SUDAN WATCH: Sudans next challenge: preserving its borders

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sudans next challenge: preserving its borders

Following on from the previous post below, here are some extracts from an article at Aljazeera Feb 10 that suggest a national identity needs to be created if Sudan is to remain united, or it may be better for Sudan to go its own way:

An extremely significant article in the peace deal, and one that many have passed off lightly, is that after six years a referendum will be held to the Southern Sudanese on whether they choose to secede from the north or not. This referendum brings up the issue of the possible redrawing of the map of Africa for the first time since the end of the colonial era.

Most of the conflicts within Africa are over control of land and natural resources - oil, diamonds, copper and silver - and the best means of grasping at those have traditionally been to control the central government.

"Most of these insurgencies are striving for power at a national level," said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "That is the only thing that matters. If you are out of power you are out of luck."

In some cases, Morrison saya, the conflicts are simply too deep and complex to be resolved any other way than by breaking up. Sudan, which has been at war for much of its 50-year post-colonial history, would seem to be the foremost example of such a case.

But many times it's the rebels themselves who oppose the border redrawing. Having seen how lucrative centralized power can be, most are reluctant to give it up for what is often paradoxically seen as the lesser goal of independence.

In the case of Sudan, John Garang the SPLA/M leader, has argued against secession despite its popularity among his followers, pushing instead for a bigger role in the central government in Khartoum.

"How can a people who have been subjugated...for so long accept unity?" asked Adam Cholong Ohiri, a professor at Juba University. "Many will conclude it is better to go our own way."

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Photo (Aljazeera) SPLA soldiers look at a copy of the comprehensive peace agreement before a meeting in Rumbek, Southern Sudan

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