Juba, Sudan (UPI) Jan 12, 2011
Sporadic violence has marred the historic referendum in southern Sudan, cockpit of a 22-year civil war in which an estimated 2 million people perished.
But the largely peaceful weeklong polling due to end Sunday is widely expected to lead to the backward region's independence -- and a future so uncertain that skeptics are already talking about the birth of a failed state.
The referendum marks the culmination of a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war.
Most security analysts agree that neither the south, populated by African Christians and animists, nor the Khartoum regime in the Arab Muslim north has any real interest in reigniting the war.
But in a land so torn by ethnic hatreds and the memories of countless atrocities, on top of the rivalries that exist within both regions, it would take little to trigger renewed bloodletting on a major scale.
"If the situation is not managed well, the risk is not only a failed state (in Sudan), but a fragmented state as well," said Hilde Johnson, the former Norwegian development minister who played a large role in negotiating the 2005 pact.
There are spoilers on both sides, which have been spending heavily on building up their military capabilities since the CPA.
North and south have been in conflict since Sudan's independence from Britain in 1956. Khartoum waged a campaign of remorseless brutality against the Texas-sized south that comprises one-third of Sudan's territory.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a former general who led the war against the south, was never happy with the independence referendum and sought to torpedo it.
But Jan. 2, in a major and unexpected shift, Bashir visited Juba, the southern capital, and appeared to accept the inevitability of southern independence.
His adversaries, along with the referendum's international backers, including the United States, were pleasantly surprised. But they were hardly reassured by such honeyed words from a national leader indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes committed in the western region of Darfur, where a separate intra-Sudanese conflict has raged since 2003.
Even if Bashir doesn't interfere in the south, the nascent state faces immense difficulties under its leader, former rebel commander Salva Kiir.
It's poor, even by African standards. Most of the 7.8 million people are nomadic herders. Only 15 percent can read or write. It has no industry and only 60 miles of paved road.
An independent south could also have potentially serious repercussions across Africa, a continent already convulsed by war and rebellion.
Allowing the south to break free from Sudan would create a precedent that could affect territorial disputes in the Western Sahara, Ethiopia's Ogaden region, Angola's oil-rich Cabinda enclave and the mineral conflicts in the Congo.
Bashir is blamed by many in the north for the impending loss of the south and its oilfields, which produce about 90 percent of Khartoum's export earnings.
That could be perceived as weakness on his part, which his rivals could exploit to topple him.
Any successor regime would likely include, and possibly be dominated by, the north's vociferous Islamists and others with more extreme views than his.
On the other hand, he may be inclined to launch a pre-emptive strike against his opponents.
Either way, the political turbulence would likely ripple through the entire region of northeast Africa.
Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia have supported the southern cause and welcome the expected secession of the south, through which flows the White Nile before it joins the Blue Nile at Khartoum.
These African states, and four others dependent on the Nile's waters, are pressing Egypt and Sudan to relinquish colonial-era rights to 70 percent of the river's waters. Cairo and Khartoum adamantly refuse.
Any move made by Bashir, or other Sudanese leaders, to crush southern independence would likely be backed by Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation.
And the war-ravaged south is far from united. The ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement is dominated by the Dinka tribal confederation and, as in the past, Khartoum is reported to be arming the Dinkas' tribal rivals.
These rogue factions are being blamed for much of the violence in the south over recent days. They may well be the shape of things to come.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food
Young French hostages executed in Niger desert
Niamey (AFP) Jan 9, 2011
Suspected Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Niger who kidnapped two young Frenchmen apparently executed the hostages during an attempted rescue mission by Niger and French troops, officials said Sunday. A French husband-to-be and his childhood friend, both 25, were seized by gunmen with assault rifles at a restaurant in Niamey on Friday and found dead after the military's failed rescue operation ... read more
Brisbane flood clean-up starts as damage emerges|
Sri Lanka struggles with flood havoc
Floods cost to Australia 'higher than Katrina'
Rueful but not remorseful, Wyclef Jean back in Haiti
Google buys eBook Technologies
Direct Observation Of Carbon Monoxide Binding To Metal-Porphyrines
Liquid Pistons Could Drive New Advances In Camera Lenses And Drug Delivery
How Do You Make Lithium Melt In The Cold
Gene-flaw, virus could be killing Pacific salmon
La Nina blamed for Australia's floods
China animal rights groups protest seal meat deal
S.Africa, France scientists launch new marine lab
Warming to devastate glaciers, Antarctic icesheet - studies
Russia reaches first stranded fishermen
Russia frees two of five ships trapped in ice floes
Polar Bears No Longer On Thin Ice
India to try growing salt-tolerant crops
Germans go organic in dioxin scare
States, cities to pursue Asian carp study
Argentina uneasy over La Nina hit on crops
More than 500 dead in Brazil's worst flood disaster
Haiti grieves its quarter million dead
Hundreds killed in Brazil floods, mudslides
New Queensland town braces for floods
Sudan partition poses challenges for China
Angola's war-ravaged railway re-opens
South Sudan: Birth of a failed state?
Much hope as Sudan's election starts
Impact Of Traffic Noise On Sleep Patterns
Humans First Wore Clothes 170,000 Years Ago
Publication of ESP study causes furor
Biological Joints Could Replace Artificial Joints Soon
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|