x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Local northerners oppose the split

Expatriates say the referendum will likely pass, but also anticipate tampering during the voting process.

DUBAI // Northern Sudanese expats in the UAE say they are not optimistic about the outcome of this Sunday's independence referendum in the south of their home nation.

Atif Abdullah, a UAE-based freelance writer from Khartoum, said the outcome of the vote would probably be independence for the south. "All indicators point to this conclusion," he said.

"Southerners have completely lost confidence in Khartoum. Had the government respected the wish of southerners for establishing a federal system, the fate of Sudan would have been different."

Mr Abdullah also said he expected there would be tampering in the referendum process despite assurances from the independent conciliation organisation, the Carter Centre, that the process of registration had been credible, bar a few hitches in logistics and security.

The Dubai resident Osman AbdelMoniem, a retail manager for Smith and Ken Real Estate who also came from Khartoum, said two separate countries might be better, but the situation was more complex than putting up a border.

"There are important factors the country has yet to agree on. First, because the north has the infrastructure and the south has the resources, they depend on each other," he said.

"There is a big question mark at this time. I hear in Khartoum there are busloads of southerners opting to go back to the south and many people are arming themselves in case there is conflict.

"One thing is for certain: embarking on another civil war is not an option."

Selma Hassan, an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in Dubai and another former Khartoum resident, said it was unlikely the process would be peaceful.

"Crucial decisions have yet to be made relating to the Nuba Mountains, Abyei and the Blue Nile region, which is why many believe there is a possibility of war. Almost 80 per cent of the government's revenue will be lost because the major issue is oil," she said.

"I've heard people talk about an economic crash and that the real estate market will suffer. I am not sure if I would ever move back - let's see what happens this year."