Was separation a surprise? What is the impact now?

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)


Khartoum, April (Sudanow) - The few people who closely followed up the developments and applied logical analysis based on the literature and the strategic planning of the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), had concluded, surprisingly, that there would be NO separation.  For them, and the on surface of it, the politicking and tit-for-tat between the two major parties to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), were nothing but a bubble that would have been blown out at the last moment, and with it all threats of separation would have been dissipated, a jamais.

However, this prediction never materialized as the southerners, with no major political force, in this case the SPLM, spurring them into acting otherwise, have now overwhelmingly voted for separation.  According to a Professor of Political Science, the referendum result was a surprise, going against the general belief among local academicians, senior decision makers and analysts – only a few months before the referendum- that any other outcome apart from separation would have been a surprise.

"Secession was never planned by the movement. It was never sought by either the North or the South. Not even the imperialists or the Americans, let alone the leader of the Movement, Dr. John Garang De Mabior."  Dr Dr.Hassan Saouri said in a recent lecture analyzing the separation and its impact on Sudan's economic, political and social life.  Saouri said thumbing through the manifesto and the literature of the Movement, it was never apparent the SPLM was advocating for separation, which neither the African Union nor the Arab League did entertain such an idea.

Dr.Hassan Saouri, Professor of Political Science and Political Analyst, says his close follow up showed that the outcome of the January 2010 referendum- secession -  was never in the plans of either the north or the south, and that even the imperialist countries and  the United State of America were not in  the belief that the south would secede, as the move was never cited in the literature of the rebel Sudan people liberation army or the literature disseminated by the SPLM late leader Dr John Garang De Mabior .

"Self determination was accepted as a right enshrined in the CPA agreement. But, it was accepted in the belief that it would lead to cementing Sudan's national unity… not leading to separation … the CPA itself has committed the two parties to the agreement to work for making unity an attractive option," He argued.

But, he stressed, there were "some hidden agenda by both the SPLM and the opposition forces, because of which they were dragging their feet on the implementation of that part which would have led to, and could have made, unity attractive... The agenda was to rip apart the national salvation (reading the Islamists) rule... These are agendas backed by some regional and international powers."

He said, short of all other options they tried earlier including the war, boycotting, economic sanctions and even direct military assault, those forces have concluded that self determination was the only means available to tear down the national salvation regime. The scenario was that if the current regime, led by the National Congress Party (NCP), refused to implement this right of self determination at the set time, it would provide its foes with a strong excuse to bring the national salvation, and by fare the Islamists,  down to their knees.

He argued that up to now this same plan continues with the Darfur rebel movements, the northern Sudanese opposition and the southern Sudan People Liberation Movement SPLM bringing their ranks closer with the view to press for dethroning the regime in Khartoum.

He said to survive; the government in Khartoum has to work at several arenas, including an agreement with the SPLM to see how to resolve the question of Abyei to avert losing huge number of cows and a loss of animal wealth in the region of Bahar Al Gazal and particularly among the Messeiria tribal groups.

But now that the secession has become a reality, with which both the north and the south have to live, a number of measures need to be taken to avert the chock that would follow in such cases and face the challenges ahead. One such challenge is economic.

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the challenges facing Sudan are "immense and complex", from establishing and maintaining peace to rebuilding the country.

"Maintaining macro-economic stability and promoting investment are essential to growth and development—and to making further progress towards achieving the MDGs. These tasks have become more difficult because of the recent global financial crisis and the impact of the forthcoming independence of the south." The IMF report (http://www.imf.org/external/np/country/notes/sudan.htm) says.

It added that the country has to bolster non-oil growth and find alternative sources of foreign exchange receipts. It said Sudan’s difficult debt position, which limits its access to concessional loans, further complicates the situation.

"There are risks that the notable achievements made over the last decade, including in reducing poverty, could be reversed. To limit such risks, Sudan will need to address the challenges of improving governance, increasing access to basic services, and promoting pro-poor growth to ensure equitable development." The report stressed.

The North might lose up to between 70 to 80 % of its revenues which used to come from petroleum exports when the south officially separates. This would mean, accordingly, cutting off the 50% of the money it received from oil exports. This explains the drastic measures currently being taken by the government in the north, well ahead of the moment that could metaphorically be called economic weaning, not to say severance of a vital lifeline. These measures included serious budgetary trimming and fiscal reforms


 But the measures could not have come at a worse time, with economic and political hardship making areas around Sudan in a turmoil status.  The foreign debts persisted from 1971 to 2004 to reach about 27 billion dollars, that is, before the CPA conclusion, and since then went on rising to reach 31.5 billion dollars in 2005 and went up to reach 39 billion dollars by the end of 2010, according to the World Bank http://web.worldbank.org/ WBSITE/EXTERNAL  /COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/SUDANEXTN) .

