TWO MAJOR BLOODY WARS--ONE from 1955 to 1972 and the other from 1983 to 2005--left the Southern Sudanese too bitter to accept the idea of a united Sudan. In January 2011 Southerners, collectively, sealed off the fate of Africa's largest country in a referendum, the climax of a 2005 North-South peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running conflict. About 99% voted for independence.
Sudan, cobbled together by the British in the 19th century, effectively split into two on 9 July 2011. The breakaway republic calls itself South Sudan and the old one has retained its original name, the Republic of Sudan, an unenviable nightmare for the postman sorting out the mail of the two republics whose names appear similar.
Emotions ran high during the independence celebrations in South Sudan. I remember an elderly war veteran addressing a crowd in Juba, saying that he was now ready to die. The man, in his 80s, desperately wanted to be the first to break the good news to his fallen buddies--such as the late Dr John Garang de Mabior, the founder of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA), a guerrilla outfit that championed the 1983-2005 liberation struggles--that South Sudan was at last free.
In the North, the independence celebration was marked by a deep sense of loss and mourning. Northerners, glued to their TV sets, could not believe that Sudan was disintegrating before their very eyes and they could do nothing about it.
Northerners had a golden opportunity to make unity attractive during the 2005-2011 transitional period. But it seems the terms of the 2005 peace deal had intimidated them. They resisted power sharing and continued, as in the past, to throw bones to the Southerners offering them powerless portfolios such as the ministries of labour and tourism. Sovereign ministries like defence, justice, finance and the interior were a no-go area for Southerners. In 2005, the North, in an attempt to make unity attractive, offered the ministry of foreign affairs to the South but took it back after pressure from its Arab and Islamic militants.
Even where Southerners had been appointed full cabinet ministers, Khartoum made sure that the real power lay with a state minister, a Northerner, who ran the show. Little did the Northerners realise that by marginalising Southerners, they were collectively digging their own grave and, unwittingly, speeding up the country's disintegration!
Perhaps Khartoum's biggest blunder was in the wealth-sharing arrangement. Southerners are convinced that they were receiving only 26% of the oil revenue instead of the 50% as stipulated in the 2005 peace deal. This was the final nail in the coffin.
Southerners concluded that Northerners have not changed an iota to embrace Southerners as equals. They still treat them as fourth-class citizens. Southerners joke that the first-class Sudanese is the "Arab" male; the second is the "Arab" female; the third is the Northern Muslim of African descent (such as those from Darfur, the Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains), in that order.
With independence, South Sudan has now retained possession of all its resources. Negotiations on the hire of the oil pipeline that runs through the North to the Red Sea outlet of Port Sudan should progress faster.
After all, the pipeline is useless without South Sudan's oil, and the oil is of no use without Sudan's pipeline, until Juba finds an alternative through the proposed Indian Ocean port of Lamu in Kenya. Both Juba and Khartoum risk losing precious income if they spend valuable time bickering over the oil. The Sudanese conflict could be defined as problems of identity and power relations. While the North looks towards the Arab and Islamic world for political aspirations, the South considers itself an integral part of Black Africa.
Southerners feel at home in Nairobi and Kampala but strangers in Khartoum. The polarisation has further been widened by irreconcilable foreign policies. …