As the date for the Southern Sudan referendum approaches, we Sudanese await the fate of our country’s future, and whether things will go smoothly, or the country will descend back to chaos.
Thing is, both sides are already preparing for war. Moreover, if war does indeed break out again, this time, unlike in the 90′s, the fighting will probably reach Khartoum.
This is because over the past few years, the Southern Sudanese have been busy modernizing their military, which now apparently includes an air force capable of striking within the Sudanese capital.
On a personal level, that is what worries me as Northerner, since Khartoum is my hometown.
On a regional and international political level, one only needs to take a look at this map to understand why this potential ticking time bomb is a huge deal.
Yup, those are nine countries around Sudan.
Clearly, the stakes are high, but what has been quite baffling to me are the mixed reactions I kept getting from my fellow Northern Sudanese in Khartoum when I was there just three weeks ago.
There are mainly two camps. The first is enthusiastic about the idea of separation and wants all Southern Sudanese to “get lost,” leave the North and have their own country. The second camp keeps insisting that separation is simply not going to happen and that the majority of Southern Sudanese don’t want it either, which sounds ridiculous to me and so out of touch with what the majority of Southern Sudanese feel.
Also, I have friends working in the oil industry who have “insider info,” which doesn’t seem credible at all, because what I hear is very conflicting. On one hand, I am told by some that the North has enormous oil and natural gas reserves, and that its economy won’t be affected much if the South separates. On the other hand, there are those who tell me the exact opposite, and that the Northern economy is going to be severely affected.
It all seems so black and white. I haven’t experienced any shades of gray during my conversations with the numerous Sudanese I’ve talked to about this topic, some of whom are well-connected to insiders within the government. Even Omar Al-Bashir’s ruling NCP seems split in its rhetoric, whereas Sudanese TV has been busy broadcasting messages of love and unity, unlike any I’ve seen before. Many of the TV shows and events simply just made me go “eh, where was all this love for the Southerners before, and where did it appear from all of a sudden?”
It’s pretty confusing to me to be quite frank, and I’m not sure who to believe, or what to expect. I don’t want to make any predictions, but at the end of the day, I don’t think the NCP is dumb or stupid. If anything, they’ve repeatedly proven themselves to be very smart cunning strategists. Plus, China has some significant influence and certainly won’t want the oil to stop flowing. Nobody wants that. It’s neither in the interest of the North nor the South anyway. But then again, history might repeat itself.
Whatever happens, I just hope it won’t be ugly.
Meanwhile, let me leave you with this article which covers important details I didn’t go into (h/t: Nobody), and this cool music video on the issue:
Sudan365: Keep the Promise