Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sudan - the political situation

Sudan is the biggest country in Africa (more than 2.5 mill km2 – or 60 times as big as Denmark!) with close to 40 million inhabitant. Since Sudan gained its independence from Great Britain in 1956 the country has been in almost constant civil war.

The civil wars (1956-72 & 1983-2005) are caused by many things. Mainly the war has been seen as a war between the Arab-Muslim North and the African-Christian South. Still, there is more to the conflict than race and religion – more precisely access to resources. Khartoum and the Arab-Islamic regime have a tendency to favor not only the Northern part of Sudan but more specifically the Arabic population in the North.

When the second civil war broke out in 1983 the then SPLM leader in the South, Dr. John Garang, introduced the idea of a New Sudan with room for everyone. The message appealed greatly to the marginalized African population in the North (both Muslim and non-Muslim) and had a great impact of the development in the civil war. The war was no longer about North and South but rather a war about rights and kinships. For this reason Darfur and other parts of Northern Sudan join in the war against the regime in Khartoum.

In 2005 SPLM in the South signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the government in the North. Finally, ending the war for the people of South Sudan. Darfur and other parts of North Sudan are still in conflict with the government in Khartoum.

As part of the CPA South Sudan achieved semi-autonomy. This has resulted in a unique set-up with one country, two governments. The President of South Sudan is also acting at the Vice-President of the entire Sudan.

According to the CPA both North and South has committed themselves to working towards a unity Sudan. For exactly this reason an election will take place this April. The election will cover the two governments as well as all 25 States – quite a challenge for the Sudanese people who have not had a democratic election in 24 years.

It has now been five years since the signing of the CPA and it has become clear to all parties that the wish to unity Sudan is next to impossible. Both sides have – indirectly – admitted that it is too late and now focus is on the South Sudan referendum scheduled for January 2011 in which the people of South Sudan will decide on whether or not to liberate themselves from the North and form an independent country. The outcome of such a referendum is rather predictable.

On the border between North and South is some of the biggest oilfields in the world. Unless some kind of agreement on the division of the valuable resources can be agreed upon, it is far from certain that the North will accept an independent South. The future of Sudan is very uncertain and for the local population is seems they still have a lot to survive before being able to enjoy a quiet and peaceful life without war and destruction.

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