The WB report said Sudan has been served numerous promises to have its foreign debts written off if the government has achieved peace in the country and the government has eventually signed the peace deal but its debts have not been forgiven and they have remained a source of obsession and an obstacle to the development process; especially as the major part of those debts are interests which grow each year since the original debts did not exceed 14 billion dollars.

It is noted that in the debts grew during the past years to reach 31.5 billion in 2005, including an original 14 billion and the rest was interests and punishments for delays and failure to honor commitment to repayments.

The debts are divided into 32% for Paris Club, 37% for countries not members in Paris Club, 16% for international financial institutions and 12% for international commercial banks and foreign importers. The Government of Sudan has commenced during fiscal 2007-8 repayment of 50 million dollars to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and notified it of cutting the installments down to 10 million dollars.

The Sudan foreign debts are posing a major threat to the development,   particularly after secession of the south which has now become a fact. A protracted debate is now going on about how the two new northern and southern states will tackle those debts which have become an onerous burden on the Sudan since the 1970s and have impaired the country's process of development as close to 37% of the domestic grand product has been allocated to repayment of those debts and their interests which have accumulated to exceed the original debts.

The World Bank has furthermore pointed out that " Sudan has vast potential, but faces enormous challenges: 46 percent of the population in the North and 85 percent in the South live below the poverty line. (http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/ AFRICAEXT/SUDANEXTN)

These acuminated challenges and the boiling political and popular feeling in the region, would mean the government,  to avert serious political and economic deterioration following the separation,  has to politically take action including  the remedy of the question of the current Interim Constitution (2005) with the southern MPS having their membership, de jure and de facto, dropped.

"A new constitution has to be worked out and a type of interim government formed to prepare for the elections in which all and every political force in the country (north Sudan) take part. The other option is to form an interim or broad based inclusive national government "Saouri argued.

The same advice seems to be reflected by the National Congress Party and the Umma National Party, as a means to overcome future economic and political difficulties brought by the separation.

Former Prime Minister, and head of the Umma National Party, Sadeq Al Mahadi who is currently engaged in dialogue with the ruling National Congress Party, has said the National Congress Party was for "widening the base of the government" while the Umma party is for "building an alternate national system". Both could be interpreted as "change"

This warning cited by politicians and social science professors is equally reflected by sociology professor who said the difficult stage is not that of separation but what comes after. It would not be the north only that would suffer but the South would suffer more.

With over 700 tribal groups in southern Sudan, the largest ethnic gathering in such an small area, the world over, and with 40% of all animal wealth of the country there, one would expect this rich diversity to be a source of strength, but on the contrary, professor Dr Adil Sidiq, a sociology professor, warned that this diversity could be but a weakness in an area "that lack the basic of the basic infrastructure a matter that could lead to serious tribal and ethnic conflict in the area.

But Sudanese experts stress that for both the north and the south to overcome the serious challenges of a new born state and that of a state loosing almost one third of its area, Khartoum and Juba  have to continue  economic cooperation particularly in the petroleum domain, if for nothing, but for the fact that exporting southern oil via the north is much more cheaper than any other available option .

Professor Abdul Zaim Al  Mahal, professor of economics at the University of Sudan for Sciences and Technology said Sudan's oil production presently stands at 500,000 barrels a day of which 115,000 barrels a day are produced in the north, which means both sides will be affected by the separation. The south depends  (99%) on  the oil exports while the north just produces its oil consumption, with no excess for export, for the time being.


The Economist pointed out to a number of problems that the south is expected to face in the near future, including reluctance of the companies to relocate their staff in the South, citing security concerns and the northerners working in those companies are also dragging their feet to go to the south where the atmosphere is hostile .

Professor  Al  Mahal has pointed out that if the two sides " react emotionally" they would render the atmosphere between the two states  hostile. They will both loose a lot. He said this was particularly so after the Southern Sudan government issued an ultimatum to the oil producing companies positioned in northern Sudan whereas the companies feel the north is much more save for their staffers, added to this many northern  staffers are reluctant to go the south under such a ho tile climate.

"But most impotently, Professor al Mahal stressed,  estimates say the southern Sudan petroleum resources would be depleted in about ten years. This is not  a renewable source of energy , compared to the situation in the north where they have the Merowe dam, the Roseiris dam, Sinnar Dam and others, besides the petroleum resources in northern Sudan are expected to be much more here to what is currently found in the north. "

However Al - Mahal was giving a positive note saying that oil production in the north would be increasing to whopping 620,000 barrels a day by the year 2016.

"We expect the northern Sudan oil production to increase in the north to 135,000 barrels a day in July 2011, reaching up to 200,000 barrels a day by the year 2012 and up to 625,000 tones barrels a day in 2016 according to utterances by a state minister,." Al - Mahal .


Edited by Mohamed Osman dam

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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