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Analysis: Sudan needs reality check

ICC Note

The mainly animist and Christian south Sudanese will likely opt for independence from the rest of Sudan during referendum of 2009 because Islamist dominated government of Sudan has not been committed to terms of Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

By Hassan Ibrahim

January 7, 2008 Sudan (AlJAZEERA)-The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan ‘s People Liberation Movement signed on January 9, 2005 ended years of bloody warfare which had effectively split the country in two.


It is true that many Sudanese political parties had welcomed the CPA. They thought the National Congress was finally willing to democratise the country and share power. But that did not happen.


While goodwill and ceremony accompanied the signing of the CPA, the optimism faded a few months later with the death of John Garang, SPLM leader, in a helicopter crash on July 31, 2005.

For many Sudanese, particularly in the south, Garang inspired hope in a democratic, secure and united Sudan .

Garang fought for this goal for many years and believed the CPA to be a launchpad for his vision. But it seems that all of those noble notions were buried with him.

Massive civilian toll

It is estimated that up to three million south Sudanese had been either killed or displaced since the conflict began in May 1983.

The basis of their struggle had been their desire to end decades of discrimination and injustice inflicted upon them by the Northern-dominated government.

Their sense of disenfranchisement was further compounded by a sense of alienation in September 1983 when Ja’afar Nemeiri, the former leader of Sudan , introduced his controversial Islamic penal code into the judicial system. That was the last straw for the predominantly animist and Christian South.


Lingering distrust

So is all of that bitter history a relic of the past? The answer is an emphatic no. History still haunts the peace partners to this day; the walls of distrust are too thick to be demolished by the mere exchange of smiles and pleasantries.

The South is in dire need of vital infrastructure and goods, from roads and industry to antibiotics and pencils. I toured parts of the South in 2006 and was shocked to see the total lack of development despite the rich potential of the land.

Poverty, illiteracy, and disease are everywhere while the inexperienced former fighters are desperately trying to grapple with the challenges facing them in affairs of governance.

The situation in Khartoum is not much better for the south Sudanese. The leaders of the National Congress Party, so used to being at the helm of power, have been loathe to relinquish their seats of power without a fight.

Some of them had to be dragged to the negotiating table and agreed to reach a deal only after a lot of coaxing and pressure from the international community.


Oil of contention

The CPA has also deliberately prolonged the transitional period in order to build trust between North and South. The goal was to convince south Sudanese that they would be better off in a united Sudan . Unfortunately, unity seems like an impossible goal right now after three years of this strange power and wealth-sharing formula.

Sudan ‘s oil wealth is considered to be a serious bone of contention between the two regions and is threatening to plunge the country again into a bitter conflict.


The Khartoum government knows that it would choke economically without the oil produced in Abeyei, while the SPLM is trying to gain control of the area to honour promises of oil concessions made to many Western companies.



SPLM members have never been able to shake off the belief they are “oppressed southerners” while their northern counterparts feel as if they were being robbed of all achievements of the National Salvation Revolution – the name they call the coup that brought the Islamists to power in June 1989.


The south Sudanese are supposed to vote in a referendum in 2009 to choose between a national unity or secession.

But there are concerns that the people of south Sudan are highly unlikely to opt for unity. The reasons are many and painful, but what stands out as the single greatest justification for separation is that save for a few SPLM leaders, the lives of most southerners has not improved at all.


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