Sudan’s Southern region is set to hold a referendum on 9 January, widely expected to result in a majority for independence from the predominantly Arab and Muslim North.
The vote comes after a bitter war lasting for decades, in which the North attempted to hold on to the South.
It comes down to control of oil resources, 85 per cent of which are located in the South. The disputed oil-producing Abyei region will hold a separate referendum on whether to join the North or South in the same month.
The argument the North used to deny the south self-determination was the “democratic principle” of the “inviolability of existing borders”, claiming that to divide Sudan would make it unviable.
Yet virtually every one of the Africa’s borders was drawn by European colonial occupiers without any regard to linguistic or cultural realities, let alone to the wishes of the inhabitants.
In fact Britain, the former colonial power, is the origin of the problem. The Christian and Animist South and the more developed and Muslim North had always been separately administered. But in 1946 Britain unilaterally merged the two regions.
In 1956 it agreed with Egypt to grant Sudan independence as a single entity. A year before its implementation the southern Sudanese rose in rebellion.
Since then conflict has raged, interrupted by a ceasefire from 1972 to 1983 during which the South was granted limited autonomy. Since 1983 more than two million people have been killed and four million displaced.
We should steadfastly defend the South’s right to secede, and defend it against the North but at the same time argue for a Socialist Federation of Sub-Saharan Africa – free of the foreign multinationals that have plundered the continent since “independence.”
Then the working class and poor peasants can plan the use of the continent’s enormous natural wealth to end poverty, disease and malnutrition forever.