The Break-up of Sudan and the Probable Problems

09 July 2011
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Former British colony Sudan gained its independence after the Post-Cold War, has never been able to attain its internal stability. The quarrel between the north and the south of Sudan, which dates back to the colonial period, has resulted in a half-century long civil war, loss of lives and  relocation of people. With Southern Sudan formally declaring its independence on the 9th July, struggle between the North and the South Sudan has taken on a different dimension.

As it was decided in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the government of Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLA) in 2005, Southern Sudan would hold a referandum for its self-determination. That referandum was held in the middle January of 2011 and it resulted in Southern Sudan’s  secession from the central government ofSudan. As a result of  the referandum, Southern Sudan formally declared its independence on the 9th of July and joined the international community.

Break up of countries change the balance of power in their regionsand the formation of the new balances is quite painful since it leads to frictions among the players of the regions.The example of Czechoslovakia is one of the exceptions in this sense as being a painless one. There is no doubt that the formal independence of Southern Sudan and its emergence as a new state will lead to certain positive and negative consequences. Nobody butthe Southern Sudanese believe that secession from Sudan and the formation of an independent state would settle the problems of the region and the country. There exists such a general idea that emergence of South Sudan will create new problems with central government in Khartoum, and ethnic and religious problems within the South. Before analyzing the underlying reasons of the problems and the new condition that will appear with the rise of Southern Sudan, it would be of use to take a brief look at the history of the problem.

Root Causes of the Problem and the Interest of the West
Mehmet Ali Pasha, who was in power in Egypt, defeated the Funj Sultanate that had existed in the northern part of today’s Sudan in 1820 and incorporated the sultanate to Egypt. Mehmet Ali Pasha and the following administrators were not able to please the Sudanese Muslims in particular. Claiming that it would improve the Egypt’s maladministration in Sudan, England penetrated its troops into Sudan. England, which had suppressed the Mohammed Mahdi movement that was organized against the administration of Egypt at that time, stayed in Sudan until the declaration of independence in 1956.

A year before Sudan’s independence from England in 1956, a group of people in Southern Sudan foresaw that England would leave the region. Upon England’s withdrawal, the same group of people thought that the new state would be under the heavy influence of the colonialist policies applied by the central Khartoum government. This group,with the purpose of establishing an independent state in the South,went to war with the Sudanese administration which started to be formed in the north. The civil war that stopped for only 13 years with the ceasefire agreement signed in 1972, resumedin 1983 and continued until the  peace agreement signed in 2005.

The Western media and the national media bodies that quote from the western media and release to the Turkish public opinion say that the problem in Sudan derive from the problem between the Muslim Northern Sudan and the Christian Southern Sudan. However, the existing problem does not arise from regional or ethnic/religious differences. The real cause of the problem is the policies and regional discrimination that were practiced by the colonialist administrationat the beginning of the 20th century. Another point to be noted is the social structure of Sudan. Contrary to popular belief, Sudan does not have a clear-cut  division as theMuslim/Arabic North and the Christian/African South. However, it cannot be denied that people of Arab immigrant descent live in Sudan and these people are dispersed across the country, intermarriages occurred with different indigenous groups and had impact on the local community.

In this period of British rule, the missionaries paid a special attention to the southern parts of Sudan where it was not the Islam or Christianity that was influential but instead the local religions. The Muslims in the northern part of Sudan were the biggest challenge to be handled at first so that the English colonialist administration could settle in the region via the Christian missionaries. The number of Christians in Southern Sudan was increasing with the help of the English government. Additionally, the colonial administration was trying to prevent the Muslims, who were living in the Northern provinces, from reaching the south and being effective there. Thus, the colonialist administration formed a buffer zone between the parallels eight and nine thereby prohibiting the northerner and the southerner from passing to the other side. Likewise, mechanisms that punished those passing to the other side were developed. As a justification, it was stated that the purpose here was to prevent the spread of the malaria that was widely seen in the northern parts to the regions of the south. Similarly, in the same period, the colonial administration of England granted privileges to those converting to Christianity among many other ethnic groups in Southern Sudan. Likewise, there was much more investment made in the south compared to the northern parts of Sudan. Besides, the colonial English administration prohibited the Southern Sudanese from speaking Arabic, which was the lingua franca of  the region, and from  dressing like the northerners. What’s more, the district  commissioners of the Southern Sudan did not participate in the meetings of the district commissioners of the Northern Sudan but instead in the meetings of the administrators of the East African countries, which are the colonies of England. When Sudan gained its independence, as a result of the policies applied during this period, although not officially, the country was already divided.

