On Jan. 9 and 10, the people of Sudan voted on a referendum to divide their country. At the time of publication, no official decision on the referendum was announced though a vote for the partition of the country is likely.
The referendum is a result of the 2005 Naivasha agreement, which ended the 22-year-long civil war in Sudan. The peace agreement was brokered between forces responsible for the unrest in the South, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, and the central government of Sudan.
The SPLM has been warring for secession, a demand made popular due to underdevelopment and underrepresentation in the South. In spite of its radical sounding name, the SPLM is far from being a revolutionary force and has benefited greatly from the backing of Western imperialism throughout its struggle. The new state would certainly become an ally of the imperialists in the region.
Due to years of foreign pressure, demonization, charges of war crimes and sanctions, President Omar al-Bashir has no choice but to issupport calls for secession. “I personally will be sad if Sudan splits, but at the same time I will be happy if we have peace in Sudan between the two sides,. he said. “We cannot deny the desire and the choice of the people of the south.”
However, secession will directly impact the economic vitality of northern Sudan. The majority, 80 percent, of the country’s immense oil resources are located in the South and under the control of the SPLM.
This referendum may directly impede the ability of the Sudanese people to maintain full control over their country and its sovereignty and natural resources. Secession will likely weaken the independence of the people of Sudan, result in two weak states and make it easier for imperialism to dictate its will to both governments, certainly the southern part.
The breakup of the country would not be evidence of the irreconcilable ethnic divisions among Sudanese people. It would, however, signal the continued attempt by U.S. imperialism to dominate the region for economic and political gain.
Colonialism sows the seeds of conflict
The roots of the current conflict, including Darfur, should be traced to the legacy of brutal, racist, capitalist colonialism in Africa. The British are responsible for the false racial distinction between “Arab” and “African” Sudanese, which is touted in the media today.
Sudan has always been a multi-ethnic/multi-national country. Amongst the Sudanese people, there is no divide in Darfur or elsewhere between "Arabs" and "Africans." All Sudanese are African. These ethnic or national divisions are used as a cover for the conflict over allocation of natural resources and formal representation in the political structure. Primarily, the roots of any distinction between the groups are economic, not physical or cultural.
In the mid-1980s, the Sudanese government provided arms to some of the herder tribes. This is the base of the so-called Janjaweed—literally, "armed horsemen." The SPLA launched an uprising against the central government in 1983 that became mired in regional and international political struggles. The civil war lasted over 20 years and is related to the present Darfur conflict.
The current governments of Sudan and Chad have serious inter-regional conflicts, many stemming from the issue of resource allocation created by the imperialists. The government of Chad, which is under French economic domination, funded groups like the Justice and Equality Movement, which has now splintered. The Sudanese government supported the notorious Janjaweed. The bloodshed was a result of the exacerbation of the traditional conflicts in the area with backing from various governments.
Today this struggle continues as an otherwise peaceful referendum process sparked uprisings in the region of Abyei, which is on the unofficial border of north and south Sudan, prior to the vote. Even after the referendum, struggles over control of natural resources and the involvement of U.S. imperialism will only heighten tensions in the region.
The aim of the United States has been “regime change” in Sudan since the early 1990s, if not before. Washington is also hostile to a united Sudan because of the nationalist character of the Bashir government. The Sudanese government refused to support the U.S. wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003.
Bashir recently stated in an interview with Der Spiegel, “We support Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s legitimate struggle against the Israeli occupation and the resistance against the American invaders in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In fact many pro-Israel, Zionist U.S. groups formed the backbone of the “Save Darfur” movement.
Perhaps most to the displeasure of the United States are the close ties Khartoum is developing with China. Over half of Sudan's exports go to China. One-fifth of Sudan's imports come from China, making it by far Sudan's largest trading partner. In Sudan's growing oil industry, China is the largest investor, with the China National Petroleum Corporation helping to build refineries and pipelines.
The prospect of a rival world power like China having such influence in a country with major oil supplies in Africa flies in the face of the U.S. goal of outright control of the world's major oil reserves. These geopolitical motivations drive U.S. foreign policy far more than the crocodile tears over the killing of Africans.
The referendum represents the manipulation by the imperialist powers of the real desire of the people of the Southern Sudan for self-determination and representation in the political process. This referendum, portrayed in the corporate media as an attempt to assist the people of Sudan, is designed to assist U.S. imperialism’s plans for economic domination by breaking up the country into smaller states that can be more easily controlled.
We support the Sudanese people and defend their right to determine their own destiny free of imperialist interference.