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Aleksandr Djibrayev

PhD in Political Science, Philology Faculty of Petersburg Institute of Judaic Studies

The referendum in Juba on January 9, 2011 brought about the emergence of a new state on the map of the world -- South Sudan. Why had Sudan disintegrated? Who benefits from it? And what does it mean?

On January 9, 2011 in Juba a long-awaited referendum on political self-determination of southern Sudan took place. The outcome of the plebiscite was the division of Sudan’s geopolitical and economic space into southern and northern states - South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan (RS). The question arises as to why Sudan has broken up? And who benefits from the formation of two new states?

The division of Sudan takes root in the colonial policy of the British Empire which artificially united people with vastly different social and cultural identities on the Sudanese territory [1]. On the political map of the second half of 19th - early 20th centuries it consisted of the developed industrial North populated by Arab-Muslim tribes and the agrarian South, with Christian Negro and pagan population [2]. The British colonial administration practiced methods of “indirect government”, allowing chiefs of autochthonous tribes of northern Sudan to exercise certain control over the territories of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium and delegating to them some of their powers [3]. The population of northern Sudan enjoyed the privileges of the titular nation which had the right to exploit southern Sudanese whose income and living standards were much lower than in the North.

In the 1940s, the national liberation struggle consolidated the South and North in an effort to expel the British from Sudan. However, its independence from Britain and Egypt, officially proclaimed in 1956 marked the beginning of military and civilian confrontation between the northerners and southerners. All ruling political groups in Khartoum conducted discriminatory policy against the people of the South imposing on the Christian Negro and pagan South the traditional Islamic organization of labor, official celebration of Islamic holidays and the practices of Hijra in paperwork. In all ten states of the South the domination of the North clearly manifested itself in the political, economic and social spheres. The determination of the South to separate from the North reached its peak during civil wars with the federal government, which lasted altogether more than thirty years.

The position of the West, Near and the Middle East during the conflict was beneficial only to the South of Sudan. In 2005 with the help of international mediators a long-term peace was established between the warring parties. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, providing for a “transitional period” of six years, during which southern Sudan was to decide whether or not to remain the part of Sudan. Following that a referendum on independence was to be held. One of the conditions of the referendum was the implementation of clauses of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement envisaging economic, territorial and political division of a single Sudan into two states. And while political and territorial separation may be achieved in the shortest possible time, if formally, obtaining independence in the economic sphere by two new states is another matter altogether [4].

Over the past six years due to the efforts of the representatives of West European countries a European-style banking system has been created in the South of Sudan.The former Islamic banking system prohibited interest on loans in accordance with Islamic law. Islamic agricultural banks [5] set up by the North made a significant contribution to the development of the agricultural sector in the South. The introduction of the European-style banking has made the economy of the new state dependent on the leading financial institutions of Europe and the USA.

The United States and China have their own interests in South Sudan. The formation of an idependent state on this territory was beneficial for them, above all in providing greater control over oil revenues. The countries that sponsored South Sudan’s independence turned a blind eye to arms supply to the area while prohibiting other countries to supply arms and military equipment to the northern part of Sudan. Besides during the “transition period” the US and Israel have actively participated in the development of armed forces in southern Sudan. Funds provided by these countries were used for procurement of certain types of weapons, including offensive ones.

The analysis of many years of interaction between Israel and southern Sudan shows that Israel has played an active role in “writing the script of independence” of South Sudan.

Starting from 1956, Israel has fully supported the separatist aspirations of southerners: acted as a reliable and generous sponsor of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), granted political asylum to refugees from the South of Sudan, defended the interests of the South before the international community. However, Israeli aid to “rebels from southern Sudan” was not quite so altruistic. By supporting the destructive and destabilizing activities in the enclaves of this east African state it deprived the federal government of Sudan of the opportunity to line itself up with the Arab world in their long-standing conflict with Israel. So it comes as no surprise that the state of Israel was among the first countries with which the Republic of South Sudan established diplomatic relations in July 2011).