Death of Garang and the Importance of Southern Sudan
John Garang, an agricultural economist by profession, became the leader of the SPLA when the civil war restarted in 1983. The main reason for his struggle was ideological and unlike the previous SPLM administrators, John Garangdid not adopted the idea of establishing an independent state in the south. Yet, he did not want to draw the reaction of the  other  rebelgroups which were quiet effective in Southern Sudan along with the SPLM. Even though he adopted the statement “new Sudan- One Sudan” as the slogan, he acted cautiously in his negotiations with the Al-Bashir administration in order to take concessions fromthe Khartoum government.

The 2005 PeaceAgreement, which ended the long-lasting civil war, proposed a power-sharing government until a referendum was held for self-determination. Garangtook the oath of office as the Southern representative of Sudan in July 9 of 2005 and became the Vice President of the country. It was only a year since taking office that, in his return from the first visit abroad –Uganda- his helicopter had a crash and he lost his life. The death of Garang raised many unanswered questions  but no news agency published any photograph concerning the news in the first week of the accident. Apart from Garang, his assistants and some authorities from Uganda were in the helicopter. Official authorities stated that the main reasons for the helicopter accident werethe bad weather conditions and fuel deficiency. Many sides including Grang’s family believed in the official declerations.

M1-72 Model Helicopter was the personal VIP airplane of the President of Uganda, YoweriMuseveni. After the  bilateral talks, Museveni assigned his own helicopter for Garang to take him to Sudan. The helicopter had been recently modernized with the latest technologicaly. It was equipped with the devices that measured the height of the plane from the sea level and showed the trees, mountains and other geographical features 1000 km away. The helicopter was equipped with a strong lighting system that could prevent it from crashing trees and likewise, it would give aural warning when the helicopter got close a tree. That such a helicopter, which was equipped with these high features, crashed at the rocks only after 45 minutes following its take off as a result of fuel deficiency and bad weather conditions put manyquestion marks in the minds.

Some groups from Southern Sudan claim that Garang had been killed by the Al-Bashir administration. However, since the helicopter fell in the region that was under the control of SPLM, this did not gain much acceptance. According to the owners of this claim, although the Sudan government had signed an agreement with the SPLM, it never agreed to grant much autonomy to the south. Moreover, the Sudanese were concerned about thepossibility that Garang would turn the country into a more federative one and would demand independence in the future. There are also such claims that, being well aware of the fact that Garang was the most important factor in holding the SPLM together as the organization, the Sudanese thought that there would be divisions within the organization, if they had removed Garang. In addition to this, it is also proposed that it was  a group of people which were against Garang within the SPLM that assassinatedGarang. To some, Garang had not informed  some of the top officials of Southern Sudan about the agreement he was about to sign. Many of the prominent names of the SPLM were not inclined to sign the agreement because what they aspired instead was the disintegration of the Southern Sudan from Sudanas an independent state. Suchpeople were not pleased with Garang’sagreement with  Khartoum and his dictator-like attitudes in the organization. A different group of people held the West responsible for the helicopter accident. Forcing such an advanced helicopter to crash requires high technological capacity and Sudan does not have that technology. This last claim showsthat the  Western countries paid a close attention to the future of the Southern Sudan. But what could be the reason behindthe interest ofWestern countries in Southern Sudan? Why Garang was assassinated right after signing an agreement with the government of Khartoum?

