By this logic, today’s hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan are not simply “America’s Wars.” Rather, they are to some extent the unexploded ordinance left over from old European wars, with their fuses lit on slow release. Indeed, the United States had nothing to do with the Sykes-Picot and other agreements that parceled the Levant into French- and British-allied monarchies, or the Congress of Berlin, which drew suspiciously straight lines on Africa’s map. Some of these haphazard agreements created oversized or artificial agglomerations like Sudan, which threw together heretofore independent groups of Arabs, Africans, Christians, and Muslims into a country one-fourth the size of the United States but lacking any common national ethos or adequate distribution of resources to sustain commitment to unity. Others did the opposite, like the British officer Henry Mortimer Durand, whose infamous line divided the Pashtun nation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This growing cartographic stress is not just America’s challenge. All the world’s influential powers and diplomats should seize a new moral high ground by agreeing to prudently apply in such cases Woodrow Wilson’s support for self-determination of peoples. This would be a marked improvement over today’s ad hoc system of backing disreputable allies, assembling unworkable coalitions, or simply hoping for tidy dissolutions. Reasserting the principle of self-determination would allow for the sort of true statesmanship lacking on today’s global stage. Breaking Up Is Good to Do
That leaves just a few months for some of the most contentious issues in Sudan’s recent history to be resolved. The parties will have to decide who becomes a citizen, a tricky question since tens of thousands of southerners now live in the north. A security arrangement along the border will have to be worked out — as will the actual border demarcation itself. It’s also not clear yet how north and south Sudan will share oil wealth, much of which will be concentrated in the new independent state. But perhaps most controversial of all is the status of Abyei, which lies along the disputed border. Oil rich, ethnically diverse, and politically explosive, Abyei was supposed to hold its own referendum this week over whether to be in Sudan or the new Southern Sudanese state. Disputes over who would be able to vote, however, have delayed the polls. Clashes have broken out there in recent days between settler and nomad populations, the former preferring to go with the south and the latter favoring the north. The situation on the ground on Monday was reportedly calm, but any further flaring of violence in the area is likely to raise tensions between Khartoum and Juba over an issue on which neither side wants to cede ground. The Referendum Hangover
As Rob Crilly points out, al-Bashir is right. My real worry for this situation is not that war will break out between north and south - even over Abyei, which I think will eventually be allowed to vote on its own status - but rather than tensions within the South will be played out in the context of an extremely fragile state. Southern Sudan will immediately become one of the world’s poorest, weakest states - albeit one with oil - with a plethora of ethnic groups who don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. That’s rarely a recipe for stability. Add to that the resentment that may build up over the SPLM’s domination of politics within the South and there could be real problems. Texas in Africa
While such threats might represent political posturing, they match the political reality of the life of southerners in Khartoum, despite the express provisions of the CPA against discrimination. Sharia law has been applied relentlessly to southerners living in the north in contravention of CPA protections for non-Muslims. The government has never worked to integrate the internally displaced people into northern society, instead denying them government services and periodically forcing them to move to ever more distant sites on Khartoum’s periphery. Even individuals who have lived in Khartoum for years outside the camps have been unable to obtain formal permission to own land. As one displaced individual told RI, “Unity has not produced a good situation for us. Why would it be better after separation?” Sudan: Preventing Violence and Statelessness as Referendum Approaches