It has been six months since South Sudan gained independence from its northern counterpart after years of violent conflict between the populations of the two regions. While independence was originally celebrated by the newly formed nation, six months later the state of South Sudan is struggling to prevent further conflict. Emil Nagengast, professor of politics, discusses the background of the Sudanese conflict.
Q: What was the split from Sudan meant to accomplish, and was it successful in its intentions?
A: A million and a half people died in the war between the north and south, and the aim of independence was to stop the fighting. Today, they’re still fighting, not at the level they were before, but there’s still tension between Sudan and South Sudan.
There are border disputes, and the majority of Sudan’s oil lies within the new country of South Sudan. It hasn’t been clarified how they will distribute the oil wealth. The problem is that South Sudan cannot export that oil unless they pass it through Sudan, so they have to reach an agreement. Independence has brought an end to the war, so in that sense it did accomplish its goals, but by no means has it brought peace between the Sudanese and the South Sudanese.
Q: What is the relationship like between Sudan and South Sudan?
A: It’s very tense; they don’t trust each other. The South Sudanese accuse Sudan of air strikes, there are still occasional fights over certain border regions, and there is also a racial element to the tensions. South Sudan is primarily black, and in the north they’re mostly Arabs; in the south they are mostly Christian or African traditional religions, whereas Sudan is overwhelmingly Muslim.
Q: How have the United States been involved in South Sudanese and Sudanese affairs?
A: The United States became involved in this conflict going all the way back into the 1980s, and the primary reason was because of American evangelists that were, in their view, seeing Christians being attacked and killed. They put pressure on the U.S. government to help the South Sudanese. More recently the United States has been more concerned with the conflict in Darfur.
Q: What prompted the Sudanese conflicts?
A: Sudan is an example of something we see all across Africa: conflicts that were caused by borders. Sudan was a creation of the British and when those borders were being drawn the Christians in the south did not want to be a part of Sudan, but the British put them all in same borders. What African politics has been is instability driven by border conflict.
Kelsey Molseed ‘14
Juniata College Online Reporter