The peoples of South Sudan have been suffering the greed and bigotry of leaders in the north of Sudan since the colonial transition in 1956. British mistakes and faulty political organization among the colonized left incomplete adequate political structures to ensure fair political power distribution. The result was more than fifty years of strife and death and now the separation between North and South.
The five-day plebiscite to decide whether the South will be an independent state has come to an end. The ballots are being counted and a “government in waiting” stands ready to govern the South.
South Sudan is a complex of many cultures, multiple ecozones, a food base and one exportable product: oil. All of these elements challenge the leaders of South Sudan and will demand the most exacting political skills. The North may not invade and challenge the vote, but internal South Sudan diversity may become the rational for future military interventions by Khartoum.
The diversity of peoples inside South Sudan can become a major challenge when forming and maintaining a state. (See map – Source: Dr. Mizady – www.gulf2000.columbia.edu)
Power sharing and close attention to local needs and requirements will be more challenging than many now think. Pressures will emerge to secure international trade (oil) and the problem of financial distribution will call on all parties to avoid greed. Juba will be thought the center (capitol) of decision-making in South Sudan. Indeed, the decisions must be made in small communities first…demanding extensive communications and careful translation of State needs and the benefits for local communities.
Biafra in Nigeria has seen the same political and violent challenges and will continue to move toward its independence. Somaliland in the north of Somalia will continue to demand and exercise powers of independence. More of Africa’s original (indigenous) nations will seek independence and most will see the “State” model (created in Europe in the 17th century) as the path to freedom. The problem is that the “State” model is most likely the least useful political structure of Africa’s original nations.
Colonization by Europeans, Arabs and even economic colonization by the Chinese have contributed to serious distortions in the history and political development of Africa’s peoples. South Sudan may be in the position now to establish a new path to political development and freedom by calling on the pre-colonial political history of Africa. Political structures of great influence and success ruled throughout the continent well before colonial intervention.
South Sudan will fall to continuous internal instability if it wants to duplicate the “State” model. That model is incompatible with Africa’s political roots. It will be very sad if the South replaces a failed state experience with Sudan with a failed state in the South Sudan. A studied approach to political change and development in Africa is essential. South Sudan can influence the course of political change in Africa if it does it correctly…. Let Africa Be Africa is an excellent idea, but it is difficult to accomplish when people fail to recall the successes of pre-colonial structures.