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Will Sudan lead the way to the next big carve-up of Africa?

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Posted  Monday, December 13   2010 at  00:00

Finally, the January referendum wheels seem to be turning irreversibly in Southern Sudan.

There was a lot of excitement even with the registration that ended last Tuesday, by which time three million had registered.

Now it looks like the January 9, 2011, when the region is highly likely to vote to secede, will be on schedule. If not, the delay will only be by a few weeks.

So far a lot of attention has been focused on whether Khartoum will sabotage the referendum, and plunge the country back into war.

However, there is another organisation that is quite uneasy with the prospect of South Sudan independence — the African Union.

At one point the AU was categorical that it did not think secession was the best option for South Sudan. Lately, as the inevitable draws close, it has softened its position.

However, it remains mealy-mouthed.

The AU is concerned about South Sudan, because African leaders fear what effect secession will have on their own mostly poorly managed and poor nations.

Some African countries are too big for their leaders to run effectively.

For that reason, one can argue that it makes sense for Sudan, Africa’s largest country, to be split in two, even if it hadn’t endured decades of a bitter civil war.

If South Sudan’s secession creates a domino effect, it is not difficult to see which ones will fall first.

Most immediately, next door, it will help complete Somaliland’s consolidation into an independent or, at least, autonomous state.

There are, indeed, Somali academics who claim that the UK, for one, wants Somaliland, which was once a British protectorate, to break away.

In the long run, depending on how the February 2011 elections and next five years turn out, northern Uganda — where there have already been secessionist rumblings — could look to form a loose federation with Southern Sudan and the Lendu of the DR Congo in a bigger “Lendu Republic” as hardline Sudanic/Luo chauvinists in East Africa sometimes refer to that political project.

Sooner than that, DR Congo could follow Somaliland.

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