Separation and peace possible? – Sudan, a nation divided

Reading time 4 min.
Map of Sudan (excerpt)
Map of Sudan (excerpt)

The eighth in our series of articles on Sudan’s pending referenda questions whether the region can remain peaceful if South Sudan secedes from the North. Given the X-factors of oil, water and the unpredictable Beshir regime, the coexistence of peace and separation seems unlikely.

The implication of secession for the Sudan is not to be taken lightly. Sudan would be convulsed by the separation of the South and all talk of amicable divorce may emerge as a pipe dream in a short while.

Sudan may survive minus the Southern oil, but indications are that the loss of the South could possibly engender the same moves in Darfur and even the East, and may splinter the Sudan into smithereens.

That the whole process would be accepted by the North is still a debatable issue, even if Beshir has doggedly proved to be politically confused and particularly indecisive. There is no guarantee that the army and the Northern political circles would tolerate any breakup.

The separation move could thus herald the end of the Beshir regime, an event that would have its proper and various pros and cons.

The specters of secession haunt the very political existence of the present regime in Khartoum, and unlike the secession of Eritrea — which was itself backed and encouraged by the Tigrean front in power in Ethiopia — the Government of Southern Sudan and Khartoum have not exactly been on friendly terms.

The registration itself has caused much wrangling, whilst the meeting in Addis Abeba to resolve the Abyei controversy failed miserably to produce a feasible option.


The so-called International Court has also muddied the situation by issuing an arrest warrant for Omar Beshir, for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Will the referendum of January 9 really take place? And if it does, under what conditions? Will the referendum in Abyei ever take place now that it has been postponed to an unknown date? And if it does, under what conditions? Will the Beshir government accept the outcome of the referenda? All are vital questions still awaiting definitive answers.

A news report on November 25 had this to say: “Sudan Armed Forces helicopter gunship attacked Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) positions at Kiirabem, in North Bahr al-Ghazal, wounding four SPLA soldiers and two civilians (…) The intention of the SAF in this move is to try to disrupt the referendum process,” spokesman for the ex-rebel SPLA, Philip Aguer, was quoted as saying.”

Beshir is opposed to the deployment of more UN troops between the South and the North, and he is surely not amused by his exclusion from the African Union and European summit.

It is not a secret that armed Southern militias fighting against the Dinka-nominated and corrupt Government of Southern Sudan are covertly backed by Khartoum.

In the past few years, no less than 25,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by fighting between the Southerners.

The SPLA is divided, and such former SPLA leaders as General George Athror Deng Dut of Jonglei state, Major General Gabriel Tanginye and two other armed groups, including Colonel Gatluak Gai who rebelled in Unity state, have still not been brought into the fold and integrated with the SPLA.

More splinters within the SPLA/M can be expected even after the referendum. The powers that be in Khartoum have not forgotten that in 1991 the SPLA imitated a rebellion in Darfur that was violently crushed.

Like Darfur and the Bejas, the Nubas of Southern Kordofan and the Fungi or Ingassana of Southern Blue Nile are also restless.

An independent Southern Sudan can fan the flame of separation and the further breakup of the Sudan. And this would have far too many undesired effects for the region as a whole. Separation and peace do not seem to cohabit together.

Read also :

Part 1: The Price of Independence

Part 2: Beginnings of the end

Part 3: Teaming up with Egypt for the Nile

Part 4: The question of a gerrymandered “oil rich” Abyei

Part 5: A nation divided: Where does Ethiopia stand?

Part 6: Eritrea and Ethiopia’s proxy war

Part 7: The United States, Britain and China

Part 8: A nation divided: separation and peace possible?

Part 9: Sudan — A nation divided: What is to be expected

Sudan - A nation divided  The stakes are high as Southern Sudanese head for the polls to decide on whether or not they want to break away from the North. While the North-South tug of war is centred around oil and the Nile’s water, ethnicity and religion have proved to be the breaking point in a highly polarized country. As fear of war looms with the two sides amassing weapons, what is the role of regional players, including Ethiopia, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya and Kenya, who stand to lose or gain from Sudan’s split or union? And what about the international community, the African Union, the Arab League? Our series of articles highlight a troubled history of the Sudan and the Horn of Africa region, including their allies, and also tackle questions surrounding who stands to gain or lose from the pending referenda.
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