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Starting in the mid-1990s, John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International redeemed tens of thousands of slaves in Sudan while Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group led a “Sudan Campaign” in the United States that brought together a wide coalition of organizations. As all Americans abhor slavery, the abolitionists formed a unique alliance of Left and Right, including Barney Frank and Sam Brownback, the Congressional Black Caucus and Pat Robertson, black pastors and white Evangelicals. In contrast, Louis Farrakhan was exposed and embarrassed by his attempts to deny slavery’s existence in Sudan.
The abolitionist effort culminated in 2005 when the George W. Bush administration pressured Khartoum in 2005 to sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war and gave southerners a chance to vote for independence. They enthusiastically did so in January 2011, when 98 percent voted for secession from Sudan, leading to the formation of the Republic of South Sudan six months later, an event hailed by Mr. Peres as “a milestone in the history of the Middle East.”.
Israel’s long-term investment has paid off. South Sudan fits into a renewed periphery strategy that includes Cyprus, Kurds, Berbers, and, perhaps one day, a post-Islamist Iran. South Sudan offers access to natural resources, especially oil. Its role in Nile River water negotiations offers leverage vis-à-vis Egypt. Beyond practical benefits, the new republic represents an inspiring example of a non-Muslim population resisting Islamic imperialism through its integrity, persistence, and dedication. In this sense, the birth of South Sudan echoes that of Israel.
If Kiir’s Jerusalem visit is truly to mark a milestone, South Sudan must travel the long path from dirt-poor, international protectorate with feeble institutions to modernity and genuine independence. This path requires the leadership not to exploit the new state’s resources nor dream of creating a “New Sudan” by conquering Khartoum, but to lay the foundations for successful statehood.
For the Israelis and other Westerners, this means both helping with agriculture, health, and education and urging Juba to stay focused on defense and development while avoiding wars of choice. A successful South Sudan could eventually become a regional power and a stalwart ally not just of Israel but of the West.
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