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A free Southern Sudan would be good for Kenya
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Nov 18, 2008 - 6:04:35 AM

A free Southern Sudan would be good for Kenya

By PETER WANYONYI Posted Monday, November 17 2008 at 19:46


FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Moses Wetang’ula last month issued a very unconvincing explanation about an assortment of weapons seized by pirates on the Somali coast.

‘‘The weapons’’, he said, “belong to Kenya. The acronym GOSS stands for General Ordinance Supplies and Security.” The minister’s explanation did not impress many, least of all himself.

But that does not matter. If Kenya is importing weapons on behalf of the Southern Sudan government, it would be a good thing. It would be in Kenya’s strategic interest to ensure a free and independent Southern Sudan.

As they did everywhere else they set foot, the British cobbled together a country from disparate ethnic and racial groups in the Sudan, with little regard to the sustainability of their creation.

Before they left, they had realised the difficulty of forcing north and south Sudan together under one administration.

Indeed, matters were so extreme that the British themselves ruled Sudan under two administrations — one in the Arab north, the other in the south.

FEARFUL OF DOMINATION BY THE north upon eventual independence, Southern Sudanese soldiers mutinied shortly before independence in 1955. This continued until a ceasefire was brokered in 1972. Notably, Sudan has never had a president from the south.

Although there was momentary peace — lasting 10 years from 1972 — President Gaafar el-Numeiry imposed Sharia law on Southern Sudan in 1983, and the south revolted against Khartoum.

The second Sudanese civil war had begun. When Numeiry imposed Islamic Law on the south, he was publicly rebuked by Kenya’s then President Moi. It was the beginning of a long association between Kenya authorities and the “rebels” of Southern Sudan.

This relationship culminated in Kenya, and President Moi, playing a pivotal role in negotiating peace talks between northern and southern Sudan, with the result that a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan, or seceding, will be held in the south in 2011. This is where matters get a little complicated.

Southern Sudan holds the majority of the country’s considerable oil deposits. Indeed, one of the flashpoints of the current conflict in the south has been where to draw the northern border: Khartoum would like to push as deep into Southern Sudan as possible to lock in this territory should secession be the result of the 2011 plebiscite.

The southerners are resisting this. To the west, Darfurians are at war against the Arabs.

With Sudan so unstable, it is no surprise that the administration in the south should seek to prepare itself for the worst, with the 2011 referendum in mind.

It is doubtful that Khartoum would let the south secede peacefully: they will either seek to rig the vote, frighten the voters into rejecting independence, or, more likely, try to hold onto Southern Sudan by force.

In this, Khartoum has the support of virtually all the Arab League states, bar Libya. It is said that much of the weaponry used by the north in the civil war against the south was donated by Arab states in the Gulf.

When Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was recently indicted of genocide by the International Criminal Court and an arrest warrant issued, the most vocal opposition to such action came, not from Bashir’s fellow African dictators — who have just as much to fear from the ICC — but from the Arab League.

It is a no-brainer that Southern Sudan should, therefore, look to Kenya for help in arming in preparation for possible conflict with the north come 2011.

During their civil war, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Southern Sudanese escaped to Kenya. John Garang, the leader of the Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement, lived in Kenya under State protection throughout the civil war.

With little indication that Kenya has any hydrocarbons worth their name, and with the world economy fast fading into recession, we need to get real close with regions like Southern Sudan — purely out of self-interest.

A SOUTHERN SUDAN THAT’S independent would obviously be barred from using northern Sudan’s Red Sea ports, and would naturally turn to Kenya to assist it refine and export its oil.

It goes further than that. Having largely grown up in Kenya, most of southern Sudan’s young professionals, who will lead any nascent independent country, are Kenyan in all but name, and would naturally look to Kenya for economic investments.

At the moment, Kenya is the largest foreign investor in Southern Sudan — our banks, educational system, teachers, technical professionals and even language hold sway over the region.

It follows that an independent Southern Sudan would be a boon to us, and not just economically.

A stable government would even help curb the flow of small arms to the bandits of north-western Kenya, who have made that part of our country virtually ungovernable.

Mr Wanyonyi is an IT specialist working in the Middle East.


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