South Sudan to relocate capital to Ramciel

The Sudan Tribute reports:

“The survey for the proposed new capital of South Sudan, Ramciel, is expected to be completed within the next six months, reports the official in charge of the project.

resolved to suspend any construction of new public buildings for the national government in Juba.

Juba was disqualified for a number of reasons including administrative stalemate over which level of government its jurisdiction should fall under.”

That is the official reason.

Source: Political Geography Now

I know very little about the deliberations that resulted in the move but another reason could be that Juba was too far from the new nation’s centre of (ethno) political gravity (see maps; click on image to enlarge). Relocations of capitals almost invariably have political considerations. One only hopes that the Bari community whose ancestral homeland is around Juba will not suddenly find themselves completely abandoned by the central government.

The government should ensure that Ramciel does not suddenly suck in all the money. It could prove beneficial to decouple the political and economic capitals of the country.

Source: Gulf 2000 Project

On the plus side this is a sign that the new government in Juba is willing to try out new things. A fresh start in Ramciel might not be such a bad idea.

Who will stop khartoum?

It appears that the war between north and south Sudan is inevitable. The north overran the disputed town of Abyei last week and now is angling to take over two border states. The Times reports:

Now, according to a letter from the Sudanese military’s high command, the northern army, in the next few days, plans to take over Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, two disputed areas with a long history of conflict that are still bristling with arms.

Analysts, local leaders and Western diplomats fear that if the northern army carries through on its threat to push out or forcibly disarm the thousands of fighters allied to the south in these two areas, it could set off a much bigger clash between the northern and southern armies, who have been building up their arsenals for years in anticipation of war.

Malik Agar, Blue Nile’s governor, said Sunday night that northern forces had recently moved “dangerously close” to the bases of southern-allied fighters and that he didn’t think the southern-allied forces would surrender.

A part of me still thinks that Bashir’s sabre-rattling is designed for the northern public. After all he will go down in history as the president who lost the south. In order to avoid immediate ouster he must, at least, pretend to put up a fight. My other side, however, thinks that Bashir (and his generals) might actually want war. Oil and water are on the line.

So how can a war be avoided?

Right now everyone appears to be looking in the direction of the UN for help. But the UN is busy putting out fires elsewhere, not least in Darfur where Khartoum’s forces keep firing at UN helicopters.

That Khartoum would let the south go peacefully was always a long shot. Many analysts had predicted that the north would either finance mini-rebellions in the south or go for a full blown war. It appears that Khartoum is going for both.

South Sudan does not need this war. The whole country has less than 200 Kilometres of paved road, among other mind-boggling underdevelopment records. Its human capital development is lagging behind the regional average by decades. A sustained war would take away vital resources from much needed development work.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. Many a time I have lamented at Africa’s lack of a regional hegemon. A hegemon that would take the mantle of regional conscience and policeman. A regional power that would put out fires even when the UN and the global powers that be were too busy (like they are now) or just plain indifferent (remember the mid-1990s?).

If it occurs the north-south war will be bloody and dirty (read land mines, more child soldiers, crimes-against-humanity tactics). As many as hundreds of thousands of people could die. Millions will be affected. It will also mean more light arms in an already volatile region, not to mention potential for spillovers into ongoing insurgencies in The DRC, Chad, Uganda and Ethiopia. Who will stop Omar al-Bashir and his generals?

 

talks between north and south sudan break down

The US Foreign Ministry (State Dept.) has announced on its blog that talks between the NCP and the SPLM have broken down. The blog post partly said:

In this sensitive period, it is critical that the NCP and SPLM maintain their dialogue and make further progress toward the creation of sustainable economic, political, and security arrangements between the two parties. To that end, we urge President Bashir and First Vice President Kiir to take steps against alleged actions that destabilize each other’s governments and territories, and to lay the ground for mutual cooperation with the goal of the creation of two viable states in July.

The communique also made note of the rapidly escalating war by proxies (Omar al-Bashir is the king of such tactics in the Great Lakes region):

We also condemn the violence in Malakal, Southern Sudan, on March 12. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) rules out the existence of armed groups outside the two established forces of the parties. Allegations of support to proxies are serious, and should be investigated through established CPA mechanisms and the good offices of UNMIS. The members of the Troika stand ready to assist.

The war between north and south Sudan is almost inevitable. Unresolved border issues in Abyei, Jonglei, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, renegotiation of oil revenues and the south’s internal problems will most certainly result in war in the very near future.

