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Sudan refereundum likely to redefine Africa’s politics: interview

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

 Laaska News january 11,2011.
 
by Ronald Ssekandi

KAMPALA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) — As the southern Sudan referendum enters day two, in a vote widely believed to lead to the secession of the south from northern Sudan, a political analyst and university don says geopolitics challenges await what is likely to be Africa’s newest state.

Mwambustya Ndebesa, a history lecturer at Uganda’s top university Makerere University, told Xinhua in an interview recently that increased oil interest, Islamic/Christian fundamentalisms, and usage of River Nile waters among other key issues will confront the new state and the continent.

The division of the north from the south is premised on the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended a two-decade civil war between north and south Sudan that left around two million people dead and millions of others homeless.

The warring parties agreed after signing the CPA that the south would hold a referendum to decide whether they stay united with the north or not.

The north has for decades been blamed for racially marginalizing the south and attempting to forcefully Islamize it.

This pushed the south into decades of rebellion until 2005, when the CPA was reached in the Kenyan town of Naivasha.

Ndebesa argues that the division of the south from the north may spark off separatist demand for Darfur and eastern Sudan.

“Northern Sudan can stem this one by listening, accommodating and tolerating. If it does not do that, like they have already started doing by talking about (implementing) Sharia law, then the precedent of Southern Sudan is going to be replicated by the East and Darfur regions,” he said.

He argues that this separatist move is likely to be replicated in other parts of Africa if leaders continue divide people on region, religious and ethnic grounds.

Observers have argued that Sudan staying united would have been ideal as the continent is focusing on consolidation rather than dividing. They, however, note that where people are being excluded there is need for division and then unite on equal terms.

“Unity should be for the transformation of society to live a better life but if it is for enslavement, then you first gain independence and then you can negotiate how you can cooperate on equal terms,” Ndebesa said.

The breakaway of the south from the north is not a guarantee that fighting in the south will come to an end as the region still faces ethnic tensions.

For Ndebesa, while the primary conflict has been between the Arab north and black south, the ethnic tensions will be the major challenge that the south will face.

He argues that there are tribes in southern Sudan who fear that they will be dominated by others, a challenge he says must be addressed cautiously by the authorities.

“I think those that seem to be dominated are not going to be ready to accept that — another internal colonization within southern Sudan. So the Juba administration should take a cue. If they did not accept to be dominated by Khartoum, no body is also going to accept to be dominated by Juba,” he said.

Juba is the capital of southern Sudan.

The oil factor in the south is another factor that is likely to suck in international interests in this new state. Although oil revenues have the capacity to develop a country’s economy, they have sparked off conflicts in some parts of Africa for instance in Nigeria.

The south will not escape the politics of the Nile waters. Egypt and Sudan which have preferential rights to use the River Nile water have been engaged in decade long negotiations with the other riparian countries over the equitable usage of River Nile water.

Egypt and Sudan in May declined to sign a cooperative framework agreement on the equitable usage of the Nile water.

The other countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania which signed the agreement, say Egypt and Sudan have up to May this year to sign the agreement or else the riparian countries will go ahead and start using the water equitably.

Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo have not yet signed the framework.

According to Ndebesa, southern Sudan could be another front for Christian and Islamic fundamentalism.

He said while the Christian Western countries may support southern Sudan, the Arab world may throw their support behind Khartoum.

He warned that the religious fundamentalism is likely to heighten the already existing tension between the different ethnic groups in the southern Sudan.
 
 CN
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