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Martin LeFevre

What would you do if you knew something bad was going to happen, but something far worse could be prevented if you acted now? That is precisely the case with the referendum on January 9th to divide Sudan into two countries, north and south.

The issues with Sudan are very complex, as they always are in human affairs. Essentially, after war and genocide have killed millions in Africa’s largest country, the mostly Christian people in the south will vote to secede from the mostly Muslim power center in the north, the Khartoum government under Omar al-Bashir.

The actor and god of the worldwide celebrity culture, George Clooney, is doing all he can  (most notably of late in the moving documentary “Winds of War,” which aired in America on December 3rd), to appeal to Westerners’ moral outrage over Sudan . But it’s a losing proposition.

The moral outrage, and leadership, must first come from those Africans who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or fear that raping and rampaging militiamen are again about to ride into their villages.

There are two parts to the Sudanese crisis—national and global. The focus has been entirely on the national aspects of the bloody business, a focus that only highlights the impotency of the so-called international community. Nations and the UN aren’t even able to halt the diabolical plans of the president of Sudan, much less bring him to trial for genocide, for which the International Criminal Court has indicted him.

The real nature of the crisis is global, and it’s in this context that a mitigation of the mayhem can occur. To do so, attention must be paid to the issue of sovereignty and separation, which is threatening to rip Sudan apart and spill the blood of many thousands of innocents onto the sand again.

Does the failure of the international community, including African nations, to arrest al-Bashir intersect with the eroding power of the nation-state? Obviously.

What then is to be done? Instinctively, most intellectual leaders want to shore up the nation-state, by upholding the old idea of the separate sovereignty of countries. But as is usually the case, conventional wisdom is just conventional, not wise. The counter-intuitive response, coming from insight, is the right one.

A vacuum has opened up, a vacuum of purpose, morality, and leadership. What is going to fill that vacuum?

Historically, the end of one era is characterized by immense suffering generated by totalitarianism and war, which in hindsight appears to be the birth pangs of a new standard and structure. That pattern no longer seems possible, or necessary, in a global society. Like the American Civil War, all war has become internecine.

Sovereignty, which means supreme, no longer belongs to the nation-state, but to humankind as a whole. Applying the old premise of separate and supreme authority to 200 nation-states is deepening a dangerous contradiction, resulting in increasing conflict around the world.

That doesn’t mean southern Sudan shouldn’t have autonomy, or even independence. It means that the context for self-determination is not the creation of another sovereign state, which is what the United States has been pushing for, but the whole of humanity.

Just in the western Darfur region, Sudan has suffered 300,000 dead and nearly 3 million refugees in the last seven years. Many thousands of children have been killed and women raped under the government of al-Bashir. Kenya and Chad, both signatories to the ICC, refused to arrest al-Bashir when he was on their soil. Will Zambia follow suit at the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to be held in Lusaka on December 15th?

After the referendum in Sudan, the key to containing the killing is containing al-Bashir. How? By making good on his ICC indictment for crimes against humanity.

There is a virtual certainty of conflict once southern Sudan votes to secede, since the pattern of evil with the al-Bashir government is set. It’s what people do now, in Africa and in the world, which will determine how bad the situation will become.

An outbreak of violence in Sudan cannot be prevented, but the pattern of systematic massacre and rape can be ended. In doing so, there is the opportunity to initiate a post-nation-state world order.

The simple turn to a genuinely global dispensation has to be consciously made by people of good will. But if people of good will wait until the crisis erupts again, it will be too late.

Martin LeFevre
[email protected]

[photo by wanderingzito on Flickr]