South and North of Sudan to unite like EU?

43316.jpegBefore Southern Sudan had time to formally summarize the recent referendum on self-determination in which the voters expressed their support of independence, clashes have resumed between the southerners and northerners. As a result, at least 50 people were killed, including civilians and children.

It is worth mentioning that the collision occurred during the separation of the divisions of united Sudan. The northerners did not agree with the way the southerners wanted to share the equipment, including military, and offered to do it "fairly."

Most likely, these clashes are omens of renewed confrontation between the North and the South that broke out back in 1959. Initially, the reason was that leaving Africa, European and, especially, the British colonialists created countries with precisely defined borders, without considering the wishes of those who lived on their territory. Sudan was no exception.

The attempts of the Islamic North to impose sharia on animist-Christian South in many ways have caused the bloody war that took, according to various estimates, from two to four million lives. The situation is complicated by the fact that 80 percent of the oil fields of the country are located in the South. Foreign companies (mainly Western and Chinese) are competing for the development of these fields.

In 2005 the parties reached a truce and agreed that the country's future will be decided at the January 2011 referendum. On the eve of the meeting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the capital of Southern Sudan, Juba, promising not only to acknowledge, if necessary, a new state, but also to help the southerners to create a "safe and stable country." One of the options is an equal union of the two parts of Sudan "like the European Union".

However, as evident from recent clashes, "equality" looks rather strange from Khartoum. The most interesting events are coming later, when issues more serious than weapons will be addressed.

The international community, under whose patronage the referendum was held, has not resolved a number of painful issues. First and foremost, we are talking about the borders between the two countries and residency rights. The parties have not decided what to do with the three central provinces (Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile) of the former united Sudan, which have almost half of all oil produced in the country.

These provinces that had bitter fights until the truce in 2005 were also to hold a referendum on their future. The situation is further complicated by the fact that their territory is inhabited by a mixed population: settled blacks, mainly animist and Christian by religion, and nomadic Arab-Muslim.

Back in 1980 blacks accounted for the majority here, but the official Khartoum that conducted genocide has made a noticeable change in the national composition of the population in its favor. It managed to reduce disparities by ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of blacks into the north of the country.

In the case of Southern Kordofan, Khartoum had even more interesting actions: it combined it with Northern Kordofan into one province, as a result of which the Arab population became markedly prevalent over the blacks.

Whatever it was, but as a result one part of the population was in favor of the separation of these provinces from Khartoum, and the other one strongly opposed it. In this regard, the parties and mediators have tried to find a Solomon solution and in the end made things even more confusing.

Initially, residents of Abyei expected to hold exactly the same referendum as the rest of the Southern Sudan, but it was decided to postpone it due to the fact that the official Khartoum has flatly refused to grant the province independence. This decision was made largely because of the strong confrontation between the Arabs who live here and representatives of the black tribes.

In two other provinces the plebiscite that would have real power was not even planned. Instead, it was planned to conduct the "consultation with the population" which did not suit the representatives of the liberation movement.

It is understandable why the North is clinging to those provinces: their territory has half of oil deposits. Of course, the southerners cannot just give them to the northerners.

On the other hand, the latter have a big problem. Northerners will agree to let the South go under the condition that the revenues from the exploitation of oil fields will be shared equally.

The southerners, indicating that most of the fields belong to them, are opposed to the idea. However, the situation is complicated by a complete absence of their own pipeline for pumping the oil. Earlier the southerners used the appropriate infrastructure owned by Khartoum.

The U.S. officials who are vitally interested in the redistribution of the control over the oil fields offer the South to make a deal with the North, until the southerners build their own infrastructure for pumping oil. However, to do this they would have to abandon the oil-rich provinces Abyei, Southern Blue Nile and Kordofan. Would they agree to go for it? One thing is clear: the black population living on their territory is not going to lose the fruits of victory in 2005 and will defend their conquest by force of arms.

Sergei Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov