EDITORIAL – Sudan secession or divorce?


LAST SATURDAY, the Republic of South Sudan became the 54th member of the African Union (AU) and 194th member of the United Nations (UN), and there were celebrations in the streets of its capital, Juba.
After nearly 50 years of a bitter, bloody civil war, and an estimated 1.5 million deaths, Sudan has finally split into two parts – north and south. It is in part a tragedy of ethnicity and religion (we repeat ourselves) and greed.
The birth of the newest state has been an arduous journey and its very emergence comprises the promise of hope for a people raped, pillaged and dispossessed for centuries, but also demonstrates the phenomenon of state failure in post-colonial Africa.
The birth of the world’s newest nation is fraught with danger and many still ponder about the effects of the civil war pitting the south against the north – a war triggered by the struggle over control and sharing of resources.
The ceremony attracted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, and African leaders like Kenyan President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as South Sudan President Salva Kiir hosted the ceremony.
There was much rejoicing.
Kenya’s interest in South Sudan is due to historical, cultural, economic and political reasons. It was said to have “midwifed” the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that has resulted in the split. It would now want to see peace prevail on its northern border where gory tales of war are said to have “traumatised its conscience” for decades.
The transitional constitution that buttressed the new nation into law, protecting it from legal challenges was proclaimed by the Speaker of Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, James Wani Igga, who declared South Sudan a sovereign state and President Kiir then signed the new charter.
The direct meaning of what has happened is that as millions of South Sudanese and their backers celebrate their independence through an act of separation, clouds of a new conflict are gathering between the two “newly-divorced” neighbours.
Apologists of the separation argue the south cannot be blamed for breaking up Africa’s largest country. They say the oppressive regimes in Khartoum never really made serious efforts to make unity attractive to South Sudan and other parts of the now disintegrating monolith.
But scholars and other Pan-Africanists who dreamt of the sanctity of African borders of the past could be forgiven for arguing that this secession kills their most important dream, and opens a Pandora’s box in North Sudan and in the continent as a whole. It could become a nightmare if the poor new states disintegrate further.
Hopefully, the south’s secession will usher in an era of peaceful coexistence for both parts of the former united Sudan.


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