University of Toronto professor Thomas Tieku is optimistic about Southern Sudan’s new independence. But that optimism is balanced with the harsh realities of persisting issues in the area.
Tieku, a graduate of Brock’s MA in Political Science program, was at Brock on Feb. 10 to speak about recent political developments in Africa. His presentation, entitled “Good, bad and ugly news about Southern Sudan independence,” was part of International Development Week.
Sudan has endured years of civil war, and a referendum was held last month where more than 98 per cent of Southern Sudanese people voted in favour of becoming an independent country. It is expected to become so in July.
The overwhelming support for independence does not come as a surprise, said Tieku, director of African Studies at the University of Toronto. The divisions of north and south Sudan have historically cut across all aspects of society. This includes ethnic and religious identity, and economic status. Northern Sudan is predominantly Muslim and relatively prosperous compared to the mostly Christian South.
The good news is that Africa is getting a new country, he said, and it will mean a fresh start for Southern Sudan. On a broader scope, the independence of Southern Sudan is a signal for the continent that “bad leadership will be punished.”
Tieku tempered this good news with concerns over Southern Sudan’s leadership, military and ethnic tensions. He described oil resources and revenue as potential flashpoints for renewed violence. Tieku added that Southern Sudan may find itself in the position of being “the football pitch” where global power politics over Africa’s oil agreements will be played out between U.S. and China.
The presentation was organized by International Services and Programs Abroad.
Last week’s International Development Week festivities at Brock included numerous lectures and a photo exhibit.