Posted on 07-02-2011
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

It is time to update the world map.  As expected South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to secede from the largely Muslim and Arab northern part of the country.  With Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir promising to respect the results, fears of a North-South civil war have receded.

The extremely impoverished new nation (whose name has not been formalized) faces a daunting task ahead.  It is riven with feuds, has almost no infrastructure and the desire to be free from Khartoum appears to have been the only glue that held its warring factions together.  It is blessed and cursed with an abundance of natural resources (and oil).  Mineral wealth has generally been the bane of developing countries.  Getting it out of the ground creates few jobs but generates a lot of revenue for venal kleptocrats to siphon into Swiss bank accounts.   Revenue sharing arrangements with the North have to still be negotiated and Khartoum will be eager to exploit any rifts that appear.

The creation of South Sudan could provide added impetus to secessionist movements across Africa.  The African Union has avoided opening up the Pandora’s box of redrawing colonial borders.  The sole exception to the rule, Eritrea could claim that it had been a separate Italian colony before being annexed by Ethiopia after World War II.  Now the genie is out of the bottle and secessionist claims in places like (oil rich) Southern Nigeria could re-emerge.

Maybe my pessimism is unjustified.  Having midwifed the creation of the new country (with the active encouragement of right-wing evangelical groups) it is likely that the United States will remain involved in the region and discourage mischief.  Equally or more likely the combination of a weak resource rich state surrounded by unscrupulous resource poor neighbors could result in another Congo.

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