by RAIM-Denver, (antiimperialism.wordpress.com)
Recently a referendum was held in the country of Sudan this January 2011. The final results of which will split the nation in two, becoming separate countries. The results will have long ranging effects for the policies of both new states as well as the rest of the region. While the self-determination of oppressed nations is still a principle to hold in the struggle against imperialism, this struggle has been tainted by imperialism playing different sides against each other, and will be involved in the fates of both countries in the years to come.
The referendum in Sudan was overwhelming, with nearly 99 percent of the voters in South Sudan choosing to secede, in the vote conducted in January. The new country will be officially the Republic of South Sudan. Independence will be official on July 9 of this year. President Obama has already announced the new country will get official recognition from the United States.
The referendum was part of a condition of a peace treaty that ended the civil war in 2005. The conflict resulted in the deaths of over 2 million people, most of whom died from starvation and disease caused through the fighting. Another 4 million were made refugees. After the treaty in 2005 the southern region became semi-autonomous, conducting its own affairs. This civil war was the latest in a series of conflicts that have plagued the nation since its founding in 1956. The economic development of the north and south has always been uneven, with the north oftentimes benefiting at the expense of the south. Various foreign states have played off these differences in Sudan to aid its destabilization.
The north and south have been divided geographically, culturally, and socially. The north is made up of desert land, and a population mostly Muslim, and has traditionally identified with the Arab world. The south, more tropical, is mostly native African, with the main religions being Christian and indigenous ones often called animist. The south has had more identification with sub-Saharan Africa, notably neighboring countries Kenya and Uganda.
The transition has not been a peaceful one. The northern Sudan Army suffered a mutiny where 50 people were killed. In the south the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army has had factional violence that killed 100.
There will be many issues both nations will face in the foreseeable future. Jan 30 protests broke out against Bashir, who has been in power for 18 years. More were reportedly organized on Facebook (yet note that only 15 percent of households in Sudan own a telephone), likely by opposition based in student populations. Bashir is currently wanted in the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. As we have previously noted, the ICC is a tool of imperialists, as most of those indicted have been Black Africans in lieu of any Western war criminals. With the North Africa region exploding in spontaneous popular turmoil, Bashir could face more instability as the north governed by Khartoum becomes a smaller region with its own internal contradictions.
With this creation of a new nation-state, it is helpful to look at how imperialism will intervene in it in the near future, interrupting its independent development.
One key factor that will play out in both nations of Sudan is oil. Sudan as a whole has vast untapped oil reserves, and currently the third largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The discovery of oil in 1978 helped spur sentiment for independence for the South. With the new independence there will be a division of the oil industry there. The majority of the oil fields, 75 percent, are located in South Sudan. Yet the pipelines and the infrastructure for oil transport are located in northern Sudan, along with the north having access to the coast of the Red Sea for water transport. There is also talk of building a pipeline from South Sudan to the southern countries, which could allow it to bypass the north, and increasing the economic ties to the region. Amerikan, as well as Chinese, interests will collide here for access to this oil. The U.S. military has increased its AFRICOM section in anticipation of future conflict in Africa as a whole. The control over oil will be a big factor in its future as increasingly scarce resources increase imperialist wars. As most of those type of wars, everyday people in the Third World are who will suffer. But one thing for certain is that the oil and other resources of North or South Sudan will not be in their own hands.
Another area to keep an eye on in potential struggles is the fate of the Abyei province. Abyei is located in the center of the former Sudan, straddling old and disputed 1956 borders, and loyalties are divided on whether to be affiliated with the north or south. Abyei has some of Sudan’s most important oil fields, and pipelines going into the North. Both north and south are disputing this region, and it is likely to be a center for future conflict.
