On January 9, 2011, the voters in Southern Sudan will start voting in the self determination referendum that will either confirm the unity of the country or create the world\’s newest State.
The issue of self determination was introduced in the Sudanese politics as an attempt to find a lasting solution to the conflict that marked the country\’s history.
The first phase of the conflict lasted from 1955 (before the country\’s independence) to 1972 while the second one spanned the years 1983-2005.
Self determination is seen as a prerequisite for a lasting peace and stability in Africa\’s largest country which is of a paramount importance not only to its people but to the whole continent.
This can be illustrated in the following points:
Instability in Sudan, undoubtedly, negatively affects her nine neighbours that extend from Egypt and Libya in the North and North West to Kenya, Uganda and DRC in the South and from Ethiopia and Eritrea in the East to Chad and Central Africa Republic (CAR) in the West.
Sudan is strategically located in the heart of Africa. It is one of the most important countries in the process of continental integration.
Sudan directly or indirectly connects the five regional economic communities (RECS) that are considered the building blocks of the African Union.
Sudan connects COMESA to which it belongs to the Arab Maghreb union that includes Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.
Moreover, Sudan has borders with Chad and CAR which are members of the 11-Member Economic Community of Central African States.
Sudan also connects to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) through Chad which is neighbouring Nigeria. Sudan also connects to SADC through Kenya and Tanzania which is a member of the former.
The integration process in Africa gained a strong momentum after the birth of the African Union and the establishment of the Tripartite Framework of Cooperation between COMESA, EAC and SADC which brings together 26 countries and aims at establishing a free trade area (FTA) between the three blocs.
The framework can be extended westwards to the Economic community of Central African States and ECOWAS through Sudan and Chad.
Sudan is also very important in any infrastructure project that aims at connecting Eastern and Western Africa. In this respect, the OIC decided to construct a transcontinental railway between Port Sudan on the Red Sea and Dakar on the Atlantic.
This 4000 km-long railway passes through several countries along the way and would have branches to link capital cities not on the direct route.
This line is becoming important in the light of the steady expansion of Africa\’s trade with Asia especially China and India.
In addition to, Sudan is of a very strategic importance in the future project to build an oil pipeline linking the Red Sea and the Atlantic.
This pipeline takes off 14 days from the oil tankers journeys and reduces the cost of oil destined for the Western hemisphere.
Sudan is very rich in natural resources that can benefit the larger region when fully exploited and expedite the process of economic, social, cultural and political integration.
The main obstacle that prevented Sudan from exploiting those resources is the civil wars and conflicts that plagued the country\’s history, wasted its resources and tarnished its image.
Thus it is evident that Africa in general and neighbouring countries in particular have many stakes in Sudan\’s peace and stability. The country is of a paramount importance to the continent\’s future and its integration.
Without any exaggeration, it can easily be said that Africa\’s future hinges on Sudan\’s peace and stability.
Destabilizing Sudan and dismembering it will only serve the interests of the enemies of a prosperous and integrated Africa.
Let us hope that all Africans put their hands together for the sole goal of achieving a lasting peace and stability in Sudan irrespective of the result of the January 2011 Referendum.