Inaugral Yorkshire African Studies Network Conference: South Sudan and the Referendum

Part 1: The Morning

Last Friday 10th June YASN held its first full event at Leeds University. The conference focused on Sudan and the referendum and brought together a wide range of researchers  to discuss South Sudan in particular as well as new knowledges on questions of borders, secession, migration and identity. Now, in all honesty, my detailed recollections of the event are a little hazy for several reasons; first, Friday was my birthday; secondly I had to leave at lunchtime (I know, I know, but it was my birthday right!), and thirdly, it occurred to me only later (….that is, after it was pointed out to me….) that a post of this nature might be an interesting way to sum up a particularly insightful morning discussing what is soon to become Africa’s newest country. This being the case I don’t want to do the morning’s speakers a disservice by inarticulately gabbling their finely crafted arguments. So, instead I just want to highlight a few interesting facts and ideas that emerged, with apologies for any inaccuracies (all mine):

# (Harry Verhoeven) In relation to the difficult situation faced by any new Southern Sudanese Govt: Rumbek, Southern Sudan’s foremost school now has a teacher -student ration of 1:160. The term ‘Resource Curse’ is applied to countries where one commodity accounts for 40% of the revenue stream; Southern Sudan has a 98% reliance on oil. Where Uganda has 4000km of tarmac roads, Southern Sudan has 42km.

# (Verhoeven) Can resources form the basis for future co-operation rather than conflict? Neither north nor south Sudan can profit from oil without the other in a situation in which south controls most reserves but oil can only get to market through the north. Profit sharing from this venture or from regional co-ordination over access to water and its products, ie- agricultural production, electricity is an interesting way forward for the future if it can be accepted by states.

# (Tumaini Minja)  What will be the role of informal customary practices in peace building in southern Sudan where communities have suffered most and where by 1997 more people had died in conflict with their southern neighbours than in the longer wars between north and south?

# (Nicki Kindersley) How is nationality defined and identified? Written markers built into laws or constitutions were not always strictly, or solely used to assess those in the Sudanese diaspora who wished to register to vote in the referendum. socialization, appearance and familiarity among other elements were often also key to the decision of the registration assessors posing interesting questions over what it means to be Sudanese, or indeed, any nationality.

#(Marieke Schomerus: Currently in South Sudan): In south Sudan there is a feeling that the vote was unfair- majority wanted secession but those that did not, didn’t get to say so. Also, a disconnect with the reality of the diaspora; those in southern Sudan felt that the result was being determined by those outside of the country but actually voting from within the diaspora was fairly inconsequential.

#(Schomerus) Tension between those who have long campaigned for a more decentralised southern state and Salva Kiir who appears intent on pushing through a highly centralised system and has even threatened to rule by decree if challenged.

The full programme with all of the day’s speakers is available @ and given the high standard of research and presentation it would be worth keeping an eye on  the research of all those involved.

Nicki Kindersley, who spoke on ‘Identifying the New Sudanese: the South Sudan referendum and the history of defining Sudanese nationality,’ also has a fantastic blog @



About perspectivesonafrica

Research and news about Africa
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