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

Monday December 13 2010



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.

The DRC is likely to split into four; the western part will be one block, then the eastern “Kiswahili region” will break up into three.

One, further south, will be a Rwanda sphere of influence. The middle portion could be a Uganda-allied state. And the northern bit would walk off to be part of the Lendu Republic.

The one that would really shake Africa would be Nigeria. Indeed, the eccentric Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (the man with the “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse), has suggested that Nigeria be split into north and south, as one way of stopping the periodical orgies of Christian-Muslim slaughter.

The Nigerian government was outraged, but that is a popular view in the oil-rich south, which thinks the north are a bunch of freeloading gun-toting Muslim extremists.

Back in the East African Community, the Zanzibar Isles, which have never been quite happy in their marriage to mainland Tanzania, could swim off to relish the pleasures of their spices without the overlordship of condescending Dar es Salaam.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Group’s executive editor for Africa & Digital Media. E-mail: [email protected]