In fact, China may have played a passive role in exposing what many southerners believe is revenue-cheating by the national government. The CPA guaranteed a fair split of oil income between the national government and the semi-autonomous Government of South Sudan (GOSS). Recently, a human rights group sympathetic to GOSS said it had evidence that Khartoum reported less production from the oilfields than the Chinese oil company operating the fields reported. Khartoum denies the accusation.
Oil revenue sharing is but one trouble. The CPA called for a fair border demarcation process that would take into account "verbal information" from tribal leaders as well as "physical features of the landscape." A demarcation decision issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague this July was regarded as a major accomplishment -- until affected tribespeople spurned it, with good reason.
The civil war destroyed traditional settlement patterns, as people fled the violence. Now returning refugees clash with new settlers. This happened in the oil-rich Abyei area, when Ngok Dinka returnees (southerners) clashed with the "Arabized" Misseriya tribe. (Abyei was the scene of an outright battle between northern and southern security forces in 2008.)
Khartoum and the GOSS have yet to agree on census figures, which are required for conducting honest national elections -- which leads to what Khartoum really fears: a vote by southerners favoring the formation of a completely separate state.
Suspicion abounds. Southerners suspect this year's spate of inter-tribal violence in South Sudan is being stoked by the north. At least 1,200 people have died in these ugly battles. The southerners believe Khartoum's goal is to undermine the independence referendum by destabilizing the south.
Other wars intertwine. Uganda always insisted that the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) was a tool of Khartoum. Now a revived LRA is appearing in South Sudan, and more than a few Ugandans suspect that "Arab" Khartoum has assisted the LRA.
GOSS says it will fight to protect its people. Kenya and Uganda (both predominantly Christian nations with a substantial number of Muslim citizens) are lined up behind GOSS.
The stage is set for an East African conflagration.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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