The Washington Post has an interesting article about the contrast between center and periphery in Sudan as seen by the increasingly chic Khartoum and its slums and other regions. Khartoum’s success has been funded by Sudan’s newfound oil wealth, much of which comes from the south.
The article makes an important point about Sudanese politics and the country’s regional wars — the main underpinning of conflict in the south, the Nuba Mountains and in Darfur is the distinction between center and periphery in which Khartoum enjoys prosperity while the rest of the country suffers:
In Soba Aradi [a slum outside of Khartoum], people see little difference between the conflict in southern Sudan, the current conflict in Darfur and their own treatment in Khartoum.
Though the war in southern Sudan had a religious dimension in that it involved an attempt by the government to impose Islamic law on a population that is about 30 percent Christian, the primary grievances of the rebel movement there had more to do with access to resources and power. The conflict in Darfur also largely comes down to a struggle for resources.
“It’s all the same because it’s the same government,” said Emmanuel Agrey Lado, a physician’s assistant from southern Sudan whose home has been bulldozed twice in two years.
U.S. diplomats, however, have mostly treated southern Sudan and the conflict in Darfur separately.
After intense engagement by the Bush administration, the Sudanese government in 2005 signed a U.S.-backed peace agreement creating a semiautonomous region in southern Sudan, just as government troops were intensifying their onslaught in Darfur.
…Increasingly, leaders in the south say the fate of their region is very much intertwined with that of Darfur, a notion that hearkens back to the vision of John Garang, the widely popular and iconic leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) who died in a helicopter crash in 2005.
Under his leadership, the SPLM had strong ties to rebel groups not only in Darfur, but also in the north and the east, as Garang came to realize that the suffering extended beyond his own region and that the only way to achieve a more just order in Sudan was through a unified movement. After his death, those relationships languished.
In recent weeks, however, the current president of southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has been reaching out to Darfur rebel leaders.
“We have similar grievances,” said Deng Alor Kuol, a southerner who became a minister in the national government after the 2005 peace agreement. “Marginalization and neglect.”
As Charles Kalisto, a resident of Soba Aradi, put it, “When I see all these tall buildings” in Khartoum, “I ask, ‘Why am I staying under a plastic sheet?'”
This point is one that I cannot stress enough.