x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

North Sudanese ready to lend a hand to new south

Northern Sudanese in the UAE have been called upon to aid South Sudan as the country builds up.

DUBAI // Northern Sudanese living in the UAE are being asked to help build the world's newest nation - the Republic of South Sudan.

Salah Eldin El Tayeb, the secretary general of the local Sudan Social Club, said northern Sudanese have an abundance of human resources that could benefit their southern counterparts. The club hopes to attract young Sudanese with "fresh ideas" to find tangible ways to assist.

Mr El Tayeb believes the north is ready to lend its full support.

"In creating a nation, it would be a good opportunity if we could utilise the potentials available in both countries," he said. "It is true that some of the oil, water and agriculture may be lost. However, they can still be shared if both leaders approach it correctly."

There are between 70,000 and 75,000 Sudanese living in the UAE, only about one per cent of whom are from the south, according to Mr El Tayeb. Many have been here since the formation of the nation in 1971, after which relations between the countries continued to grow.

According to Hassan Ahmed Al Shihi, ambassador to Khartoum, the UAE's investments in Sudan grew to more than US$2 billion (Dh7.35bn) in areas including agricultural and transportation earlier this year.

The Sudanese Social Club is planning to host regular evenings for northerners as a potential platform for open dialogue, and will encourage people to go back to the north and south frequently so that both countries can prosper.

"This transfer of knowledge between the north and south is important because the new nation is starting from scratch. Education must be established, health care, tourism and so forth," Mr El Tayeb said.

One of the main reasons the south remains underdeveloped is because so much money was spent financing the war, said Isam Salah Eldin, a Dubai-based media professional from Sudan.

"Due to conflict, not enough focus was placed on infrastructure as it required time and money, which was instead being pumped into funding wars and weapons," Mr Eldin said.

Upon returning to Sudan for a recent visit, Mr Eldin noticed many of his southern school friends had already left the capital leaving just empty houses behind.

"They, like many, probably left to seek opportunities. Some who used to live in the UAE also returned and others decided to leave Sudan completely," he said.

Al Rashid Mohammed Amin,vice president of the Sudanese Social Club branches, noted that many southerners opposed the split.

"Some felt this overwhelming pressure to vote for separation," Mr Amin said. "Some southerners who were living for many years in Khartoum had no passports, therefore no official identification, and were then forced to leave. Some, however, did apply for the passport before independence so they can take advantage of the interim period."

The Sudanese consulate in Dubai said all passports will be valid until a direct order is given from Khartoum stating otherwise, which is unlikely to happen in the next six months.

Other grey areas include the dispute between border areas of Blue Nile State, Abyei and South Kordofan.

"There is some doubt over how peaceful this issue can be resolved," Mr El Tayeb said. "What is needed is intervention from the international community. Let them do what they keep talking about doing and that is creating stability.

"Sudan has been a continuous Western target. If peace initiatives are not supported, effects can be catastrophic with endless wars and lost resources."

Sudan, he said, has remained a "target" due to the vast amounts of business potential.

"We have the largest river in the world - the Nile - uranium, gold and we are the second-largest producers of livestock in the world, which is worth $3 billion a year. That is aside from the oil and fertile land."

Before Southern independence, Sudan as a whole boasted the most fertile flat land in the world and only 10 per cent of agricultural land has been utilised.

"Sudan could be the world's food basket if made use of positively, was provided with the technology, equipment and modern agricultural mechanisms," Mr El Tayeb said.

Other setbacks have included a constant change in the political structure.

"In the past 50 years we have seen more than four military governments and three democratic governments which has complicated and delayed the progress and development of the country," he added.

The Sudanese Social Club was established in 1974 and gathers community members under one umbrella to provide support for local Sudanese in social, financial and healthcare issues.