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.

southern sudan

As the January 9th, 2011 referendum draws closer the international community is getting concerned about the consequences of Southern Sudanese independence. Many fear that the north, led by the strongman Omar al-Bashir, will not honor the CPA and let the Southerners go. Southern stability is also a concern. Once in the early 1990s the SPLA/M split along ethnic lines (Machar, the leader of the splinter SPLA-Nasir, eventually came back to the fold). Recent skirmishes in the South are testament to the fact that ethnicized civil war may yet visit an independent Southern Sudan.

Check out this post on FP.

In other news, the Continental club of ineffectual autocrats African Union is meeting in Uganda. More on this soon.