Big powers of the West were well aware of the influence of Garang on the SPLM and foresaw that Garang might agree with the Al-Bashir administration. However,  what really concerned these states was the possibility thatGarang who assumed vice presidency would suppress the groups which demanded independence in Southern Sudan as a result of the increased opportunities. Another possibility and concern for the West was that Garang, who already established close ties with the Chinese government, would increase cooperation with China and substitute the Western countries as development partners. Although it was the biggest country inAfrica with its 2,5 million square kilometers, Sudan’s level of economic development was rather low. With the start of oil  exportation in 1999, the country became the third biggest oil exporter in Africa, the first two being Nigeria and Angola. As a result, remarkable improvements were seen in the country’s economy. In the upcoming years, more and more oil wells were openedespecially in the southern part of the country. Nevertheless, the administration of Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum had ruined relations with the western powers. While this administration supplied China and Malaysia with a substantial amount of its petroleum reserves, share of France from oil reserves in Sudan was below the expectations of the French. For the last decade, China’s influence over Africa has been steadily increasing and this is closely followed by the western countries. Unitl recent years, presence of China in Africa was not regarded as a threat to national security by Western countries. But for last couple of years,  especially the Western countries began to compete with China in increasing their influence on African governments. Apart from oil reserves and China’s increasing effect on the region, another reason why the big powers have turned their attention to this region is the rich water resources. It is also known that along with the western countries, Israel has signed agreements related to water resources apart from those concerning oil with the authorities ofthe Southern Sudan.

Potential Problem Areas
Just it has been in any separation, Southern Sudan’s separation from Sudan will naturally result in a set of problems. As it has been stated in the paragraphs above,  problematic relations will deteriorate in the near future. The following paragraphs will be briefly dealing with these probable problems and their repercussions on the region.

Repercussions on Sudan:
The first question that comes to mind iswhether the secession of the South will end the half-century old conflict.. Al-Bashir stated himself that he bore respect for the result of the referendum and hoped that the newly founded government would be successful. The region is already fed up with the long-lasting struggles and Darfur problem. Therefore, it is regarded unlikelyor Khartoum to arouse  new problems with the Southern Sudan. Thus, even if the intensity of the North-South conflict reduces and turn into a static state, there exists such a possibility that tension between the North and the South can rise in case of small-scaled crises.In order to hammer out a solution for the ongoing Darfur problem, Central Sudan Government will sit on a table with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the 14th July. Southern Sudan which declared its independence and turned into a state may, prior to talks, cause trouble for the Khartoum administration. It is because of the probability that the authorities of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), by showing the SPLM as an example, state that they may demand for independence and it would not be difficult to get international support. Besides, having difficulty in suppressing the ongoing anti-central government movements in the recent period of the Southern Kordofan, Khartoum may face demands for independence from this  state. These developments which have shown the Al-Bashir administration as the defeated one and in a loss will encourage the other separatist groups as well.

Internal Disorder in Southern Sudan:
Firstly, competition among the big powers trying to put the newly emerged state under their influence may postpone the stability of this new country. Although it is the SPLM that has been widely known as the biggest player in Southern Sudan’s gaining independence, there are many opposing groups –be it small or big- that helped this organization. These groups will compete against each other in order to have  more say in the administration of the newly-formed state and in order to allocate a share for their ethnic groups from the opportunities of the state. This competition and differences in political opinion may delay stability in the internal politics. As one of the results of the increasing polarization among the groups in Southern Sudan, some separatist movements, which act under the light of certain ethnic and religious stances, may appear.

Transfer of Oil into the International Market and the Abyei Problem:
It is estimated that Sudan has nearly 550 millon barrels of oil reserves. Current 450 thousand barrels per day production is aimed to have reached 600 thousandbarrels per day until 2013. Yet, 80% of the oil reserves is located in Southern Sudan. Thus, the Khartoum government will be seriously damaged economic wise. Southern Sudan is landlocked and this disadvantage will make it difficult to get the oil to the international markets. The oil that has been drilled so far in this region has been delivered to the harbor city of Port Sudan in the Northeast of the country via pipelines. After disintegration, the Sudan government which is thought to be at a disadvantageous position compared to Southern Sudan will be able to make use of its pipeline against the new state. Southern Sudan, which does not have any other option for now, will do its best in order not to strain the relations with Khartoum.

