Imperialists support break up of Sudan

On 14 February, the final results of the January 2011 Southern Sudan Referendum are expected to confirm a landslide vote in favour of secession by the South from Sudan. This is the latest phase of the US and British plan to break Sudan up into north, south and west (Darfur), thus securing access to Sudan’s energy and mineral reserves and countering China’s rising influence in the strategically important region.

The referendum

Provision for the referendum to confirm ‘Unity’ with, or ‘Secession’ from, Sudan was established in the US and EU-imposed Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of January 2005, signed at the end of the 21-year civil war in 2004, along with a timetable of other demands. This was in addition to guaranteeing autonomy for the south, a government of ‘national unity’, 50:50 sharing of oil wealth, and a plebiscite on whether oil-rich Abyei, the border region, should stay part of the north or join the south.

Only those originally from southern Sudan were eligible to vote in the January referendum. 3.93m people registered, including 3.75m in the south, 116,857 in the north and 60,219 in eight out-of-country (OCV) voting centres. 8m of Sudan’s 42m people live in the south. Validation of the referendum required a 60% turnout and determination by a simple majority of 51% or more.

Results in by the end of January indicate a 96.4% turnout, with 98.8% voting for ‘Secession’ and 1.2% for ‘Unity’. 98% of OCV voters and 98.6% in the southern states were in favour of secession; voting was more finely balanced in the north with 42.35% of the 69,597 voters opting for ‘Unity’ and 57.65% for ‘Secession’ (

However, as far as Britain, the US and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) were concerned, the referendum was a foregone conclusion. The SPLM’s Rebecca Garang visited the US in 2006 to discuss setting up diplomatic relations with the US and Canada.

Southern Sudan

Southern Sudan is the poorest part of Sudan, with 51% of its population living on less than 62 pence a day. 4.3m people required food assistance in 2010. 40.6% of mothers do not receive antenatal care and maternal mortality is 14,300 per 100,000 pregnancies. There are only an estimated 100 certified midwives in all of southern Sudan. Infant mortality stands at 102 per 1,000 live births. For under-fives the mortality rate is 135 per 1,000 live births. More than 50% of the population do not have access to clean drinking water, 85% of adults (92% of women) cannot read or write, and only 27% of girls attend primary school. Malaria is endemic, with one of the lowest immunisation rates in the world. There are only 60 kilometres of paved roads and very little electricity coverage. The SPLM has failed abjectly to improve matters, despite receiving £4bn in oil revenues, and hundreds of millions in ‘aid’ since 2005.

The dire situation in South Sudan is an indictment of capitalism, of the Sudan government and ruling elites who since 1997, along with the IMF, have imposed neoliberal ‘macroeconomic reforms’ on Sudan. Is it any wonder the people of South Sudan rejected so-called ‘Unity’?

Strategic rivalry

Secession will lead to South Sudan declaring ‘independence’ on 9 July 2011. It will then control 80% of the country’s current crude oil production of 516,000 b/d, Africa’s fifth largest. In addition to oil and gold, Sudan is rich in copper and uranium, and is believed to hold Africa’s largest unexploited oil reserves – particularly in the south.

Sudan’s oil is pumped mainly by China, Malaysia and India. China plans to invest in the oil, gas and mineral sectors of Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. Its trade with Africa has gradually been extended to the finance, aerospace and telecommunication sectors. Sudan’s agricultural and construction sectors are also attracting investment from the Middle and Far East.

Sudan’s rising imports ($8.253bn in 2009) are also dominated by Asian countries, in particular China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India and the UAE. Sudan’s exports ($9.77bn in 2010) were also dominated by China (58.29%), Japan, Indonesia and India. China has invested about $15bn in Sudan’s oil industry.

Between 2003-2007, the UK ranked as a top investor in Africa with a 21.2% total FDI inward stock, alongside the US (19.4%) and France (15.4%). China was 14th with 1.8% (UNCTAD, Economic Development in Africa Report 2009).

Britain’s role

It was from fear of being squeezed out of opportunities for capitalist exploitation in the region that US and British imperialism encouraged both the secession of South Sudan and the war in west Sudan (Darfur). Britain has staunchly backed the CPA and contributed £9.5m for the referendum and £1.9m to the Southern Sudan Police Service ‘to manage the referendum’. The British Embassy, alongside media organisations and the World Bank, offered ‘training’ for 30 journalists on how to cover the referendum ‘responsibly’.

In July 2010, Britain’s Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, encouraged British banks and companies to invest more in Sudan: ‘There are no UK sanctions, there are US sanctions... we will try and find ways round some of the problems.’ Even the ballot papers for the referendum were printed by a British company.

Divide and rule

With unresolved issues such as Sudan’s unpayable $38bn debt, border demarcation, oil-wealth sharing and the disputed Abyei region, SPLM minister Pagan Amum told Sudan Tribune in October 2010, that Sudan would seek assistance from Britain in demarcating north-south borders, as it did during colonialism.

The imperialists intend that Southern Sudan will be another client state in an East African reactionary bloc with Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, free of the sanctions imposed on Sudan in 1997, untagged as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and ready to renegotiate oil and trade deals to the exclusion of China. The US and Britain are dividing to rule in Sudan, in a cynical attempt to restore the profits of capitalism by exploiting genuine desires for freedom from poverty and oppression. It can only end in tears as the people of South Sudan come to realise that the corrupt SPLM and its imperialist backers have no intention of bringing them ‘freedom and prosperity’ as promised.

Charles Chinweizu

FRFI 219 February / March 2011


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