Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Monday 21st August 2017 | Manchester, UK

The Sudan Divide: The split of two nations

In light of Scotland’s recent Independence Referendum we’ll explore the youngest country in current existence (3 years and 4 months old): South Sudan, and its formation. The underlying factors of independence usually depend on ethnic and/or linguistic differences but mainly socio-economic issues.

The area that was named the Sudan in the 1820s is the area that encapsulates most of the Nile, the longest river in the world. The first pyramids ever built were in Sudan and the area was referred to by Homer and his countrymen as a place to visit for trade purposes. Before the split Sudan was the 10th largest country in the world.

The Sudan Divide Flag_of_South_Sudan (wikimedia commons)In 1884 Mohammad Ahmad and his armies reclaimed Sudan and eventually the capital city, Khartoum, from Albanian-Ottoman and Anglo-Egyptian rule. In 1898 Kitchener regained Sudan under Anglo-Egyptian rule. Sudan was an abundant resourcefor Britain, but eventually in 1953, after strong resistance from different Sudanese factions, Britain and Egypt agreed to end the condominium agreement and hand Sudan over to Sudanese governance within 3 years.

It is very difficult to classify the entire population of Sudan even when split into the North part or the South part. Different areas of Sudan are made up of different kinds of Muslims, Christians, and Tribal traditions: the number of different languages and dialects in Sudan today is assumed to be around 400. Sudan’s boundaries were determined by European forces in the late 19th century. Christianity was brought to parts of South Sudan via British missionaries but not to the North, and racism between different Sudanese peoples, particularly between the Northerners and Southerners was also imported with the different colonisers. In fact Sudan is one of (many) examples of the lasting effects of colonial ‘divide and conquer’ methods.

The government located in Khartoum, in the North, was made up mainly of Muslims of Arabic descent, with little input from Southern representatives meaning neglect of the South.

John Garang, originally from South Sudan, joined rebel uprisings of the South against the Government in Sudan straight after scholarly studies on Eastern African agricultural economics. He eventually became leader of SPLM/A and was one of the signatories of the 2005 peace agreement to end long running civil war between the North and South that agreed on 6 different issues: The Machakos Protocol, Security Arrangements, Power Sharing, Wealth Sharing, Implementation modalities and Global Implementation, Permanent Ceasefire, Resolution of the Abyei Conflict, Resolution of Conflict between Kordofan and Blue Nile states of South Sudan. In July 2005 he was sworn in as the second most powerful person of the country as the First-Vice President of Sudan, the highest position to be held in office by a Southerner since Sudan’s independence.  In the same month he died in a plane crash.

Garang had hoped to oversee an eventual progression towards a referendum over a possible split from the North. However, due to his untimely death and U.N. pressures, the referendum was moved forward from 2015 to 2011 with an overwhelming majority voting for the partition. The sudden rush towards the referendum over the split can be blamed for the war that ensued between the North and the South over the most oil rich areas that are located along the referendum-proposed borders dividing the North and South.

Tribalism is a major issue in all areas of Sudan. For example, tribalism in Darfur has drawn global attention to the extent that celebrities like George Clooney have assumed authority over the issue; explaining it naively as Christian retaliation to an aggressive Muslim power.

Since the split, China, Israel and America have expressed economical interest in South Sudan. Global aid and interest in the region should be encouraging.However, international interest in developing countries is under heavy scrutiny since reports have been published covering the lack of transparency surrounding “sustained looting” of developing nations and their resources by methods including tax evasionand illicit financial outflows. For example, Western countries send about $30bn to Africa in aid each year but, according to Global Financial Integrity’s annual report, $66 billion left Africa in illicit outflows in 2011 alone. Amongst developing countries worldwide, Sudan came 30th in the country rankings of illicit financial outflow between 2002 and 2011.

The IMF and World Bank are currently working with Sudan over macroeconomic policies although the IMF and World Bank have been accused of forcing diverseand matchless developing economies to take on later-cripplingNeoliberal and free market economics and unfair trade agreements. There is civil war in South Sudan over leadership which still continues.

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