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The nearly unanimous south Sudanese referendum result announced over the weekend is likely to lead to independence for a southern state by July. But it only marks one step along the road to true sovereignty for this oppressed and impoverished people. As south Sudan’s oil wealth has been used to enrich elites in the North for decades, so it is now being viewed with hungry eyes by the US and its allies.
The debt which is inherited by this new state is likely to play a key role in attempts to assert control on south Sudan from the outside. The Sudanese government in Khartoum currently has a debt of $35 billion, large parts of which stretch back to the 1970s and 1980s when the regime of General Nimeiry was propped up by the US. Of this debt, $20 billion represents interest, following years of default by the Bashir regime.
The UK claims Sudan owes £650 million ($1 billion) to the government’s Export Credit Guarantees Department – the department which insures some British exports, usually arms, aerospace and big fossil fuel projects. The department refuses to say what projects the debt is based on. What we do know is that since 1984 an interest rate of between 10 and 12 per cent has been charged on this debt, wildly inflating it – in fact new figures reveal that up-to 90 per cent of Sudanese debt owed to the UK is interest.
Justice demands that south Sudan is not handed a portion of Khartoum’s debt, but the International Monetary Fund probably has other ideas. One suggestion is that Sudan will be allocated debt on its inception that will then be cancelled. No-one should fall into the trap of believing this to be just – in reality it would mean the southern state would be forced to go through a lengthy cancellation process, during which it would probably have to take out new loans to pay interest on its unjust debts, as well as whatever reforms the IMF felt like pushing on the country. It would ensure south Sudan could not escape from the grips of international institutions and their neoliberal ideology.
Meanwhile, popular protests have spread to Khartoum in north Sudan. Here too, most of the accumulated debts undoubtedly arose more through international power play than genuine attempts to improve the lives of Sudan’s people. The people of Sudan might want to take a look at the calls of people as far apart as Greece and Bolivia, and call for an audit of Sudan’s debts so they can find out just what the debts paid for and how legitimate they are.
Sovereignty for south Sudan means much more than a declaration of independence from the north. It means the people of that country controlling their own economic development. But with a large debt hanging over their heads, and reserves of oil ready to plunder, the people of south Sudan will need to be prepared to continue to struggle for real freedom.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns