By Yusuf k. Serunkuma
The battle to shape the future of Africa’s politics; put its growth on the correct line and ensure the security of its future generations is one filled with trials and tribulations. January 2011 will see Africa’s largest country, Sudan; get divided into two fragile dominions. (The impulse from the world outside Africa, especially Washington to have it divided is stronger that the beat of the referendum. So, we are better off considering this a foregone conclusion).
All this hustle is built on the assumption that fixing the problems in Southern Sudan is by having it independent from the government in Khartoum. Create two separate territories! This carries other passionately rendered excuses that the current Sudanese Arab-headed government has racially polarised Southern Sudan, attempting to forcibly Islamise and Arabise them, and for their refusal, they have attacked and those that survived have been subjected to slow death through malnutrition, rape and torture in the camps.
And so to have a separate Southern Sudan will help end this criminality from the government headed by President Omar-Al-Bashir. All this voodoo, lacks historic scrutiny, but most significant for its occurrence is that the African Union (AU) is on trial. For close to five years now, these assumptions have been made to look like genuine cases and have been properly advertised to the world through the international, often fatigued media that looks at Africa as some form of wildlife centre. The AU has failed to have full control of proceedings in this country — as it would have been if it were Greece and the European Union is involved. It is instead UN, a bunch of American Hollywood celebrities and the office of the Secretary of State of the United States. Self-interested invaders to say the least! Prof. Mahmood Mamdani has argued that this gives them a “feel-good” effect for what they have failed to do in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As Europe looks forward to stronger integration, Africa/Sudan is being pushed into diametric division. Economist Niall Ferguson in a foreword to Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid observed that as the African continent was colonised years ago, the African debate has also now been colonised. Where are the African presidents who fought apartheid out of South Africa?
The big question: What is the problem with Sudan and why is the world outside Africa (Washington, UN, Hollywood, China) crying louder than the bereaved? This could be such a hard maze to unravel. But visibly, three tips may help provide clues; the war on terror, Darfur crisis and oil.
As has been made clearer today, the war on terror continues to inform perceptions and actions by the world’s alleged single super power, the United States. For example, feared that it could provide haven to terrorists, Somalia was deliberately disorganised in 2005 by a combined force of Ethiopians and American fighters. Equally, fear has not subsided at all over the possibility of Sudan having the potential to provide haven or even fund terrorist groups. So, there’s much need to have it disempowered by setting up a rival, pro-American government in its immediate neighbourhood. I know for a fact that many Southern Sudanese are happy about the prospect of starting to manage their affairs separate from their Arab brothers in the north. But from history, we have been witness to superpowers using or exploiting small nations for their selfish ends, leaving them impoverished in the end. Iran and America were bedfellows in the 1950s, but with the growth of Iranian nationalism, things fell apart. Iran suffered massive exploitation under a pro-American Shah, till 1979. Iraq was buddies with the US during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but we have seen a tragic turning of the tables with the start of the 21st Century. And the combined effect of this is the suffering of the common man.
The Darfur crisis that escalated around 2003-5 provided the long awaited opportunity for the United States to pounce into the issues of this country, calling a conflict over land, the product of famine brought in by the expanding Saherian drought, etc. The source of violence: exclusively the government of Omar Al-Bashir. This is too bad for Africa if such crude stuff is still circulated and fully followed by our God blessed and “good intentioned” donors.
The oil-rich Abyei region: what many of us consider less is the jinx of oil that many American companies such as Exxon Mobil enjoy in this area. Unfortunately for the west, although some of these companies work with rebel groups in the exploitation of oil, much of the proceeds have been going to the Khartoum government—feared to be funding terror. And there’s need to scalp the wings of this government. Abyei is one of the hotbed issues in the forthcoming referendum. But, we ought not to be surprised if it ended with the country to the South. It is what the international exploiters are interested in most.
Southern Sudan and Darfur largely depend on donor and NGO support for their sustenance. And this is going to be the best, if not only way (at least for the first two years) for this region to continue forward. The town criers overseas are looking forward to growing an economy on oil, but Africa has had its taste of the products of this black stuff. This is highlighted by their blind push for a separate Sudan, a region which has, under the decentralisation it has been enjoying, failed to deal with the violence by the Darfur Liberation Front, JEM rebels, SPLA and other small groups. If Sudan gets divided early next year, deceased freedom fighter John Garang would turn in his grave. But also, our African Union will be hugely exposed.