After 50 years in which millions have died, Southern Sudan becomes an independent nation on July 9. It is a momentous occasion marked by contradictions.
In Southern Sudan: While the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement has been the primary organization in the liberation struggle, a number of splits occurred recently, and it remains to be seen how these different factions will co-exist in the new nation, not excluding armed struggle.
In Sudan: President Omar al-Bashir, the architect of genocidal wars against the South and Darfur, remains in power despite being indicted for war crimes. His latest “ethnic cleansing” operation is in Abyei, a disputed border area between Sudan and Southern Sudan, and in the southern states of Sudan where the Dinka and Nuba peoples live.
Sudan in the north is predominantly Arab and Muslim, but many of the non-Arab populations in its southern states support Southern Sudan’s self-determination. Bashir is attempting to hold that area by driving these populations out.
Bashir’s rule in the Arab-majority north is authoritarian, and he has used the Arab-African ethnic division to pursue his aims in the south. His occupation of Abyei is about oil reserves, not solely territory and peoples.
Authentic self-determination for the peoples of Sudan and Southern Sudan–African and Arab alike–remains a task to be done.