North Sudan must be thinking that given how fast the south is arming (through Kenya) it might be prudent to strike while Juba is still weak (right after independence in July) than wait until the south is strong and has a pipeline through Kenya thus no longer needing the north’s pipelines and refineries. Plus having “lost the south” and facing continued pressure following events in the Middle East and North Africa, Omar al-Bashir could use a little of the tried and tested war of distraction tactic.

It’s almost official

The BBC reports:

South Sudan has reached the 60% turnout needed to pass the referendum on secession from the north, the south’s ruling party and ex-rebel group says.

“The 60% threshold has been achieved but we are asking for a 100% (turnout),” the SPLM’s Anne Itto said.

She did not give exact figures, but said it was based on polling centre reports for the first three days of the week-long vote which began on Sunday.

 

southern sudanese independence: cause for cautious optimism

That Southern Sudan ought to be an independent state should have been apparent as early as 1956. The Anglo-Egyptian condominium that ran the Sudanese colony ensured a legacy of division between the North and South. The idea of two Sudans, already etched in people’s minds at independence, was further buttressed by years of what some have called “internal colonialism.” The marginalization of the South precipitated the two civil wars (57-72 and 83-05). 2 million people died and millions more were displaced from their homes.

Challenges abound for the new nation. The lack of basic institutions of state is hard to miss. Poverty and illiteracy are endemic. Corruption and ethnic favoritism remain to be serious threats to post-independence stability. To compound these problems, the North still refuses to recognize boundaries along oil-rich borderlands. Both sides are arming in case of a flare up.

The challenges aside, there is cause for optimism. Investors from Kenya and Uganda have been trooping into Juba since the signing of the CPA in 2005. Kenyan banks are now a familiar presence in Juba. Kenya also plans to build a new port in Lamu and link it to the oil fields of Southern Sudan. Juba will be a natural new member of the East African Community. Because the regional economies stand to lose in case of a return to conflict, I am cautiously optimistic that Southern Sudan will prove the naysayers wrong.

Southern Sudan is not the Belgian Congo circa 1960.

billionaire bashir

If Omar al-Bashir goes to war with Southern Sudan over oil it will be because the genocidal tyrant from Khartoum is benefiting big from Sudan’s oil sector. The New York Times reports that Mr. Bashir may be worth up to $ 9 billion. Yes, nine billion.

Despite the country’s oil wealth 40% of Sudanese live on less than a dollar a day. Someone born in Sudan can expect to live to 55.

Mr. Bashir has been indicted by the ICC over crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

Southern Sudan will conduct a secession referendum on January 9th. Fears abound of a potential flare up between the north and Southern Sudan over oil-rich borderlands.

More on this here.

stop your genocidal agenda, al-bashir

The man behind the humanitarian catastrophe that is Darfur, one Omar Al-Bashir, is at it again, on another front. It has emerged that his government is backing the Arab Misseriya tribesmen against Southern Sudanese civilians in continuation of Al-Bashir’s genocidal agenda in Africa’s largest country.

The SPLM government of Southern Sudan said in a statement that its forces had killed about 70 armed Arab militias. In an editorial in the New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote about a contested town called Abyei that has been surrounded by armed Arab militias ready to attack. The status of the town is in question since both the North and Southern Sudan claim is as part of their autonomous territories. This latest incidence further confirms Al-Bashir’s commitment to using tribal militias as proxies for his continued refusal to honor the comprehensive peace agreement he signed with the late John Garang’ in 2005.

Just like in Darfur, Al-Bashir is using local tribal militias to kill, rape and maim innocent civilians that dare to protest against his autocratic rule that is biased against the South and other regions that are occupied by ethnic non-Arabs.

Al-Bashir’s policies toward the suffering masses in Darfur and elsewhere over the years confirm him to be a card-carrying latter day genocidal racist.

It is sad that the world continues to watch, with half hearted protests, as this murderous despot continues to kill and maim innocent women and children – the very people he is supposed to protect as president of Sudan.

This latest move by Al-Bashir will exert pressure on the delicate agreement that exists between North and Southern Sudan. Al-Bashir knows that consistent with the agreement, the South will definitely secede when they have a referendum in 2011. Before then he wants to gain control over as much potentially-oil-rich land as possible, even if it means killing innocent civilians. This is the case in Abyei and surrounding areas.

Al-Bashir is hiding behind Sudan’s “Islamic Country” status to keep the West at bay. So I think it is up to the rest of Africa to act. This guy needs to be stopped yesterday. If he doesn’t and the war escalates then I think the rest of Africa should consider putting together a joint force to keep him out of Darfur and Southern Sudan. This is the least we can do in honor of the millions that have died over the last three decades due to Northern Sudan’s racist arrogance. Africa owes this not only to the Darfuris and Southern Sudanese but also to itself.