Is this Pakistanism in Sudan?Borders in Africa have long caused conflict. Now Sudans Christian-Muslim divide could raisetensions• Ali Mazrui• guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 February 2011 22.00 GMTThe referendum in Sudan, which will result in the secession of the south, is the first redrawing ofan African colonial border by popular vote. The question many are asking is whether this willcreate a precedent across the continent.When African heads of state created the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, they committedthemselves to fighting colonialism and its legacy. Yet the one legacy they had no intention ofending was the borders of their own countries.Some "decolonised" their national names. The Gold Coast became Ghana, Northern Rhodesiabecame Zambia, Nyasaland became Malawi. But almost none of them were prepared todecolonise their boundaries. The new African Union, formed in 2002, renewed this commitment.So the Southern Sudan referendum was truly historic. In this country, the size of western Europe,it took two civil wars, the death of more than a million people and the displacement of millionsof others to reach the simple decision to allow Southern Sudanese people to determine their ownterritorial destiny.I have discussed the Sudanese civil wars with former presidents Jaafar Nimeiri and Omar elBashir. Both were stubbornly protective of territorial integrity. Like other African leaders theywere afraid of the domino effect. Even now, many in Khartoum fear that Southern Sudansindependence could lead to similar separatist demands in Darfur.The borders of African countries were an aftermath of the Berlin conference of 1884-5 at which14 European countries negotiated their scramble for Africa. The boundaries were drawn to suitthe colonial powers, with little regard for the history or cultural cohesion of the colonisedpeoples. They often divided people who belonged together and forcefully enclosed communitieswho had no experience of shared government or economic co-operation.The most absurd was the division of the Somali people into five parts – separate British, Italianand French colonies, with a fourth Somali fragment integrated into Ethiopia and a fifth intocolonial Kenya. The Somalian people have never recovered.
Changing African boundaries by unification seemed at the time to be a better method than , andin 1960 British and Italian Somaliland integrated into the independent state of Somalia.Unfortunately the Somali experiment of amalgamation subsequently collapsed, leaving theformer Italian Somaliland in chaos while the former British fragment experimented with a stabledemocracy but without international recognition.Postcolonial Africa has suffered from two main causes of civil wars: conflicts of identity (likethe Hutu versus Tutsi in Rwanda); and conflicts over resources (like petroleum in the NigerDelta). However, trying to redraw Africas political map may cause more problems over bothissues than it solves. After all, there are more than 2,000 ethnic groups on the continent. Ifterritorial self-determination was granted to even a tenth of them, it would be reduced to dozensof warring mini-states – especially when the location of minerals coincides with ethnicdifferences.Since 1960 there have been more attempts to change boundaries by secession than byamalgamation. After a 30-year war for independence (1962-92), Eritrea successfully secededfrom Ethiopia. The conflict developed from civil war to a conventional war between separatesovereign states. Sadly the interstate war was better armed on both sides with tanks and warplanes, and the casualties escalated.The Nigerian civil war of 1967-70 was an attempt by the Eastern region to create a separate state,Biafra. Federal Nigeria won, and retained its territorial integrity. But Nigeria has continued tohave ethnic and religious conflicts, short of secession, ever since.The most enduring boundary change by amalgamation has been the union of Tanganyika andZanzibar in 1964, to create Tanzania.Most of Africas separatist movements since independence have consisted of ethnic rather thanreligious groups trying to secede. In the 1950s Kwame Nkrumah was afraid of what he called"Pakistanism" – partition on religious grounds. African nationalists disapproved of the partitionof British India as a solution to Hindu-Muslim tensions. Particularly vulnerable at that time wasNigeria, with its Muslim-majority north and Christian-majority south.Now, at last, at last Pakistanism has arrived in Sudan, where the Christian-led south will separatefrom the Muslim-majority north. Southern Sudanese have played the religious card, accusingNorthern Sudanese of religious intolerance. In this regard the aftermath of this referendum willalmost certainly overshadow in importance both the popular popular uprising against PresidentNimeiri in 1985 and the popular revolt in Khartoum against President Ibrahim Abboud in 1964.Even Southern Sudan on its own is multi-ethnic internally. After the euphoria of independence isover there is anxiety that smaller groups in the south may start to resent the supremacy of theDinka as a potentially dominant "tribe". who will have to handle their southern compatriots withgreat sensitivity.And all this is quite apart from rivalry over petroleum resources. Debates about who benefitsmore have torn Nigeria asunder; Southern Sudan needs to be even more careful.