The North-South Divide of Sudan: An Antithesis to the African Integration Process
Sudan is located in the Sahel region of Africa and borders Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad and Eritrea. It is the third largest country in the African continent with an area of over 1.8 million km² and a population of approximately 45 million. Khartoum is the country's largest city and also its capital. Sudan is a country characterized by great cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, with Christians and animists as well as Muslims. The country's economic and political challenges have been many, including the civil war that has been going on for more than two decades and ended with the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Since then, the country has gone through a complex political transition, especially with the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which created more than 2,000km of border between the two sides. This division has had a significant impact on the African integration thesis, which advocates the aggregation thesis of African states in a continental unified continental framework.
Sudan is a very cosmopolitan African country with over 300 different ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages. The country was colonized in the 19th century by the British, who established a central government in Khartoum and imposed their sovereignty on various parts of the country. After Sudan gained independence in 1956, tensions between the north and south of the country escalated mainly due to the manipulation of cultural, ethnic and religious differences. The source of the problem that led to fragmentation is the lack of loyalty to one of the main goals of the independence movement. The main purpose of the independence group, which manages the independence process of the country, is to lead the country to independence and then govern it with a federal system. However, the fact that the rulers who came to power after independence opposed the federal system and established a centralized system dragged the country into civil war.
In 1983, the Sudanese government imposed sharia (Islamic law) nationwide, which was not well received by Christians and animists in the south of the country. Soon after, an armed rebellion started, led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its armed wing, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The ensuing civil war was one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in African history, with an estimated 2 million dead and more than 4 million displaced people. Sudan's civil war has lasted more than twenty years. The civil war was waged mainly by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which sought independence for South Sudan.
The SPLA, led by John Garang, launched a revolt against the central government in Khartoum in response to this measure. The conflict has escalated over the years with intense clashes between SPLA forces and Sudanese government forces. The conflict has been exacerbated by ethnic, religious and economic factors, as well as problems with the management of natural resources such as water (Nile) and oil.
In 2005, after years of negotiations, the parties signed the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the civil war. The agreement gave South Sudan six years of autonomy, followed by an independence referendum for South Sudan in January 2011. The referendum was widely supported by the people of South Sudan, with more than 98% of voters voting in favor of independence. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became an independent state and has been recognized by the international community. However, despite its independence, the country continues to face many challenges such as internal tensions, inter-communal conflicts and political instability. The country also experiences economic problems such as high inflation, high unemployment and widespread poverty.
However, the division was not ineffective. South Sudan is a very poor developing country with limited infrastructure, ethnic tensions, and an economy that is heavily dependent on oil reserves. The Sudanese government has also lost most of its oil revenue, which is mainly produced in the southern border regions. Relations between the two countries are tense, especially on border and security issues. In the north, Sudan's economy is a predominantly Muslim country, based on agriculture, mining, and oil. The South is predominantly Christian and animist, and its economy is based on agriculture and animal husbandry and oil. These differences have had significant negative consequences for the politics, economy and society of both sides.
Politically, the partition of Sudan has created diplomatic tensions between the two states, with disagreements over borders, natural resources and trade relations. This had a direct negative impact on regional cooperation and the African integration process.
Economically, the split affected oil production mainly in the South. The two countries fought for the control of oil resources, and there was tension and disruption in production and exports. In addition, regional economic integration was hindered by affecting the transportation infrastructure and trade between the two sides.
Socially, the division has created tensions between different ethnic and religious communities. Armed conflicts have had dramatic consequences for the civilian population, with human rights violations and mass displacement of people. This hindered the social and cultural integration of the region. However, it is important to understand the root causes of Sudan's North-South divide and the challenges that need to be addressed for stronger African integration in the region.
One of the main challenges of African integration in the region is the management of natural resources. Sudan is rich in oil, gold and other minerals mostly found in the South. Oil production is crucial to the economies of both states, but has been hampered by disputes over copyrights, rights of way, and borders. Both states have significant economic differences. The North is a more developed country whose economy is based on agriculture, mining and oil. The south is less developed and depends mainly on agriculture and animal husbandry. These economic differences hindered regional economic integration. Socially, the North-South divide in Sudan has created tensions between different ethnic and religious communities. Armed conflicts have had dramatic consequences for the civilian population, with human rights violations and mass displacement of people. This hindered the social and cultural integration of the region.
Despite these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic about African integration in the region. The two states signed cooperation agreements, especially in the field of security and natural resources management. Regional organizations such as the African Union have also played an important role in promoting peace and regional cooperation.
There are significant economic opportunities for both countries within the framework of African integration. Sudan is located in the center of Africa and is a necessary gateway for trade between the countries of the region. By promoting regional economic cooperation, the two states can benefit from increased economic growth, reduced poverty and improved living conditions for their respective populations.
African integration can also promote political stability in the region. Regional organizations can help prevent conflicts and strengthen regional security by promoting cooperation between states. For successful African integration in the region, it is essential that the two States work together to overcome the challenges that hinder cooperation. This includes resolving territorial disputes, reducing ethnic and religious tensions, promoting fair management of natural resources and strengthening economic cooperation.
As a result, the North-South divide in Sudan represents an antithesis to African integration in the region. However, the two states could overcome challenges that hinder cooperation, paving the way for greater regional integration that will benefit all of Africa. Given the diversity of cultures, languages, economies and political systems in Africa's 55 states, it is possible to say that continental integration is difficult to complete. At the same time, this is not impossible. But it requires strong political will and cooperation between African governments and civil society actors.
Initiatives such as the African Union (AfB) have been established to promote continental integration in Africa by promoting economic, political and social cooperation among member states. The AfB also established an African Continental Free Trade Area (AKSTB) in 2018, which aims to increase intra-African trade by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers. However, the implementation of these initiatives faces challenges such as mutual distrust between countries, conflicts between states, inadequate infrastructure and financing problems. To meet these challenges, African governments must strengthen their commitment to continental integration and take concrete steps to implement existing initiatives. Moreover, greater participation of civil society and the private sector can help accelerate continental integration.