Wednesday, January 05, 2011


it only took a day or so before i changed my mind on my sudan prediction (#21). i still could be right, but i realize that my certainty that there would not be a peaceful succession of southern sudan did not take into account the pipeline situation.

the fact that succession would mean that 75% of sudan's current oil reserves would leave khartoum's control coupled with a war criminal president who has not hesitated to unleash violence before, seemed to be a slam-dunk for the notion that either the referendum would not happen or that southern independence would not come peacefully. but i hadn't considered that the new country, for all its oil wealth, would be landlocked and with a pipeline infrastructure that is only designed to bring that oil to the international market via the north. thus, the north is guaranteed to get a cut of the south's oil production and has an incentive to keep violence away from oil producing areas to avoid production disruptions. in this case, most of the oil fields happen to lie on the likely frontier between north and south. so once you take the geography and pipelines into account, it looks like more of a peaceful split. you'd think that after spending so much time in another land-locked oil producing nation last year i would have realized that without a port, oil wealth is only as good your pipeline network.

meanwhile, i'm beginning to wonder what they will call the new southern sudanese nation. will they just call it southern sudan? or will the new leaders come up with something else?

for that matter, will northern sudan still call itself "sudan"? the current name is a shortened version of the arabic phrase "bilad al-sudan" (بلاد السودان) which means "land of the black [people]" "sudan" by itself essentially means "black people". if the predominantly black south secedes, leaving the predominantly lighter skinned arab north, will they still call it "sudan"?