Another alternative for the Southern Sudan could be the establishment of a new pipeline that will be added to the Chad-Cameroon pipelinewith a new project to be undertaken by the World Bank. In this way, the oil of Southern Sudan could be connected to the Cameroon harbor through which the oil is transferred to the world markets.

People of Abyei region, a region that is geographically in the north of the region, want to be annexed to  Southern Sudan because they are not pleased with the government of Khartoum. As for the administration in Northern Sudan, it does not want to lose the region that is on the border of the Southern Sudan, in the northeast of the Southern Kordofanstate. Hence, it aspires to increase its influence over this region thereby maintaining the control of the region. What makes the Abyei region so importantis the fact that the oil zone in Sothern Sudan leads up to the north, concentrates in the Abyei region and comes to an end there. The Khartoum government which has already lost the vast majority of its oil wells to the south puts all its efforts in order not to lose the Abyei. In the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, it was decided to hold a referendum for Abyei in the upcoming period as well just as it had been in the example of Southern Sudan.

Since there is almost no chance for the improvement of the relations between the Khartoum government and Abyei, the Abyeihas the characteristics of a region that could threat the international peace. In the event that the parties involved did not come to an agreement on a reasonable ground, Abyei, just like  Kashmir, will have the potential of being a chronicproblem. 

Return of the Immigrants:
It is estimated that almost two million people have been displaced andhave had to find another place to live because of the civil war that has lasted for more than half a century. After theindependence of the Southern Sudan, especially those who used to live in the frontier regions,will want to  return and resettle at the lands that they had left at one time. Meeting the basic needs of the people who turn back in big groups will be rather challenging for the Southern Sudan administration and local administrations alike.  Another possibility is that when those people who have been away from their hometowns for long years turn back, new conflicts may arise between them and the people who  currently live there. When the displaced people comeback, they may demand ashare of the resourcesof their homeland. Therefore, reallocation of resources of the region between the current residents and returnees  is very like to spark new conflicts. This may, inevitably, put the local and immigrant people against government officials.

Separatist Movements in the Region Will Find Courage:
The independenec ofthe Southern Sudan will stimulate the separatist movements in the other regions of Africa and the other places of the world or encourage those that have already started. The success of the Southern Sudan and the belief that they will be able to gain the support of the western countries will promote such movements of that nature.

Conclusion and Its Reflections on Turkey
Unfortunately, a country has been dividedas a result of the seeds of division that were sowed with the policies of British colonialism a hundred years ago. What’s more important is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and more than a million people had to flee. From now on, Southern Sudan has the status of a new independent state.  Both the Sudan administration and the other countries have to acknowledge this fact. The realistic policy of the central Sudan administration in Khartoum has ensured the smooth solution of this problem. A week before the independence of the Southern Sudan, Omar al-Bashir said he was happy with the situation of the Southerners yet was sorry about the whole Sudan and lastly wished the Southern Sudan administration success.

Turkey, thanks to its historical and cultural ties with Sudan, has established close relations with that country. Turkey, by recognizing the Southern Sudan Republic, will make a constructive start in its diplomatic relations with this newly emerged country. As a consequence of the rapport to be established between the two countries, Turkey may take on the role of leading mediationsfor the settlement of the  futureproblems in the region as a reliable and impartial ally. Furthermore, TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency),for the development of the countries, conducts many projects in various parts of the world and especially in the northern parts of Sudan. Likewise, TIKA may actualize new projects with the Southern Sudan administration thereby gaining the interest and the friendship of this new state. The opening of Turkish foreign policy  toAfrica and the projects that have been implemented in this region have long laid the foundation of such a role that can be overtaken by Turkey.


Translated by Hacer Şartepe

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