We are pleased to offer this guest blog post, on the upcoming election in Sudan, from Christian Hennemeyer. Mr. Hennemeyer has worked in the foreign aid field for over 25 years, mainly in Africa.
Birth is a bloody and painful experience, and the birth of a new African nation may be no less traumatic. During the 1960s, 39 new states, from Algeria to Zambia, came into being on the continent, often in turbulent conditions. But it has been 17 years since we last saw a new flag hoisted in Africa, that of Eritrea, which fought free of Ethiopia at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
Next January 9, southern Sudanese will vote to remain part of Sudan or secede. It is a foregone conclusion that they will opt for independence.
There is much anxiety as to whether the ruling elite of Khartoum will permit this vote or respect its results. Given Sudan’s ugly history, this is not a misplaced fear. Nearly three million Sudanese, mostly civilians, have died since 1955.
I worry about something else: the creation of a dysfunctional state, whose people will know little but crisis, displacement, violence and mismanagement. Aside from that most mixed of blessings – oil – this land has little to bank on. There is almost no infrastructure or investment, and socio-economic indicators are abysmal. Twice the size of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York combined, it has but 30 miles of paved roads. The ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, likely the future one-party state, is alleged to be rife with corruption, nepotism, and ethnic tension.
So to the politicians of South Sudan and their Washington midwives, I say be very careful what you wish for.