It is certain now, that the newest country in the world has been created in Africa following the week-long referendum held few weeks back in South Sudan. But how successful the country will be in the future lies in the socio-economic and political choices which the leaders shall make in respect to determining its foreign policies and ties of any nature with the ‘outside world’.
Though preliminary results of the referendum will be announced on February 2, with another final announcement of the outcome of the vote scheduled for February 7 or 14, should there be no appeals against the results, the votes count show that 99% of the southerners opted for independence.
It is no longer an issue whether a new country has emerged, but what is of utmost importance is to ensure that the foundation of South Sudan is not built on the sand. This of course could only be averted by the economic and political decisions that will be made by the pioneer leaders of the new Republic in responding to the heavy foreign influence that is already being exerted by Western countries led by the United States of America, as they all scramble for the oil in the region. In a broader perspective, the economic and political options, not neglecting the social choices made by the new government – that is yet to be formed – in transforming the oil-rich and fertile region into a functioning nation will be determined by the foreign allies whom South Sudan will choose as friends.
The queue is long. The US and Britain are leading the western world, so to say, in fortifying the position of prospective western nations that will indicate their interest in the scramble for the richest natural resource in the country – Oil. Some writers have already begun campaigning in behalf of the US, pointing out why South Sudan should rely on the US, and why the US is so indispensable to the future of the country. In discussing possibilities for a sustained post-referendum peace deal, George Clooney and John Prendergast in an open memorandum titled: Elements of a Possible Peace Deal in Sudan, pointed out that “The U.S. role is crucial, as it has incentives that it can offer in a sequenced fashion as part of a grand bargain, as well as consequences for any party that chooses to undermine peace”.
But the truth is this: the confusion going on in parts of Africa – call it civil wars, riots, coup d’états, corruption, bad governance, embezzlement of public funds, unfair electoral processes, and ‘human rights’ violations – occur at the behest of these same ‘big’ nations who will even go an extra mile in supporting and even sponsoring inexperienced puppets as leaders of sovereign nations.
In 2010, 17 African nations celebrated 50 years of breaking free from the chains of colonialism imposed on the African people by the same western countries who today shamelessly arrogate to themselves the position of role models for good governance in Africa. Britain, the United States and their allies including France have all done their worst in Africa. There is no fear to point out clearly here that from the pre-colonial era to the colonial period, then to the post colonial years, which saw a massive presence of westerners in the continent, and fierce scramble for Africa on the part of the west, bore no ripe fruits in Africa – but rather saw the African people passing through slavery, slave trade, colonization, and to the subsequent draining of their natural resources abroad by the same western forces who today are heading to South Sudan as peace-makers, carrying along with them lessons of self-determination, democracy, human rights, and how to efficiently manage the economic resources this new African country has been endowed with.
The west has no case to support their role as reliable partners in the future of South Sudan. Decades of mingling into the affairs of the continent rather brought chaos to African nations. Heavy western influence in all spheres within African governments and institutions has rendered several economies in Africa useless, with the living standards and life expectancy being nothing to write home about. While it may be clear to South Sudan that the West is not the best partner in their future, Western nations that call the shots in the global political spheres – that is if they still exert such influence in the political destiny of the world – can only threaten the use of force, as they have often done in areas where the indigenous people resist their penetration. Should South Sudan throw their weight behind the West, the southerners will be heading to a similar crash suffered by their fellow African nations, who until the later part of the 21st Century, discovered that the most reliable foreign partner is China.
This is where China comes in. To the disappointment of the West, the People’s Republic of China has supported the right of African nations to run their domestic affairs without foreign interference. The government of China draws its foreign policies on a win-win platform. To China, every nation, small or big, should be friends and equal partners when charting the development road map in various sectors of the economies concerned. China has never been a colonialist in Africa. In fact, the Chinese experience, put face-to-face with the African, shares several similarities. Both regions suffered in the hands of foreign imposters, who entered the regions to conquer, subdue and drain the regions of their natural resources.
The China-Africa experience has naturally brought them together, even though, the African nations feel more comfortable with China because of their pragmatism on issues affecting the lives of the nations. Non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations, alone, has pulled the African nations away from their former colonial masters, and other western nations. Secondly, the win-win policy of the Chinese government, together with Chinese notion of equal opportunity for all partners in development, is further alienating African countries from the west. Today, hardly will a week go by, without an African diplomat visiting China, seeking the hand of Beijing in a partnership that both countries stand to benefit.
Sudan is a classic example where China has put to work its win-win policy. When the west isolated Khartoum and called for the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir following an arrest warrant – the first to be issued to a sitting Head of State – by the International Criminal Court (ICC), China not only called for caution in the manner in which the issue was being handled, but accepted Sudan’s friendship, and largely contributed in helping Sudan survive economic sanctions and political isolation imposed on Sudan by the US and its allies; and helped revive the hope of innocent citizens traumatized by the 12-year devastating civil war in the East African nation.
Today, China remains the biggest foreign investor in Sudan, to the chagrin of the West though. China’s investments in the country are non discriminatory, despite the geopolitical divides between the north and south Sudan. The Sudanese government’s preference for China over other countries deepened bilateral relations between the two nations. China and a few other Arab nations were awarded the construction contract for the Merowe dam. The dam is the longest of its kind on the world’s famous Nile River in Sudan’s Northern Province, some 450 km north of the capital city Khartoum. With a length of 9.7 km and a maximum height of 67 meters, the Merowe Dam is a multipurpose project designed for power supply and agricultural irrigation. Its dimensions make it the largest contemporary hydropower project in Africa. The dam was built by a joint venture formed by China Water Resources and Hydropower and China International Water and Electric Corp. The project received funding from China Import Export Bank to the tune of EURO 240 million.
China also built oil pipes that will facilitate the flow of oil within the country and boast revenue for Sudan’s economy which has a high reliance on oil money. Then of course, the negotiations between the two countries put each of them on a win-win platform – this hurts none of the parties.
In South Sudan, China’s involvement in the various sectors including post-referendum economic construction in many other fields is important. China has implemented various projects in the south and plans more, like building universities, hospitals and water projects.
Known for its high sense of peaceful co-existence with nations around the world, political pundits are of the opinion that while maintaining the traditional good relations with the north, China will also establish good relations with the south. And this is what South Sudan can seize – the opportunity of strengthening lasting relations with China. Being the second largest economy in the world, China is today a country whose voice can no longer be ignored by any nation any where in the world. As a permanent member in the United Nations Security Council, China is reassuring, and South Sudan needs not panic should it decide to look unto China as a big brother, who will always be there even when it rains – just like China did with Sudan when the country was isolated by the so-called big nations in the west. South Sudan’s future definitely lies in its departure from the West, not China.