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Divorcing Khartoum - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It will be so sad if the southerners in Sudan choose complete separation from the rest of the country. It seems that cutting ties with Khartoum will become a semi-reality when next year’s referendum comes around. If this happens, it would be one of the biggest partitions of modern history, as the country would be split roughly down the middle.

Some of the Sudanese are tired of the conflict with the South and have long been willing to break the connection with the South. They have always considered it an alien region with which they failed to integrate, as they do not have anything in common. The people of the South speak different languages, worship different gods and comprise of approximately 200 ethnic groups. In fact, the importance of Sudan lies in its vast identity and it is not the world’s only multi-ethnic country. This value and uniqueness of the South have not been comprehended by the current regime, which caused failure politically then militarily and now politically again and on the popular level.

Many Sudanese politicians believe that most of the previous wars against southern parties were avoidable. The central government made promises to secure a military victory under a religious slogan and the banner of political pride. Some of the battles had nothing to do with the South but everything to do with the ongoing conflict in the capital city. Through the wars in the South, the central government sought to retain control of the North, militarize the state and marginalize its rival parties. Therefore, the relationship was deteriorating even in times of peace.

The authority missed its last chance for reconciliation [in talks] held five years ago, as the government failed to fulfil many of its promises. According to the reconciliation agreement, the government gave Southern politicians positions in government but these were all nominal. For instance, it appointed a Foreign Minister from the south, but transferred his authorities to a former foreign minister who was later appointed President’s Advisor. Hence the experiment came to an end, or will come to an end, with Southern politicians feeling that there can be no mutual understanding with the Khartoum government.

Why did the Sudanese regime do this at a time when it is suffering from international problems and failures in the South? In my opinion, it is a natural problem; by its very nature, the regime cannot be rational in the way it thinks and behaves despite all its problems. The regime brought pursuit and trial in the West upon itself and it is now causing the country to split in half after it had managed to settle most of its disputes through political and rational means. Khartoum believes that others are responsible for its failure, which is partially true because there are those who want to see Sudan torn apart and who have interests in ruining its political status and unity. This must be expected in light of the internal, regional and international disputes. Logic dictates that it needs to be dealt with more cautiously and there needs to be real enthusiasm towards maintaining national unity. Those in Khartoum who know how the government manages its own affairs should not expect any better in the management of the affairs of Juba, the capital city of southern Sudan.

There might not be much time left but it is worth making every effort to convince the Southerners of continuing to preserve the unity of Sudan, especially as partition will not guarantee a better situation [for Sudan] in an ever-troubled region. Today’s regime is not an eternal one.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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