Again on south Sudan – What does this mean? by cherokeetears
Earlier an article was made about the schism of north and south Sudan. Mentions of imperialism, economic dependency, and hyper-bourgeois nationalism were mentioned, but this is a more complicated and significant event than can be touched on with one small post. In order to fully understand the implications of this event, it’s important to discuss the history of Africa in general and Sudan specifically, it’s also important to discuss the underdevelopment and imperialism that has occurred in Africa and has caused it to become the poorest and most divided continent in the world, with the Sudan being some of the worst examples of underdevelopment and poverty. It is therefore a weakening blow to Africa as a whole and the Sudanese people specifically to have this country split in two.
On January 9th, 2011 a referendum was held on whether the Sudanese people desired independence from the north. The referendum supported a separation, and on July 9th southern Sudan became its own state. On the 14th, southern Sudan became a member state of the United Nations. The U.S. has extended diplomatic recognition to south Sudan. This appears to be a movement of self-determination by the “south Sudanese” people, but it’s important to look at the details of this split as well as its effects on the people themselves. If we examine the factors closely, we will see no legitimate basis for the split except the ideas of hyper-nationalism and service to the bourgeoisie and imperialists outside of the Sudan itself. Unfortunately, we can see that the civil war in the former Republic of Sudan has caused much of these factors to be covered up by a more immediate need for stability, which the Sudanese people believe will come from further division of the continent.
If we look at the ethnic demographic of south Sudan, we will see that the ethnic divisions of the South Sudanese are more numerous and larger than those with the north Sudanese. There are 17 ethnic groups present in south Sudan (1), with over 7 languages spoken among those groups (2), there are large demographics of Christian and animistic religions, and even some remaining Islamic groups within south Sudan, which actually dominates the northern Sudanese region. So which national group received self-determinism from south Sudanese independence? It was a particular ethnic group, since they are varied even within south Sudan itself. The south Sudanese people aren’t represented by a specific language (since the official language is English and the regional languages are varied almost as much as the ethnic groups themselves), and this isn’t a separation on the basis of a common religion, since the religions are varied amongst themselves as well. So this must be a separation amongst the Sudanese people, not over the question of national self-determination, but rather over the other factors.
The Second Sudanese Civil War started in 1983. Some people claim that it was a conflict over ethnicity (Arabs vs. Africans) and some claim that it was a religious conflict (Muslim vs. Christian), but these arguments oversimplify the struggle itself and place blame on the victims of the struggle rather than on the actual causes themselves. The British colony of the Sudan was originally split into two separate areas, preventing integration of the Arab ethnicities with the varied African tribes. The British kept Arabs out of political positions in the Catholic-dominated Southern Colony, and trade was discouraged between the two regions. When the colonies were finally brought together in 1946 after pressure from the Arab North, the British effectively prevented the southern Sudanese representatives from attending the talks. This prevented the integration of the two regions for the purposes of exploitation by the British imperialists. (3)
In a region where pseudo-nationalities are exploited and prevented from proper unifications by the imperialist powers that control them, a common heritage and sense of unity cannot emerge. Imperialism intentionally prevented the unification of the Sudan, and when the imperialists conceded, it was only to further exploit the division between the two groups. We can see similar hyper-nationalist tensions emerge in the aftermath of the Yugoslavian civil war, where pseudo-nationalities erupted in domestic conflicts over forced separation. The Sudanese Civil Wars are eruptions over a lack of representation by the “African” pseudo-nationalities in the Arab-dominated government. A logical resolution to this conflict would have been to open up dialogue and representation between the two groups and increase the government presence of the “African” groups. However, because of the hyper-nationalism present and intensified by the foreign imperialist powers, this resolution was not stressed, and false nationalism was promoted among the ranks. We have already shown that the case for national identity among the “southern Sudanese” people is a false concept, since they are even more divided and the idea of “African vs. Arab” is an oversimplification of the national self-determination of groups.
However, the pseudo-nationalism has succeeded in dividing the former Republic of Sudan into two countries, and as a result, south Sudan is now the 54th formally recognized African state. That is 54 divisions on the poorest and most underdeveloped continent on Earth. The imperialist powers have successfully divided and underdeveloped the continent for their own needs. Southern Sudan emerges as a new state infected with imperialist interference. Southern Sudan is ranked 6th in highest Infant Mortality rates, 23rd for prevalence of AIDS/HIV, 27% literacy, and “very high” risk of preventable disease: food borne, waterborne, animal borne, and respiratory included.(4) The United States was quick to offer its “aid” to the new state, but this is because the south Sudanese have a say in the distribution of the oil fields of the Sudan, which its economy is largely dependent on.(5) The United States is lobbying for South Sudan because the oil pipelines and refineries in the north are controlled by the Arab government which is more sympathetic towards Gaddafi and Libya, who worked to nationalize the oil industry within his country and take possession back from U.S. companies.(6) The Sudan’s former oil exports went almost exclusively to China, (7)and in the power plays between China and the U.S. lies the true motive for the U.S. support – a pro-Western country prepared to surrender it’s raw materials to spark international bipolar competition. Herein lies the external pressure of U.S. hegemony, one of the largest supporters of a divided Sudan.
So the United States definitely has an interest in dividing the country, but what will be the result if southern Sudan becomes a single export economy dependent on imperialism for survival? Well, we’ve seen the resource-rich continent of Africa considerably underdeveloped by imperialist demand. We have also seen how the demand for the raw materials of Africa has prevented the continent from unifying or diversifying, because of single-export economies and struggles between militia groups over control of these resources. We have seen the effects of dependency on the continent, which is so rich in resources yet so underdeveloped and poor; and now that south Sudan has come into the mix as the continent’s newest country, it’s hard to believe that the state’s young economy will be the exception to the rule. Problems are also looming for the north, whose oil fields will be divided in half. The north will suffer large economic losses from the division of oil between the two. It doesn’t help that Gaddafi, one of north Sudan’s biggest allies, is preoccupied with a war against imperialism. A brighter future for the Sudan died when pseudo-nationalism in the south was used to ally with the imperialists. This future was ruined when the United States offered its services to pump the young economy of south Sudan full of World Bank and IMF loans provided that it is allowed to drain the natural resources and stunt the diversification of the country in return. What will the southern Sudanese have to fear now that they are a “sovereign” state? Now they must fight off imperialism when they realize that the oil companies that control the country’s economy will not work to ensure prosperity for the people: they will only work to pull as much capital and profit out of the country. This is the burden that south Sudan must now face as one of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world.
(3) What’s happening in Sudan?
(4) CIA World Factbook
(5) “After Years of Struggle, South Sudan becomes a new Nation” New York Times
(6) “Reasons for War? Gaddafi wanted to Nationalise Oil” Pravda
Terrific and very revealing article. It was great to see the ‘immediate need for stability’ pointed out as what covered up the underlying problems of the Sudan. The immediate need, and I would add sometimes desire, for ‘stability’ and ‘peace’ has so often throughout history proven to lead to the demise of progressive/revolutionary processes. In essence, it’s plain short sitedness.
Enlightening article on a topic which i personally havent seen much coverage on from other revolutionary news outlets. Keep up the great work.