Sovereignty trumps self-determination for the shop stew­ard of na­tions

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT - Gwynne Dyer

B an Ki-moon is not the best sec­re­tary-gen­eral the United Na­tions ever had but he has grasped the es­sen­tial na­ture of his job. The UN is an or­ga­ni­za­tion made up of sov­er­eign states and their high­est pri­or­ity is the preser­va­tion of their own priv­i­leges.

It is the trade union of the sov­er­eign states of the world, and Ban is their shop stew­ard. That is why he said what he did last week­end.

Speak­ing just be­fore the African Union sum­mit opened in Addis Ababa, the UN sec­re­tarygen­eral de­clared that both the UN and the AU had a big re­spon­si­bil­ity “to main­tain peace in Su­dan and make unity at­trac­tive.” It is not im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous that “peace” and “unity” are com­pat­i­ble in Su­dan, where civil war killed about two mil­lion peo­ple and cre­ated four mil­lion refugees be­tween 1983 and 2005, but Ban was in no doubt about it.

The fight­ing in Su­dan ended in 2005 when the north­ern-based gov­ern­ment and the south­ern-based rebels signed a Com­pre­hen­sive Peace Agree­ment that cre­ated a unity gov­ern­ment in Khar­toum and a sep­a­rate re­gional gov­ern­ment in the south, while promis­ing the south­ern­ers a ref­er­en­dum on se­ces­sion next year. That prom­ise was what stopped the fight­ing, and de­spite many crises and clashes it has held for five years.

Not only that, but the dic­ta­tor in Khar­toum, Pres­i­dent Omar alBashir, an ex-gen­eral, re­cently de­clared yet again that he will re­spect a south­ern de­ci­sion to se­cede. “ The Na­tional Congress Party favours unity,” he said in De­cem­ber. “But if the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum is sep­a­ra­tion, then we in the NCP will be the first to take note of this de­ci­sion and to sup­port it.”

So here is this Korean bu­reau­crat, Ban Ki-moon, urg­ing African coun­tries to back the unity cam­paign of the regime in Khar­toum – a regime whose leader, Bashir, is un­der in­dict­ment by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court for the mas­sacres car­ried out by gov­ern­ment-backed militias in Dar­fur.

What’s more, Ban Ki-moon is ul­ti­mately in con­trol of the United Na­tions troops who are sta­tioned in Su­dan to guar­an­tee the Com­pre­hen­sive Peace Agree­ment. Yet he clearly said which side he backed in the ref­er­en­dum: “ We’ll work hard to avoid a pos­si­ble se­ces­sion.” Who does this guy think he is?

He knows. He is the shop stew­ard of the Fed­er­a­tion of Sov­er­eign States and Al­lied Trades (also known as the United Na­tions), and his job is to pre­serve the rights and priv­i­leges of its mem­bers. Their most im­por­tant right, of course, is to keep con­trol of all their ter­ri­tory for­ever, re­gard­less of the views of the lo­cal peo­ple.

The African Union is par­tic­u­larly de­voted to “pre­serv­ing the unity” of all its mem­bers be­cause Africa’s bor­ders are par­tic­u­larly ar­bi­trary and ir­ra­tional. If any of the dis­parate eth­nic groups that are trapped to­gether in coun­try A were al­lowed to se­cede, then the de­mand for sim­i­lar se­ces­sions in coun­tries B to Z would be­come ir­re­sistible, or so the African or­tho­doxy has it.

But there is an­other way to look at this, and that is to count the cost of all the wars that have been fought in Africa to pre­vent se­ces­sions. From the Bi­afran war in Nige­ria in the 1960s down through the var­i­ous se­ces­sion­ist move­ments in Congo and Ethiopia and on to the break­away move­ments in Su­dan’s south and west (Dar­fur) to­day, at least 10 mil­lion Africans have been killed. For what?

Most peo­ple will prob­a­bly be hap­pier if Su­dan does split in the ref­er­en­dum planned for Jan­uary 2011. Those in the Mus­lim, Ara­bic-speak­ing north would have co-ex­isted peace­fully with the var­i­ous Chris­tian and an­i­mist eth­nic groups of the south if they had been left to their own de­vices. How­ever, the north­ern rul­ing elite im­posed Is­lamic law to con­sol­i­date its power, and the south­ern elites re­sponded with ap­peal to eth­nic sol­i­dar­ity.

If the south leaves next year, it will take most of the oil with it. That is why the north­ern elite fought so hard to save “na­tional unity.” But the oil still has to go out to the sea through north­ern ter­ri­tory, so the rev­enue will still be shared.

Af­ter two decades of killing, Su­dan is bro­ken, and the best so­lu­tion is in­de­pen­dence for the south – un­less Ban Ki-moon and his trade union get their way, in which case the war will re­sume.

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