An internationally brokered peace deal that was supposed to transform Sudan into a unified democracy could be about to split Africa’s largest country into two one-party states.
In six months time, people from Sudan’s oil-producing south are due to vote in a referendum on whether they should secede and form Africa’s newest nation — a plebiscite promised under a 2005 accord that ended decades of north-south civil war.
Most analysts say south Sudan’s poverty-stricken population, traumatised by the conflict and years of perceived northern exploitation, are likely to vote ‘yes’ for independence.
Many are already looking beyond the referendum to work out what an independent south — and a newly separated north — might look like. The political prognosis is not good, particularly following elections in April when opposition groups say the main northern and southern parties stamped out competition with intimidation and fraud.
Read the rest on Reuters.
What’s in a name? An entire cultural and national identity if you are from Sudan’s oil-producing south.
The region of southern Sudan is now less than seven months away from a referendum on whether it should split away to form Africa’s newest country.
One of the biggest unanswered questions hanging over the vote is what the new nation should call itself if, as widely expected, embittered southerners choose to secede.
The easiest option would be to stick to what people call it now — South Sudan or Southern Sudan.
But there are some serious branding issues. Say “Sudan” to most outsiders and they will immediately think of a list of nasties — Darfur, the never-ending north-south civil war, military coups, militancy and crippling debt.
A new nation might be grateful for a new name with a clean slate.
Read the rest on Reuters’ Africa blog.
When it takes place in Sudan.
Preparations for Sudan’s general elections — due to start tomorrow — were thrown into confusion over the past two weeks as opposition parties issued contradictory statements over whether they were boycotting the polls.
Some announced a total withdrawal, protesting against fraud and unrest in Darfur, only to change their minds days later. Others pulled out from parts of the elections — presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial votes are taking place at the same time — then changed their minds days later. Others left it up to individual candidates to decide.
Even a day ahead of voting in the divided oil-producing state, serious questions remain.
These confusions are more than mere technicalities. read more
Only the most foolhardy commentator would dare to say anything optimistic about the coming year in Sudan, four months away from highly charged elections and 12 months from an explosive referendum on southern independence.
So here goes — five reasons why Africa’s largest country might just manage to reach January 2011 without a return to catastrophe and bloody civil war, despite the worst predictions of most pundits.
Often the cause of conflict, oil could end up helping to prevent it in Sudan. The country’s oil industry, as it currently stands, only works when north and south Sudan work together. The south has most of the known oil reserves while the north has all of the infrastructure — from pipelines to refineries to a sea port. Talk of a southern refinery and an alternative pipeline route to the sea via Kenya are currently “pie in the sky”, one diplomat told me.Both sides may choose to fight it out over contested border oilfields after the widely expected “yes” vote for southern independence, thereby disrupting oil flows and scaring off investors. But it would be much more profitable for all concerned to work out a revenue sharing scheme and live side by side as business partners. The south’s government gets up to 98 percent of its revenues from oil sales so would struggle to survive without some kind of deal. read more
It started with a small scuffle over a confiscated bag of protest banners outside Sudan’s parliament. And it ended in confrontations between baton-wielding police and protesters on the dusty streets of Omdurman.
At the finish, once the tear gas and protests leaflets had settled, just one victor emerged — in the propaganda stakes at least — the protesters from a loose alliance between south Sudan’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and mostly northern opposition parties.
The SPLM and opposition groups called Monday’s protest to urge north Sudan’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP) to push through a raft of reforms they see as essential to elections, now just months away in April.
The Khartoum authorities played their part perfectly, first by banning the rally, then by starting the day detaining two prominent SPLM leaders.
Tear gas was fired, protesters beaten and at least one reporter detained. Opposition supporters sent round text messages saying Yasir Arman, the SPLM’s deputy Secretary General, had been hospitalised after rough treatment in a police cell.
International groups from the United Nations to Amnesty International released statements of outrage and criticism.
