I thought I would start this thread as South Sudan could become very newsworthy over coming weeks.
As part of the 2005 peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the southern Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Movement(SPLA/M) it was determined that a referendum would be held on January 9, 2011 on whether south Sudan would remain part of Sudan.
It seems almost inevitable that as a result of this referendum the south will break away
Sudan sits on about 6.6 Billion barrels and 80% of all reserves are in the south of the country. As a result of the referendum the North stands to lose billions of dollars in revenue. About 90% of the country's revenues are from oil exports. The oil is currently piped north for processing and export but even this could be lost as there are apparently plans to build a new pipeline to Mombassa in North Kenya.
[a]Central government led by Omar Al Bashir. Hated by the yanks and close to the Chinese. Al Bashir says that the results of the referendum will be respected. But even if this is the case () major flashpoints for conflict still exist, not least of all demarcation as there is no traditional and clear boundary. Apparently the idea is to hold the referendum first and then decide the boundary. The British government has offered help in sorting out a boundary. Apparently they have lots of experience in this regard.
[b] SPLM led by Salva Kiir Mayardit. Not a cohesive movement as far as I can make out but a coalition of various (armed) groupings. It will be interesting to see to what extent they may be able to establish a stable state. (if there is no war with the Central government). Smart money would not back this. South Sudan is not a particularly homogeneous place being comprised of over 200 ethnic groups all speaking different languages and with a long history of conflict over grazing land, cattle, etc. Over 1,000 people a year are killed in ethnic clashes at the moment. The SPLM has broken into warring factions in the past. The smart money says that Al Bashir is in there stirring as I type.
[c] US Imperialism. The Yanks are strong supporters of the SPLM and very much in favour of the breakaway. Many shipments of heavy weaponry have reached the SPLM in recent months mainly coming from the Ukraine via Israel and Kenya, all strong US allies. It may be recalled that one shipload of tanks was seized by Somali pirates, necessitating a very large ransom. I'm not sure who paid it but I doubt it was the SPLM.
[d] The Chinese. They are major investors in the Sudanese oil industry (to the tune of $20 billion) and the controlling shareholder in the country's two biggest oil consortium. About 60% of Sudan's oil exports are said to go to China. Some 24.000 Chinese Citizens live in Sudan. It was the Chinese who built the pipe to the North. The Chinese foreign policy is said to be based on "non interference" so if this is upheld there will not be too much mixing on their part. One could read this, however, as pragmatism and keeping ones options open. They are close to Al Bashir but the smart money says that without a doubt they are in the ear of Mayardit as well. They have announced recently that they will be sending a delegation to monitor the election.