The United States has already become involved around the politics of the vote. Before the vote the Obama administration attempted to make a deal to take Sudan off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The United States has long been involved in the peace treaty, and linked the end of the civil war to the removal of Sudan from the list. It was placed on the list for the previous harboring of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leadership, and for allegedly giving critical support to the attack on the USS Cole. The United States has an interest in integrating both countries of Sudan into the global economy, and a comprador elite is willing to improve relations with the U.S in order to, at the expense of the majority of the people. Also, the U.S. will continue to use the issue of Darfur, not for genuine humanitarian concerns but to advance its own interests in the region.
The current situation in Sudan is a result of the neo-colonial project imposed on it. Its borders, like the borders of almost every state in Africa, were imposed by its former colonial stranglers. It led to a situation that divided different peoples and led to internal conflicts within these new states. The era of independence for African nations was a bittersweet one as they faced a new type of imperialism, where they were nominally independent but plagued with uneven development. The end of direct colonialism did not bring liberation to the peoples of Africa.
The peoples of Sudan can take steps, through this action, to address the issues of colonialism by redesigning their borders and struggling for self-determination. These colonial borders will not always last when the will of the people of the world is unleashed. Africa has had many new nation-states as national struggles take it into more governable entities. Yet at the same time imperialism has an interest in the balkanization of nations that then make them more susceptible to imperialist intervention. As shown above, imperial powers will have an interest in both countries of Sudan well into the future.
Even before the separation Sudan was one of the poorest and devastated countries in the world. Per capita income in 2008 at $2200, one of the lowest in the world. The average Sudanese lives on the equivalent of $30 per month. 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $22 per month. Nearly half the population is considered “food deprived” and only 6.4 percent have access to improved sanitation. 38 percent of the population lives more than a 30 minute walk from drinking water. More than half of the population is under 18. 83 percent of the population is rural, 17 percent live in cities. Hardly any of the 3,400 miles of road in the country are paved.
Sudan has also one of the most diverse nations in the world, with nearly 600 different ethnic groups and 200 languages and dialects spoken. All the people of Sudan have a right not only to their basic needs met but to the continuing development of their cultures and society. The independence now gives the peoples of North and South Sudan a better opportunity for this than not. The success of their national development will be tied to their ability to pursue independence from imperialist exploitation and meddling.
Imperialist nations work to extend their hegemony. They will play nations off each other to keep them divided. They will lock nations into dependent development. The hope for the people of both North and South Sudan is to strive to stay free from imperialist domination. To direct development for their own peoples rather than foreign capitalists and comprador lackeys. Their struggle has international implications, for in keeping free from imperial encroachment they aid other nations and people struggling for the same. It is up to the progressive and revolutionary peoples of the world to not only be aware of their struggles but to stand with them.
“South Sudan votes for independence by a landslide.” http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/02/07/uk-sudan-referendum-idUKTRE7161MW20110207?pageNumber=1
“Sudan Leader to Accept Secession of South.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/world/africa/08sudan.html
“Sudan’s President, in Power Since 1989, Won’t Run Again, Spokesman Says.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/world/africa/22sudan.html?hpw
“A Look at Southern Sudan.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/world/africa/09sudanbox.html
“In Sudan, a Colonial Curse Comes Up for a Vote.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/weekinreview/09gettleman.html
“50 Left Dead After Mutiny by Army Unit in South Sudan.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/world/africa/07sudan.html
“Southern Sudan Suffers a Blow as Fighting Ends a Truce.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/world/africa/12sudan.html
“Terrorism sponsor no more? Obama hints at taking Sudan from the list.” http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2011/0207/Terrorism-sponsor-no-more-Obama-hints-at-taking-Sudan-from-the-list
“ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Sudanese President, U.S. Tightens the Screws on Africa.” http://raimd.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/icc-issues-arrest-warrant-for-sudanese-president-us-tightens-the-screws-on-africa/
“Southern Sudan’s Cause for Celebration to Take a Toll on Darfur.” http://www.fpif.org/blog/southern_sudans_cause_for_celebration_to_take_a_toll_on_darfur/