A couple of hours later Arman, apparently none the worse for wear, was being carried on his supporters’ shoulders into a packed, back-slapping victory rally at an SPLM base in Khartoum. read more
There was a time when visits to Darfur were uncertain affairs, fraught with danger. These days – as long as you travel with the right people and stick strictly to the right route – they can be as comfortable as a coach trip.
The African Union delegation plane touched down in El Fasher, North Darfur’s capital, at 9.35 a.m. on Tuesday. We were on the bus heading back to the airstrip at 4.40 p.m.
In between, the members of the African Union’s peace and security council visited the governor’s walled-in compound, where ambassadors watched tribal dancing and a PowerPoint presentation (complete with CD-ROM handout).
The next stop was the heavily secured UNAMID peacekeeping headquarters. Next, a razor-wired police station, 200 metres outside a displacement camp, where around 40 residents had been waiting for two hours to talk to the delegates.
Forty-five minutes later, the 18-vehicle convoy of buses, 4×4s and armed escorts drove slowly through Abu Shouk camp. Then there was one final stop at the governor’s to eat dinner and admire his collection of gazelle and exotic birds. The AU ambassadors and women in the party received souvenir mats…
Read the rest on Reuters’ Africa blog
So, is it now inevitable that Sudan’s oil-producing south will decide to split away from the north as an independent country in a looming secession referendum in 2011?
That was the conclusion of some observers of a bluntly worded exchange of views between two leading lights from the north and the south at a symposium in Khartoum on Tuesday.
Sudan’s Muslim north fought a two decade civil war with southerners, most of them Christians and followers of traditional beliefs. The 2005 peace deal that ended that conflict set up a north/south coalition government and promised a referendum on southern secession.
Sudan’s foreign minister Deng Alor told journalists at the symposium most of his fellow southerners, embittered by decades of northern oppression and imposed Islamic values, “overwhelmingly” wanted independence. Only a miracle would change their minds, he said, going on to appeal for a “peaceful divorce” should the south choose to split…
Read the rest on Reuters
Activists often say that the world is not paying enough attention to Sudan’s Darfur crisis. But could the opposite be true — that Darfur is actually getting too much attention, from too many organisations, all at the same time?
A rough count shows at least 10 international and local initiatives searching for a solution to the region’s festering conflict. Many of them are at least nominally coordinated by the United Nations and the African Union. But with so many parallel programmes in play, the opportunities for duplication, competition and confusion are legion.
Top of the bill on the international stage is the double act between the United Nations and the African Union. Their joint Darfur mediator — Burkina Faso’s low-profile former security minister Djibril Bassole – spends much of his time shuttling between capitals, holding closed-session discussions with rebels, regional powers, Darfuri intellectuals and civilian groups.
The most high-profile initiative is a project launched at the Arab League for peace talks between Sudan’s government and rebels hosted in Qatar. Those talks, currently stalled, are hosted “in coordination” with Bassole but their have their own separate identity — Qatar has made its own statements and has held its own meetings with rebels.
During one crowded fortnight in August, both Libya and the United States held separate meetings with different sets of rebel splinter groups, urging them to reunite ahead of talks, with mixed results…
Read the rest on Reuters
One moment everything was quiet on the streets outside the Khartoum courtroom where Lubna Hussein was on trial this morning, charged with indecency for wearing trousers.
The next, a three-way fight had exploded between riot police armed with crackling electric batons, women’s rights protesters waving banners and posters, and Islamists fuelled with righteous indignation and pious chants.
You couldn’t have asked for a better illustration of the opposing forces that have come piling down on Sudan’s government since the start of the case — opposing forces that also compete for influence at the heart of the Khartoum regime.
Women’s rights campaigners and other activists were the first to get involved after Sudan’s public order police barged into a party in the capital in July and found Lubna and 12 other female guests wearing trousers.
Read the rest on Reuters
President Al-Bashir to address huge women mass rally Thursday
Khartoum, March 9 (SUNA) – President of the Republic Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir is to address at the Council of Ministers Thursday a huge women mass rally, which is organized by the Secretariat General of the Working Women Association in Sudan in rejection of the allegations of the so-called International Criminal Court and to affirm support to the leadership.
Definitely one for the diary.