For the EU and U.S. the division of Sudan’s single geopolitical and economic space was a logical result of the conflict between northern and southern states of Sudan, which lasted for fifty years. For Russia, the transformation of an officially united Sudan into two independent states came as a surprise. Despite that Russia has to formalize, structure and develop bilateral relations with South Sudan and to interact with it in certain areas taking into account the special character of the East African macroregion.

A key problem in establishing such relationships is that the new government urgently needs to create economic and political framework to ensure true independence from its northern neighbor - the Republic of Sudan. The main pillar of the economy of both RS and South Sudan is the production and transportation of oil. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for the following principle of distribution of revenues from export sales of crude oil between the North and the South: 50% - to the government of the South and 50% - to the government of the North. This principle remains relevant and inviolable after South Sudan gained internationally recognized independence.

Two branches of pipelines originating from South Sudan run to the sea terminal in northern Sudan. Developments of most oil fields of the South need additional investments. Of special importance is the problem of foreign sales of crude oil from the oil pipeline Melut – Port Sudan. Foreign oil companies are in no hurry to build a refinery in the immediate vicinity of the fields that would improve the financial and technical characteristics of exported oil. Current transport infrastructure makes it impossible to export “black gold” from southern Sudan effectively, except for the pipeline route passing through the territory of RS.

In its “independent” present South Sudan is completely dependent on the separated North which has three quarters of pipelines that are commonly used by both sides. Therefore, the North and South of Sudan will continue to coexist as a single economic space, under the same conditions as before, at least until the completion of the new, third pipeline -- from South Sudan to Port Mambasa (Kenya). Here, too, the new state is heavily dependent on the outside help: the pipeline general contractor and owner along with the newly established government of the republic is a large Japanese company while a refinery in Kenya is being built by a state-owned Chinese company. Construction and startup will take about four years. It is during this period of time that interdependent and relatively peaceful coexistence of the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan could be guaranteed.

What are the potential and prospects of cooperation between Russia and South Sudan? Some reputable Arabic-language media were optimistic to predict gradual development of relations between Russia and South Sudan even before the 2011 referendum. However, the current state of bilateral relations does not give ground for such forecasts: Russia is poorly represented in foreign economic relations of the Republic of South Sudan. There are no large Russian companies operating in the country [6] while economic interaction is occasional, reduced mainly to supplies of Russian military equipment and weapons.

The latter goes back to the era preceding the formation of the Republic of South Sudan. To illustrate, on January 11, 2011 South Sudan received ten contracted Russian-made helicopters.

The official representative of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army said that the delivery of the first helicopters became a birthday for the South Sudan’s Air Force.

With an independent state created, the Government of South Sudan will focus all its effort on ensuring its security and defense. Obviously arms supplies of previous years will be insufficient to maintain the country’s defense capability at a proper level. Provided that South Sudan has to spend oil revenues for purchasing weapons, it can be argued that this will unleash fierce competition for military contracts with that country. Russia must be ready to compete for its share on the weapons market South Sudan. Its main competitors in this market will be the United States, China, Ukraine, and probably the United Kingdom and South Africa.

  1. Shughart II W.F. An Analytical History of Terrorism, 1945-2000 / / Public Choice.2006. No128 (1).
  2. For more information on micro-ethnoses and poly-confessional composition of the population of Sudan, see: (Brook S.I. The Population of the World: ethno-demographic reference book). Брук С.И. Население мира: этнодемографический справочник, М.:Наука, 1986 г.
  3. Dimier V. Le Discours Idéologique de la Méthode Coloniale chez les Français et les Britanniques de l’entre-deux guerres à la décolonisation (1920-1960) / / Travaux et Documents. 1998. No58-59.
  4. (Gibrayev A.Y Sudan 2011: The Coming Religious and Ideological Restructuring ) Джибраев А.Ю. Судан 2011: грядущая религиозно-идеологическая реструктуризация. Вестник РХГА, 2011г. Т 12(1).
  5. Osman B. The Experience of the Sudanese Islamic Bank in Partnership (Musharakah) Financing as a Tool for Rural Development among Small Farmers in Sudan / / Arab Law Quarterly. 1999. Vol. 14. No3.
  6. The exception is the JSC “KAMAZ”, which since 2007 operates a service center in south-western Sudan through the mediation of the local multi-core company “Al-Jazeera.”

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