a stable, secure, independent state which co-exists and cooperates with its neighbours. This is certain to reap many rewards for the two Sudanese states and their people, as well as for the Arab region and African continent with the two Sudans at the heart of it.

The people of South Sudan chose the name South Sudan which reassured many in both the North and South, who did not want division to be the end of the road. Some even believe that there is hope for reunion again someday.

Unfortunately, events on the ground in Sudan are undermining the hopes and aspirations of the Sudanese people who will be split into two states. They do not know how things will be in the future between the two states that are bound by fate, even after the South's independence. After secession by the South, the original state of Sudan will lose a quarter of its citizens and a third of its land mass, will suffer dire economic conditions after it loses between 70 and 80 per cent of its oil resources, as well as 60 per cent of its budget and 90 per cent of foreign currencies.

The North will be in critical need for a deal with the South, which will at least continue to rely on the North for its oil exports via Port Sudan. Both countries will require agreements on several sensitive economic issues, most prominently consensus on how 13 million citizens on both sides of the border will be affected by secession. The demarcation line will be the longest border between two countries in Africa, estimated at 2,000 kilometres. There are millions more southerners in the North who will be dealt with as foreigners as soon as independence is declared, losing their jobs and rights in the northern state. There are fewer northerners in the South, but the southern government said it will allow them to stay and even grant them citizenship.

There is good reason for the Sudanese people on both sides of the border to be anxious and apprehensive about future relations between the two states. The situations in Abyei and South Kordofan deteriorated, while conditions in the Blue Nile are precarious, there is no solution in sight for Darfur, and trouble is brewing in eastern and northern Sudan; this threatens the entire state in the North.

But the South does not fare much better. Security problems include the opposition Ugandan Al-Rab Army which is stirring trouble in the South, and the southern armed militias with whom the ruling SPLM was unable to reach agreement. The SPLM accuses the ruling National Congress Party in the North of supporting the militias. Other pertinent issues are removing landmines and resettling the displaced and refugees.

On economic and development issues, the southern state is facing immense challenges. Most regions need the construction of hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, clean water, services, job opportunities, development, and training human resources. Another colossal challenge facing the South is to embrace the various groups in the south ê" the immense tribal, cultural, religious, political and military diversity. Also, to build a cohesive society where no one is marginalised or alienated, and justice, equality and pluralism are the standard ê" essentially, the reasons why the South decided to secede.

Compounding matters further is the precarious relationship between the leaders in the North and South and the lack of trust between them, which were compounded during six years of sharing power. Recent escalation between the two sides in the contested region of Abyei on the border resulted in an international decision to deploy 4,200 Ethiopian soldiers according to Chapter 7 ê" meaning that these forces are on a combat mission. There is agreement to deploy international forces along the entire border between North and South, absorbing the SPLM in the North, and settling the disputes in southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile in the North, which requires large numbers of the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) which had previously fought with the South.

These agreements, reached in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, were described by a large number of members of the ruling party in Khartoum who oppose the deals as "Nifasha 2", after the Sudanese peace accord which was signed in the Kenyan city of Nifasha. They believe that the North has suffered and sacrificed in the peace deal with the South, endured sharing power and provocative demands by the South, and are unwilling to suffer any more, whether it's SPLM members in the North, who will remain after secession, or signing another agreement with a new state in the South on southern Kordofan or the Blue Nile.

At first, Bashir rejected the agreements signed by his deputy Nafie Ali Nafie and criticised them during a Friday sermon at one of the mosques in Khartoum. After a trip to Addis Ababa, however, there were reports that he gave instructions to implement the agreements after fractures appeared within the ranks of the ruling party, and a media campaign succeeded in creating public opposition to them. Those who rejected or were concerned about the agreements among the opposition believed these were yet more partial solutions, and prevent opposition forces across Sudan from uniting to change the ruling regime.

Accordingly, there are grave concerns and suspicions about the situation and the presence of Ethiopian troops in Abyei, which will be a difficult dispute to resolve quickly, perhaps making it the Kashmir of Sudan.

The relationship of the nascent state in South with the historical state in the North could take one of three paths. First, peace between the two states is the best-case scenario for both. But this may not be easy to achieve as the rulers on both sides grapple with problems on the home front and manage diversity within, and each holds on to their alliances to put pressure on the other. The South accuses the North of supporting opposition militias, while the North accuses the South of funding groups in Darfur who oppose the regime. Regional and international players will play a critical role in such a scenario, but the world powers are against Bashir's regime, with the president facing criminal charges by the International Criminal Court, which complicates this option.

Second, war between the two countries is the worst-case scenario, though both sides are incapable of a decisive or long war, without oil which is produced in the South and exported in the North, making each camp dependent on the other. This would destabilise the domestic scene in both countries or result in domestic opposition in a country exhausted by war.

Third, no war and no peace is the more likely and almost as catastrophic scenario, because it will haemorrhage the energy and resources of both states through small proxy wars and result in two failed states. This option is likely if the two are unable to resolve pending issues amongst themselves, and if each separately is incapable of resolving domestic problems and find a modus vivendi. This will also create further complications on the world stage.

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