Sudan: Fears of a Somali Scenario

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A Somali girl walks away with a pot filled with a hot meal ration from a food distribution point in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. Over 100,000 people have fled into Somalia's famine-hit and war-torn capital in the past two months in search of food, water, and medicine. (Photo: AFP - Roberto Schmidt)

By: May Ali

Published Thursday, August 25, 2011

The ‘Second Republic’ of North Sudan is facing mounting risks of economic and social turmoil following South Sudan’s secession last month. The threat to the country’s social diversity became apparent when the northern authorities repealed public provisions that accommodated religious plurality among the populace.

In contrast to past years, all restaurants in Khartoum this month closed down during Ramadan. When the Naivasha agreement (2005-2011) was in effect, the authorities allowed restaurants to open during Ramadan to cater to the needs of people from the South, allowing them to eat during daylight hours as a way of upholding their demand for freedom of religion. After the secession, local authorities have reinstated the old laws.

One month after South Sudan declared its independence, political stagnation in the North has reached a point where repealing these laws is perhaps the most significant step taken by authorities in Khartoum since secession. Until now, government plans for the country’s future remain unclear. Adel Abd al-Rahim, a young resident of Khartoum, believes that the political silence of the ruling party has infected the country’s other parties. He tells al-Akhbar that the political powers are suffering from such paralysis and that their talk has become concentrated on something along the lines of ‘no one will be able to bring the government down.’ The secretary of the Communist party, Ibrahim Naqd, has gone as far as stating this in public.

 

On the ground, the Sudanese are suffering from a grinding economic crisis. Commodity prices are sharply increasing. The month of Ramadan has revealed how bad things have become. Some people are worried that the food crisis currently hitting the Horn of Africa will reach Sudan. Fatima Abdullah, a housewife, reflected on inflation effects on food prices, hoping that “we do not become another Somalia.”

A woman sits outside her makeshift shelter structure at the Gorgor camp in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. (Photo: REUTERS - Ismail Taxta)A woman sits outside her makeshift shelter structure at the Gorgor camp in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. (Photo: REUTERS - Ismail Taxta)

To add to the suffering of the Sudanese people, price inflation comes at a time when the value of foreign currencies, the US dollar in particular, is on the rise. The US dollar has been experiencing a remarkable appreciation, and so far, government measures have failed to slow these gains. The government has also had difficulty absorbing the shock of losing 70 percent of its oil revenues after the South’s independence. North Sudanese President Omar Bashir has admitted that the monetary situation is very difficult, but this admission in itself is not enough. It has led to experts and locals questioning the government’s ability to manage the economy. The government is accused of downplaying the severity of the economic crisis or the ineffectiveness of state measures taken to address the crisis.

The government has already expressed its intention to restructure government operations in light of the South’s secession. It seems that prominent leaders in the government support the reform agenda of the ruling party, likely precipitating reforms in the government. But a source close to the government told al-Akhbar that the government has not come up with a convincing line offering any justifications for the secession. It never engaged in self-criticism or reflected on past mistakes. Party supporters were content with President Omar Bashir’s speech in which he declared the establishment of the ‘Second Republic.’

Khartoum’s woes are not confined to its domestic crisis. By recognizing the new state in the South, Khartoum hoped to gain favor with the international community. However, a month after the recognition, authorities in the North face greater international pressure resulting from the growing crisis in South Kordofan. The latest pressure came in the form of UN resolution 2003 which extended the mission of the UN peace keeping force in Darfur, UNAMID, for another year. The resolution was met with strong objections from the Sudanese government.

These developments suggest that the separation failed to achieve unity or peace. The same government source believes that the situation will continue to escalate: “It is possible that we will see a new South Kordofan in South Sudan.” This view might be bleak, but university professor Sadiq Tawar of South Kordofan paints an even bleaker picture. He believes that Sudan, after one month of the separation, is heading towards an abyss.

“The government was responsible for South Sudan’s act of independence and its actions will likely lead to a similar outcome in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile, and Darfur,” he told al-Akhbar. “War has entrenched itself in South Kordofan and it is the ‘gift’ of the Sudanese government to its people after South Sudan declared its independence.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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