“Whether anybody likes it or not, China is providing leadership in the development of developing countries”, this is neither the notorious once NIF political commissar for military officers and oil champion Awad al-Jaz speaking nor the more vocal once spy chief and today NCP strongman, Nafie Ali Nafie, but SPLM deputy secretary-general, Anne Itto. The strongwoman in Southern Sudan made these remarks with regard to the future of Chinese interests in Southern Sudan. According to the same news report (Sudan Tribune, 20.08.2010) she told Chinese officials that if they wanted to protect their assets they had to develop a very strong relationship with the government of Southern Sudan and respect the outcome of the referendum. Then “we will be doing business” said Itto.
What is interesting in these remarks is not the fact that oil interests will set the stage for a Peking-Juba affair, although adulterous considering the on-going Peking-Khartoum marriage but the implicit admission that come the promised ‘liberation’ business continues as usual in Southern Sudan. Oil in Sudan has become the constituency of its rulers replacing its population. It is with the oil rents that the NCP has managed to re-structure the political plane as to preclude the emergence of a counter-block. Even the SPLM surge against the NCP does not essentially constitute a confrontation of alternatives, although so it seems on the face of it, rather a competition of elites on shares resting on a history of divide. Ethnicity and religion in this context are materials of political design.
Instead of the ‘sale offer’ that Itto made promising business as usual under the condition that the new dispensation in the South, in plain the new recipients of oil revenues, is recognised I had the ambitious fantasy that may be the SPLM would want first to investigate the management of this resource including impact on environment and host populations. Other than anthem and flag the SPLM needs to think aloud about the economy. Given the political will of many in the SPLM to rebuild the South it is mandatory to consider how exactly this is supposed to be done. Clutching on the revenues of a rentier Southern Sudan the SPLM’s elite has enough to keep it long on the saddle. However this model is not necessarily the road to a sustainable future for a young and ambitious population as the Southern Sudanese are.
In the North oil rents have allowed the NCP state to hover more or less in total above public scrutiny and accountability, and provided the funds to replace any politics proper with the bargains of the market-place. Correspondingly, only military force could challenge the NCP. An extraverted rentier Southern Sudan may just be the same.