In 2005 a peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan ended a civil war in which over 2 million Sudanese were killed and millions more were made refugees. The settlement promised the South a referendum on independence, scheduled for January 9, 2011. As this vote approaches, tensions are rising in Africa’s largest nation. It is widely expected that southern Sudanese will endorse independence, resulting in two Sudans. Any split would go into effect after six months.
More than 80 percent of Sudan’s oil reserves lie in the South. Major issues like borders, oil revenue sharing, and citizenship have yet to be negotiated. In addition, a large number of Sudanese nomads from the North, which is dominated by Arab Muslims, typically spend five months of the year in southern Sudan. Meanwhile, about 1.5 million southerners, who hold predominantly Christian and traditional beliefs, reside in the North.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s northern-based government has warned southern military forces to withdraw from disputed areas before the election. The ruling party has called on people in the South not to interfere with pro-unity campaigns. With preparations for the referendum running behind, and voter registration incomplete, neighboring African states are worried the election may lead to instability in Sudan that could spill over its borders. Members of the UN Security Council have urged Sudanese to respect the outcome of the vote.
- Independence Vote Raising Tensions in Sudan
This article summarizes the issues surrounding the January 2011 referendum on the independence of southern Sudan, which is the source of tensions in this East African country.
(Source: Theworld.org, September 24, 2010)
- Obama Presses for Peace in Likely Sudan Partition
This article focuses on the Obama administration’s plans with respect to the outcome of the Sudanese referendum on the independence of the South.
(Source: New York Times, September 24, 2010)
- Sudan’s Ruling Party Sets Conditions for Vote
This article discusses the politics of Sudan that underlie the upcoming independence vote.
(Source: VOA News, September 28, 2010)
- Map of Sudan
This map shows Sudan, Africa’s largest country by area, with its coastline on the Red Sea; its centrally located capital, Khartoum; and western Darfur region.
(Source: The University of Texas)
Other Issues in the Region
The Legacy of Colonialism
The European colonizers who divided the African continent among themselves, gave little consideration to the people living there. They disrupted borders separating various ethnic groups and frequently overturned the governments of those groups. New borders often pushed warring groups together, setting the stage for civil conflicts and border wars that have continued to this day. Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the countries that have been torn by corruption, political unrest, and brutal wars.
- Fierce Fighting Spreads in Ivory Coast Showdown
Fighting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, escalated after continued assaultsby forces backing diputed president-elect Alassane Quattara. Conflicts between pro-Quattara forces and supporters of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo have been ongoing since Gbagbo refused to step down after the November 2010 presidential election. The months-long standoff between Gbagbo and Quattara has reignited the country’s 2002-2003 civil war. More than 1,500 people have been killed since the violence began. The African Union, the United Nations, the United States, and Ivory Coast’s former colonial ruler France have called on Gbagbo to step down and cede the presidency to Quattara. (Source: Reuters, April 1, 2011)
Economic development remains a major challenge for African nations. After colonial rule ended, many African nations continued the colonial practice of exporting raw materials instead of using those materials to produce manufactured goods. Like the colonial powers before them, leaders of the newly independent African nations and a few multinational corporations based in Europe, Asia, and North America have benefited greatly from the export of natural resources. Meanwhile, in all but a few African nations, civil wars and cross-border wars, corrupt governments, foreign debt, and the AIDS crisis have severely hampered economic growth.
However, Africa is changing. A growing awareness of the need for economic diversification is taking hold and inspiring action. Education and democratic principles are increasingly recognized as keys to progress. But some concerned leaders say that along with these principles, there must be fair trade, reduced subsidies and tariffs by the major players in the world market, greater rights for African workers, and greater empowerment of women. About 55 percent of Africa’s people are under age 18, and this group especially needs education and employment if Africans are to break the cycle of poverty. Africa’s human capital and abundant natural resources offer great potential, but these assets need to be developed for the good of a greater number of people in Africa.
- AU Summit Identifies Key Priority Infrastructure Projects
Members of the African Union Assembly endorsed key projects identified by an infrastructure subcommittee at the African Union Summit in January 2011. Projects will address infrastructure needs in transportation and energy sectors up to 2040. (Source: African Development Bank Group, February 1, 2011)
The African continent faces many serious health issues. They range from high rates of infant mortality to shortened life spans for those who survive past infancy. The reasons that many Africans have shorter than average life spans often stem from the continent’s high rates of poverty, malnutrition, and disease. Public health departments in Africa must deal with a variety of illnesses, including those transmitted by insects (such as malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes, and sleeping sickness, which is spread by the tsetse fly). Other diseases are associated with parasites and bacteria found in improperly cooked food and contaminated water. Still other serious diseases, such as hepatitis-B, are spread through viruses transmitted from human to human. Tuberculosis and polio are also a concern, as is the occasional outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. The greatest health concern is the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to over 70 percent of the world’s AIDS-infected people and where around 19 million Africans have died of AIDS.
- South Africa Still Struggling with Deadly TB-HIV Epidemic
In an update to his feature on tuberculosis in South Africa, Ray Suarez reports on the country’s still-high rates of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and instances of co-infection. (Source: pbs.org, March 24, 2011)