The referendum on secession in southern Sudan on January 9th 2011 was monumental in nature and devastating in its consequences.
It has set a dangerous precedent and constitutes a fundamental breach in the status quo for a number of reasons:
1. First the Muslim world requires more unity, not more secession.
Divided into over fifty states has led the Muslim world to become weak, ineffective and powerless. Notwithstanding the clear Islamic texts on the obligation of political unity, dividing Sudan into two weaker states makes no geopolitical sense in a world growing ever more dependent. Sudan was once part of Egypt, and there is no guarantee its current division will be its last. It is the largest country in Africa, and one of the largest countries in the world, with the vast Nile River water basin, large oil and mineral reserves, luxuriant soils and enormous wild game herds.
In today’s world, scale is critical which is why countries like China, Brazil and India have such huge potential. Sudan has become sub-scale; and while states today should be breaking down walls between them, secession just builds them up higher and higher. It makes no strategic sense to divide a country, when we know from the examples of India, Palestine, Cyprus and Ireland, division only encourages future wars and instability further down the road.
2. Secondly the hypocrisy of the international community is breathtaking when it comes to secession and unity.
Barack Obama, an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, cannot have failed to see the irony that the President he so admired took his nation to war to prevent his country from splitting into two. Yet today he and others supports another country’s secession and call it a historic step.
If secession is so historic for Sudan why did Lincoln fight a civil war at such cost in lives and treasure to maintain the United States of America?
If secession in Sudan is so historic, why won’t the United Kingdom allow it for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
Why doesn’t Spain allow it for the Basque region; or Canada for Quebec; or India for Kashmir?
Why is it that in the Muslim world that people are encouraged to secede whether it is Bangladesh, East Timor or now southern Sudan; yet for East and West Germany political unity was good and eventual Korean unity is still considered a laudable political goal?
3. Independence for the south of Sudan is a charade.
Many of the issues that need to be addressed have not been resolved, such as how would the oil revenues be shared, or what happens to Sudan’s $35 billion debt or the future of Abyei. Outside the capital city Juba there is no development and if people believe that independence will give the southern rural areas much benefit, they will be hugely disappointed. 80% of services in the south (health, education, water and sanitation) are provided by nongovernmental organisations. A state that cannot meet its people’s basic needs isn’t a viable country. A state that is dependent on foreign aid and organisations to function isn’t a sovereign country. A state that has oil in its jurisdiction but which relies exclusively on northern pipelines, refineries and ports is hardly credible.
Moreover, the south of Sudan is hardly homogenous or at peace with itself. Most of the civilians that have died over the last two decades have done so as a result of fighting between warring southern tribes.
4. Supporting unity for Sudan doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge that people, whether they are in the south, or in Darfur, or even outside the privileged class in the north, have been oppressed by the regime.
Successive governments have let the whole of the people of Sudan down and terrible atrocities have taken place against both Muslims and Christians. However the solution to this is not secession, as today’s freedom fighter will simply become tomorrow’s oppressor.
The solution is not a new state in Juba but a change in governance and leadership for the whole country. A sincere leadership who can implement a system that will mange people’s affairs justly regardless of their creed, tribe or colour. The south has not been oppressed because of too much Islamic law, but too little. The history of Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans have largely demonstrated with some aberrations that when Islamic rule was implemented properly, non Muslims were treated humanely as citizens and their rights were always protected.
Sudan’s current predicament shows us is that there is no letup in the west’s ongoing crusade against the Muslim world and propaganda against the return of the Islamic system.
Not content with occupations in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, they continue to treat the Muslim world as their private chessboard. Egged on by the international community with reports of over 500 cheering news organisations being in the future capital of south Sudan Juba, it is clear that the west continues to promote division and fragmentation in the Muslim world. Whether it be in Sudan, in Palestine, in Iraq or Afghanistan it is clear that many would like further fragmentation and division.
In Iraq the current US Vice President is on record on calling for the country to be divided into three. In Afghanistan the former US Ambassador to India amongst others is calling for division of the country. In Palestine the west continues to support Israeli occupation of Muslim land. Ever since the infamous Sykes-Pikot agreement where Britain and France sought to dismember the Ottoman state, the major powers have sought to continue with their policy of divide and rule in the Muslim world. Sudan is just the latest litany of this corrosive foreign policy.