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The speech made recently by the Sudanese President reveals signs of a crisis in the country. In this speech, Sudanese President al-Bashir vowed to change the constitution and refused to acknowledge pluralism and cultural diversity, in the event of the south choosing to secede during the forthcoming referendum. On this occasion, the signs of crisis are in the north whose population will not have a lot of options unless they are granted the right to asylum in the south, thereby escaping what awaits them.

The secession of the south and the birth of a new state is inevitable, barring any unexpected surprises. All signs point to this, and this is something that is also reflected in the statements made by senior Sudanese officials in Khartoum, including the recent speech made by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Everybody –

internationally and regionally – is preparing for this new state of affairs and dealing with this situation carefully and in accordance with their own interests, aiming to avoid any wars or renewed violence which would drag everybody into a tense situation and have regional repercussions.

Since everybody is facing a new international entity appearing on the map, nobody knows how this process will run; whether it will run smoothly or whether it will face problems and difficulties, even if this new state – which will have to choose an official name and flag – has possessed the fundamental components of a state for many years. Southern Sudan already possesses government institutions, an army, and foreign relations, independent of Khartoum; it’s most important resource is its oil revenues, which will facilitate the new state obtaining the fundamental components of sovereignty.

We must acknowledge that the forthcoming referendum, and the choice of secession that will almost certainly be taken, will represent the end of a long history of crises between northern and southern Sudan which are not a new phenomenon, but rather something that has existed since Sudanese independence. Successive governments failed to create a unified national identity, and unify the north and the south. The Sudanese “salvation” government that came to power as a result of a military coup accelerated the [south’s] path towards secession by the wars that it launched, as well as its attempts to impose Islamic Sharia law upon the non-Muslim south.

We must also acknowledge that over the past two years the government in Khartoum tried to offer concessions to the south, and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] in particular, to try and make unity an attractive option, especially when it saw that the situation was rapidly moving towards secession. Khartoum even recently offered to allow the south to retain its oil revenues if it chooses to remain part of a unified Sudan; however all of this seems like nothing more than the north exerting effort at the “eleventh hour” after wasting the entire day.

The south has chosen its path, or is well on the way to doing so, and we must wait and see what will happen. However, the problem for the north is not over. As we have mentioned previously, in his speech al-Bashir vowed to change the constitution, moving towards a strict application of a particular understanding of Islamic Sharia law; he also defended the whipping of a Sudanese woman, which was filmed and uploaded on YouTube, as well as stating that he did not recognize pluralism or [cultural] diversity. All of this means that northern Sudan will soon be facing another problem, for the talk in the north has focused upon sanctions, threats, and warnings of doom and destruction, whilst nobody in the northern leadership is talking about resolving the economic problems, or improving standards of living. [Nobody is talking about] how to protect unity with other parts of the country so that we don’t see Darfur seceding in a few years time, or improving relations, regionally and internationally, and remove any lingering doubts. On the contrary, [al-Bashir’s] speech means a return to the policies seen in the early years of the “salvation” government which led Sudan into confrontation and conflict with its neighboring countries, and ultimately war. This resulted in the people of Sudan being held hostage to the previous mistakes made by the government, and the country being placed on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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