Reading more sudans


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Reading more sudans

  1. 1. More Sudans, More Problems?If and when Southern Sudan becomes independent, it maymean two troubled Sudans instead of just one.BY MAGGIE FICK | JANUARY 25, 2011JUBA, Sudan—The polls are closed and the ballots have been cast. By mid-February, the worldwill learn whether Southern Sudanese voters voted to create a new, independent state -- as initialresults suggest that they overwhelmingly did. But as rapturous as independence will be for thesouth, theres good reason to fear that secession will leave the governments of both Sudansreeling. In Khartoum, President Omar al Bashir faces mounting political opposition -- and for thefirst time in years, he looks weak, as he braces for the imminent loss of the most oil-rich regionof his state. In Juba, a new country must be built from the ground up. And the risk that the newSouthern Sudanese state could follow the examples of its regional peers -- from Ethiopia toUganda -- and disown democracy somewhere down the road is very real. What is today onetroubled Sudan may soon become two fragile states struggling to stay intact, with leadersstruggling to stay in control.The souths weeklong independence referendum, which ended on Jan. 15, was completed withoutviolence or other any significant disruptions. A few days into the counting process, most of the
  2. 2. international observer missions watching the vote had already issued statements declaring it tohave been credible and up to international standards. The referendum commissions preliminaryresults, posted online, show most areas of the south at more than 99 percent in favor of secession.Since 2005, when a peace agreement was signed to end decades of civil war with the north, Jubahas operated autonomously -- and gotten off to a surprisingly promising start. But afterindependence, Juba will have to start building its own institutions and delivering visible resultsto an eager population that has been waiting decades to be free. Expectations are high, even asthe challenges remain dire. The new country will boast a youthful and unemployed population,an utter lack of development, and a bloated and internally divided army. Infrastructure will haveto be built from scratch, extending into the far reaches of the territory where "remote" takes on anew meaning: Vast swathes of the southern territory are accessible only on foot or in a U.N.helicopter.The elected officials who must tackle these challenges have little experience in government.Many of the ministers currently serving in Juba were instrumental in the souths struggle forindependence, having been commanders in the rebel army or leaders of the political wing of themovement. Few have ever worked in civilian jobs. Nor can they count on a wealth of talentbelow them; in the ministries of finance, agriculture, and education, there are only a handful oftrained and literate civil servants. Government payrolls are clogged with ghost workers --supposed employees who continue to receive salaries but who no longer work there or are dead.As ministries sort out the fake names from the actual employees, real teachers are going unpaidand clinics are without the usual government-donated medicine. Then there is the perennial issueof patronage. Many ministerial offices in Juba now prominently display signs designating certaintimes as "personal" visiting hours, in an attempt to keep people from lounging in offices all dayas they wait to submit their request for personal funds to their-uncle-the-minister.But perhaps the greatest challenge for an independent southern government will be to overcomethe growing internal threats to its authority without resorting to repression. Inter-communalconflict in the region is common -- and seemed to be escalating in 2010 as competition for scarceresources grew. Rival ethnic groups will likely be watching how their interests are representedin a new government. In managing those potential conflicts, Juba will need to avoid the lessonsof its northern neighbor. Through his two decades of rule, Bashir has used the states militaryapparatus to suppress insurgencies, often enlisting local proxy militias and external armssuppliers to help. Southern Sudans people and its leaders have lived in such a state for much oftheir lives.Southern President Salva Kiir deserves praise so far for his efforts to avoid that fate, bringingdissident and potentially dangerous political and military rivals into his administration, forexample, and proclaiming a "forgive and forget" spirit across the south. A 60-year old veteran ofSudans two north-south wars, Kiir has an understated and underestimated political savvy. Kiirwas propelled into the southern presidency when the more charismatic and much-belovedsouthern war hero John Garang died in a helicopter crash in 2006. Over the past five years, thepresident has found his stride partly by reminding his longtime friends and past foes -- both madeduring bitter internecine southern infighting during the war -- that nothing matters more thaninternal southern unity against Khartoum.
  3. 3. But now that the south is looking ahead to its new status, there are reasons to be concerned.Lacking a common goal (the referendum) and enemy (Khartoum), potential spoilers may emergewithin the southern military if peoples demands and expectations for the new government arenot met -- and fast.Unfortunately, at the very moment that Kiir should be thinking most about building a new statein the south, his energy will be instead devoted to a series of negotiations with Khartoums rulingNational Congress Party. North and south Sudan need to resolve how they will divvy up thecountrys $38 billion debt -- much of it incurred by Khartoums war-related spending for its fightsin the south and in Darfur -- and its oil wealth, the majority of which lies in the south. Sinceneither side is keen to offer concessions to the other, the negotiations are apt to drag for months.And Kiirs key southern negotiators also happen to be the very same politicians and ministerswho are needed to drive the post-independence planning agenda. Crucial progress ondevelopment, investment, and governance could be indefinitely delayed.It is expected that a new state in the south will face a host of challenges. But the north, too, maybe in for a shock after Southern Sudan secedes. Bashir will have to work to stay in control of hissoon-to-be truncated territory, where a long-discontented population sees multiplying reasons forhis ouster. Protests broke out after the government reduced its food price subsidies and the costof staples rose. On Jan. 18, the highest profile northern opposition figure, Hassan al-Turabi, wasarrested for calling for "Tunisia-style" protests over the new policies. Cutting subsidies andimposing import restrictions may get the ministry of finance out of hot water in the short term --it faces a fiscal deficit and cant afford to keep subsidizing basic goods -- but it risks angering apopulation who may soon have had enough of more than two decades of often violent andrepressive rule.Bashir has been promised some "carrots" by various governments if he accepts the results of thereferendum -- things like the removal of U.S. sanctions and a welcome back into theinternational community. Yet those rewards wont help solve his immediate problems locally.The Darfuri rebels and discontented masses in the countrys often-forgotten east are not likely tostorm Khartoum tomorrow. But the combination of rioting agricultural workers, protestingstudents, and an Internet-savvy youth activist movement in the capital can certainly turn up theheat on Bashir. The Sudanese president also faces divisions within his own party; some memberswould like to see him adopt a more extremist Islamist agenda, which would hamper Bashirsefforts to shake Sudans status as a pariah state.If the tried-and-true Sudanese tradition of brinkmanship prevails in the coming months,negotiations to see the secession of Southern Sudan will conclude in the summer, close to theJuly 9 deadline set by the 2005 peace agreement. In the meantime, Khartoum and Juba must bevigilant in order to keep the plans for "divorce" on track. Longterm stability in either Sudan isnot the key issue at the moment, but it will be sooner than anyone thinks.,0