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If the South Secedes! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The question in Sudan today is no longer will the South secede but rather what will happen when the South secedes. All the signs suggest that secession has now become inevitable and claims that certain parties are working towards promoting unity and taking steps to make Southerners vote for the option of unity and reject the option of secession are nothing but empty slogans that are completely detached from reality.

There were opportunities to support the unity option but they were wasted by delays and political wrangling, which might have further convinced the Southerners to seize the opportunity instead of continuing in a partnership in which there is a lack of trust in the other partner in government and instead of remaining in a situation that might bring back war once again in a fiercer and more destructive manner than ever before.

If the government waged on unity since signing the peace agreement then matters would not have headed in the direction of secession in such an accelerated manner. However, in reality, the wager was based on clinging to power and not the country’s unity. As a result, some people saw an opportunity in the peace agreement to marginalize and undermine every other political force and try to divide the Southerners and to stir up disputes among them. This policy was shortsighted, and perhaps Sudan will pay the price for it at a later stage. If the South becomes a violent and belligerent state after secession then the problems will be cross-border ones and the lack of stability will spread to the North, which would not have only lost the South but would also encounter more problems and wars as a result.

Those who are in charge of decision making had the capacity to extend the peace agreement and to choose a wider path for reconciliation in which all forces take part in authority and allow for the uniting of efforts in order to stop the war in Darfur, and to turn towards development as the key to stability and one of the basic incentives to remain in a united Sudan. If that happened then the Sudanese government would have provided a real opportunity to try and save the country’s unity but the opportunity was completely wasted and matters turned in the direction of political maneuvering and attempts to divide the political forces as if that is the way to guarantee stability and achieve unity.

In view of the lack of trust, the Southerners turned towards armament and setting up an infrastructure for the separate state, from telephone communications with a phone network linked to Uganda and not the North, to establishing communication offices abroad that work like embassies. For those who doubt that the South will secede then they should look again at the way the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] nominated its candidates for the upcoming elections. The movement nominated Yasser Arman, head of the SPLM parliamentary bloc and its official spokesman, to run in the upcoming presidential elections whilst Silva Kiir Miyardit, head of the SPLM movement, chose to run for president of the Southern region. If the SPLM movement saw a small chance for the continuation of unity then perhaps it would have put forward its president Silva Kiir to compete against Omar al Bashir in the Sudanese presidential elections.

This is not to say that Yasser Arman is not a competent element of the SPLM politically but it means that some have interpreted what happened incorrectly as a Northerner being chosen to take part in the presidential elections representing the SPLM. The more accurate interpretation, in my view, is that Silva Kiir’s decision to keep away from the presidential elections is the clearest indication that the South is preparing itself for secession and he does not see a way out or a guarantee for the continuation of unity in the presidential elections.

The Southerners have waited a long time for an opportunity to secede and they have fought for this for approximately 30 years in total. It is unimaginable that they would give up what they consider an opportunity for peaceful secession, especially after this option was documented in an official agreement, according to which a referendum on unity or secession will be held in 2011. The North wasted another opportunity to perhaps save unity, and it is hoped that the country will not return to the cycle of war and try to impose unity, as this will not achieve anything and if it does it will not last. The only rational option today is to set the internal political structure in order and to lay the foundations that guarantee secession in the same way as Czechoslovakia and not Yugoslavia.

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani is Asharq Al-Awsat's former deputy editor and senior editor-at-large.

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