x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Sudan's separation may tempt others

This is because many of these states share with Sudan many aspects of social structure, history and politics, says a comment piece in Al Bayan.

In a comment piece for the UAE newspaper Al Bayan, Hussein al Odat wrote that the outcome of the referendum about the future of southern Sudan will affect not only Sudan but also a large number of other sub-Saharan countries. This is because many of these states share with Sudan many aspects of social structure, history and politics. If the Sudanese vote for separation, this may set a precedent and an example for others to follow.

Separatist movements may use Sudan as a pretext to legitimise their causes and demand a referendum to decide their destinies. In a larger framework, this means a possible challenge of state borders created by colonial powers. New state entities will be born with new names and political identities as well as leaderships. "A look into the ethnic structure of most of the countries neighbouring Sudan shows a pattern where a majority dominates a minority. And unfortunately, no democratic system has been established to fairly govern this variety of tribes around concepts such as citizenship and rule of law. Nor have governments consolidated the practice of power rotation." Many African countries, including Sudan, have missed the opportunity to strengthen national unity, leading to political violence, which has impoverished them.

"There is no doubt that the visit of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and the Syrian president Basah Assad to Lebanon sets a historical precedent, as it is the first time when two regional leaders visited Lebanon for the sake of containing the tension in the run-up to a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the assassination of Rafik al Hariri," notes the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

"Yet, it is not certain whether the outcome of a four-hour protocol visit will be able to achieve this goal." Some Lebanese analysts were optimistic about the visit, arguing that the Saudi-Syrian role is likely to help to solve Lebanon's crisis, especially if the two countries agree in practical terms on how to deal with Lebanon. While this seems a plausible approach to achieve security, it is not sufficient, however. Many internal factors still determine Lebanese politics, which are also greatly affected by such external players as Iran and Israel, who continue to take a toll on the country's stability. One more factor is the imminent "politicised" decision by the ICC, which is expected to indict members of Hizbollah It is true that the visit came to comfort Lebanese amid rising tension, but because of the factors mentioned earlier, it may be of limited impact.

"On the occasion of the 11th anniversary of his accession to the throne, the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, reiterated Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Sahara," reported the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat in an editorial. The king said that Morocco would continue defending its sovereignty and unity, and will never relinquish an inch of its Saharan territories. "Algeria is moving in the opposite logic of history, geography and legitimacy on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara," the king said. "Algeria's persistent and desperate manoeuvres seek to undermine the Moroccan initiative for the autonomy of Morocco's southern provinces." At the same time, he stressed his country's willingness to support any effort by the United Nations and its special envoy to the region.

He also underscored that "the integration and the unity of the countries of the Maghreb remain a lofty pursuit". He called on Maghreb countries to make joint efforts to revive this union at a time the world is entering an age of regional co-operation. It is worth mentioning that Morocco has suggested further autonomy as a solution, while it is strongly opposed to independence of the Western Sahara, which is demanded by the Polisario Front.

"Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the approval of the Arab League follow-up committee for Palestinians to carry ouy direct negotiations with the Israeli government," stated the Egyptian newspaper Al Goumhuriya in its editorial. Mr Netanyahu also expressed his willingness to immediately start talks with his Palestinian counterparts. To resume talks, it costs him minimal measures on his part, such as loosening the blockade on Gaza, freezing settlement expansion, and some other minor conditions reiterated by the Palestinian leadership recently.

Mr Netanyahu's attitude to hold direct negotiations came also as a response to an urgent need to break the impasse following the attack on the Freedom Flotilla. The Israeli premier may yet emerge a victor from the negotiations as he will be pictured as a partner in peace efforts. Engaging in talks would also give him every opportunity to resume his expansionist ambitions in both the West Bank and Jerusalem without being harassed. "This is what the Arab approval would earn Mr Netanyahu, which prompts us to question whether Arabs are likely to benefit at all from their decision." * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae