x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

South Sudan seen as plot of US and Israel, poll finds

Three quarters of UAE residents surveyed say nation is a loss to the region.

DUBAI // The majority of UAE residents polled in a survey suspected that the birth of the world's newest nation, South Sudan, was orchestrated by the US and Israel to weaken Arab countries.

South Sudan gained independence on July 9, following decades of civil war.

Three quarters (77 per cent) of the UAE residents surveyed for Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab ("Arabs' Pulse") programme by YouGov Siraj believed America and Israel had been behind the push for independence.

The suspicion was one shared by the government in the North, according to the Sudanese Consul General in the UAE, Mohamed El Hassan Ibrahim.

"In a way yes, we believe Israel and other western countries played a role in the split. We know they support rebels with weapons, ammunition, money and media coverage," he said.

"They are doing this to weaken Arab countries, they don't want to see Sudan strong and supporting the Arab world."

There was an overwhelming view (78 per cent) that South Sudanese independence represented a great loss to the region. Almost as many (71 per cent) feared the split could trigger violence by independence movements in other nations.

There was disappointment, too, at the move by South Sudan to replace Arabic with English as its official language, with more than four in five (83 per cent) saying they disapproved.

But it was a natural move, according to Kennedy Danga, a UAE-based Southern Sudanese engineer, one of the 77,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese living here.

"English was the official language of the South and a medium of instruction in every level of education since Sudan gained its independence," Mr Danga said. "Arabic was introduced during the war, mostly in government-controlled areas, as part of Arabisation and Islamisation of the region."

He was dismissive of the conspiracy theories. "People of South Sudan fought for freedom before the British left," he said. "Over 2.4 million lives lost, over four million displaced internally and millions became refugees. Does it make any sense to pay such a price to please the West?"

Maysoon Baraky, the presenter of Nabd Al Arab, said that while it was natural Arabs would feel the secession as a loss, it was unlikely to encourage other nations to split - "unless each Sudanese state now proves that the split was beneficial and brought both states peace".

YouGov Siraj surveyed 147 UAE residents between August 29 and September 7, with a margin of error of eight percentage points.

melshoush@thenational.ae