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By René Wadlow - Association of World Citizens
July 10, 2011
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became an independent State, six months after the January referendum in which the south Sudan population voted overwhelmingly for independence. However, Sudan is not really structured to be divided in two. There are no natural dividing lines, neither physical nor social. During much of the English colonial period, southern Sudan was administered from Uganda as road communications were easier than from Khartoum, the capital in the north of the country. In fact, 'administered' is too strong a term. South Sudan had no real crops for export or minerals to mine, and so there was very little administration. In place of any government development activities, the Colonial Office encouraged Christian missionaries, mostly Church of England and Roman Catholic to set up schools and clinics. Thus south Sudan was 'Christianized' in that the educated had gone to church schools and been treated in Christian clinics. However, most people continued also to practice traditional rituals as these were considered as part of tribal life and not as the rituals of a particular religion. Thus when considering Sudan, the often-used terms of 'Muslim', 'Christian', and 'Animist' cover a more complex reality.
In December 2010, no less than 98.83% of
South Sudanese voters chose independence at the polls.
The 1972-1982 decade was one of relative
peace, but it was not used to heal the divisions or to work out
forms of government, administration, and legal systems that would
be acceptable to all segments of Sudanese society. International
attention on Sudan had diminished once the 1972 peace agreement
was signed. The warning signals that all was not well were ignored
internationally. Thus in 1982, southern soldiers who had been
integrated into the national army revolted, and the second phase
of the civil war continued from 1983 until the end of 2004.
The flag of the Republic of South Sudan, originally the flag of the Sudanese People's Army/Movement (SPLAM).
Darfur (the home of the Fur) was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan. In the 19th century, Darfur, about the size of France, was an independent Sultanate loosely related to the Ottoman Empire. It was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa and the Birgit. Nomads from Libya also moved south into Darfur. As the population density was low, a style of life with mutual interaction between pastoral herdsmen and settled agriculturalists with some livestock developed. Increasingly, however, there was ever-greater competition for water and forage made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.
France and England left Darfur as a buffer
zone between the French colonial holdings - what is now Chad
- and the Anglo-Egyptian controlled Sudan. French-English rivalry
in West Africa had nearly led earlier to a war - the Fashoda
crisis of 1898. Thus a desert buffer was of more use than its
low agricultural and livestock production would provide to either
European colonial power. It was only in 1916 during the First
World War when French-English colonial rivalry in Africa paled
in front of the common German enemy that the English annexed
Darfur to the Sudan without asking anyone in Darfur or the Sudan
if such a 'marriage' was desirable.
In 2000, Darfur's political leadership had met and wrote the Black Book which detailed the region's systematic under-representation in national government since independence. However, at the level of the central government, the Black Book led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur. This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur that only violent action would bring recognition and compromise as the war with the South had done.
An armed insurgency began in 2003 led by the more secular but tribal Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Since then, there have been splits in the JEM and the SLA largely along tribal lines. These splits make negotiations with the government of Sudan all the more difficult. The interests of many people in Darfur are not represented by either the government or the insurgencies, but it is nearly impossible for other voices to be heard.
In Darfur, there is a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), but there is no peace to keep. Although the peacekeeping force has a mission to protect populations, it is unable to do so. As Mohammed Otham noted in his UN report (A/HRC/14/41) "In Darfur, notwithstanding the general improvement in the security situation, banditry, criminal activities and intermittent military activities by the parties to the conflict have continued. In some areas, aerial bombardment and troop mobilization by the Sudanese Armed Forces have been reported. In the context of this ongoing violence, United Nations and humanitarian personnel face significant risks to their lives. A significant number of UNAMID and humanitarian staff were deliberately attacked; some were abducted and held in captivity for long periods." The level of suffering in Darfur - people killed and displaced, the agricultural infrastructure destroyed - has been very high. The reconciliation and reconstruction of Darfur will be difficult. We must be on the lookout for possibilities to help.
René Wadlow is Senior Vice President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.