Reading into Sudan's referendum: Who would like to see a repeat of al Qaeda in Africa???

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), a robust, detail-saturated document that put an end to 22 years of successive conflicts which pitched the north and the south, has stipulated that a referendum be conducted where Southerners, complaining of serious developmental, rights and economic grievances, will vote on whether to remain part of the largest country in Africa or walk away and create their own new entity.

The January 9th, 2011 referendum has received massive attention mostly from donors and sponsors of that same agreement, pledging to provide whooping sums that would convert the impoverished war-ridden south, and by large the rest of the country, into a paradise, vied only by the West. The CPA also gives the South, among other incentives, a self rule that would spare Christians and non-Muslims from the application of the Islamic sharia laws, implemented by late President Field Marshal Gaafar Mohamed Nimeiri, since September 1983 (ironically it wasn’t the cause that ignited the civil war, because it was announced and applied about three month after the outbreak of the civil war in the south.)

When and if the referendum is carried out, marred by some irregularities as is expected by many an observer, Khartoum's position will have to either be non-recognition of the new state as a political position which it will then develop politically with other states, calling upon them not to recognize the southern countries, thus creating a situation of animosity with the South, or leading to a heated conflict, taking away all of the peace dividends, and eventually falling into a condition of war in which the international community will certainly take a hostile position against the North  in support of the southern state. Such a war will anew excuse additional sanctions and siege to be imposed on the Sudan aggravating the Darfur crisis. Or the north has to recognize the new state, until stipulations in the CPA expire. The CPA stipulations by the token of the agreement itself expire six month through the publication of the outcome of the referendum. Then a new position will emerge. The inhibitive factors that buried differences will go off and the valve will come out, then.

But the yeast of conflict was already splashed as follows: when Western facilitators helped coin the CPA, they had in mind, among other things, the religious factor. They were aware that almost 99 percent of the North is Muslim and over 60 percent of the South is either Christians or animists. The underlining idea in the West is that if the south continues under the application of the sharia law, it would be subjected to its rules and in the long run finds itself arabized and Islamized. The referendum and the creation of Christian oriented south Sudan will put an end to this rapid arabization and islamaization process. They would argue that already the lingua franca in the south is Arabic. It is neither English nor any other local languages or dialect. It is known as the Juba Arabic.

Another argument is that the West should be in position to make use of the huge natural resources in the south. The south now sits on almost 80% of the discovered oil in the country. The West would at the same time avoid having one more additional Islamic state controlling energy resources that pumps life into the vein of the Western economies. In places where there was no militant Islamists but pragmatists, the West has much difficulty handle renegade elements and states. So better avoid having a top of that a militant islmist to deal with. The West has at the back of its mind the 1976 Middle East conflict when the seemingly docile Arab leaders united their ranks and shut off the oil pipeline, causing much pain to the industrialized world. This would equally allow for free missionary-cum-Church activities in the south to convert the remaining animists, and possibly some of the Islamic elements there.

In the long run and in the eyes of the religiously-minded Western circles, the new state will help create a buffer zone; halting expansion of Islam southwards and creating a Christian belt that extends from southern Nigeria, to southern Chad, Central African Republic, and south Sudan. These are areas where they think growing Christian communities in the southern parts could not flourish because of the yoke of Muslim majority in the northern parts. This will furthermore help disrupt the Islamic chain that extends from Mauritania in Africa's far West  to northern Nigeria, northern Chad, northern Niger in the centre, to northern Sudan, Western Eritrea, Western Ethiopia and Somalia in East Africa and Yemen and Saudi Arabia just across the strait of the Red Sea.

Belittling them as is shown in the way the questions of Sudan and Somalia were treated, for example, these same elements could be the Achill heel and fire back.

A quick look in this region of the world says fundamentalism breeds where there is poverty, oppression, harassment, or threat to culture and life. This is of course valid both with regards to individuals and to states.

Somaliaprovides ample proof that fundamentalism there was definitely brought out by extreme poverty and a loss of hope and future, and a western forces presence that threatens their culture. The same applies to Yemen and Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Afghanistan and the like. In case of the oil rich nations it is the lack of freedom and the blind oppression. In the case of Iran, Egypt, Ghaza and Palestine it is a feeling of being isolated and rejected, it is the isolation and the threat to life and culture. To the exception of a few elements, all the factors that will help ruffle the feathers of a hard-line Islamic state are dormant in this  region and states.

The last serious terrorist threat was emanating from Nigeria where a young man was about to repeat what Bin Laden did, before he was apprehended and his intentions were undone. But in previous cases, most of those involved in the 11/9 terrorist attack were originally from the impoverished areas in Yemen and the so on and so forth.

If there were one positive element in the case of the prearranged marriage between the north and the south, up to now, it should be that the south has been reigning the north from dashing into fundamentalism, preventing it from becoming  a save haven to renegade opposition groups and organizations within their own countries: terrorism breading ground. Those inhibitive elements will no loner exist. There will no longer be any intimidation on northern Sudan. With a homogeneous population, one language and one religion and a drive that everybody is working to corner them, it is not difficult to see some group seeking coordination with their peers in Egypt or in the Gulf or in Iran, there is no inhibition now.

The saying goes if one corners a cat, with the intent of killing it; let him allow for an out let, lack of which the cat would jump onto one's face. Iran could be just one such example. Who would like to see a repeat of

Al Qaeda in Africa???

And the present Sudanese government might be rightly feeling frustrated: - before signing the CPA it was promised a lift of sanctions, development assistance and a political let go. A few months later, the Darfur problem surged and the money was never released. Not only that but the political isolation was tightened and moral smearing was splashed all over its leadership. Khartoum considers the ICC nothing but manipulation of an international body to serve western vested political interest.

Sudanwas told that this new denial of Western flirting was spurred by the question of Darfur which has to be resolved before materialization of the promises. Now with Darfur question moving towards resolution thanks to political commitment and Qatari financial impetus, Khartoum was once told money was in the pipeline, pending the successful conducting of the referendum. It has become a Sisyphus task. If Sisyphus of the Greek mythology was a god that could and is fated to carry on, one would bet that those in apex of power in Khartoum are far from it. The feeling of being cornered is now mounting. And one jump, in a generation or two, would be a coordination with hard-line Islamists and the creation of hard-line African crescent across Africa north of the Sahara and across the Red Sea, to the Arab peninsula.  In the history of nations that happening is not a far date. That would be much more difficult to handle than, say, a few concessions and more pressure on both north and south, to keep Sudan united

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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