News / Africa

Diplomatic Engagement Not Enough in Sudan

Eamon Omordha, right, Deputy Director of United Nations Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division, hands over a referendum ballot to Justice Chan Reec Madut, left, Chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, during a material handover ceremony in
Eamon Omordha, right, Deputy Director of United Nations Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division, hands over a referendum ballot to Justice Chan Reec Madut, left, Chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, during a material handover ceremony in
Michael Onyiego

As the referendum in south Sudan rapidly approaches, experts warn that pressure is needed from all sides to create a stable environment for the vote as well as the possible split of the war-torn country in early 2011.

With less than three weeks left until voters from across southern Sudan take to the polls to decide their region's future, Africa's largest country has become a ticking time-bomb watched nervously from all corners of the globe.

Many expect that blast to separate Sudan into two new countries, but there is concern how violent the separation will be.

2010 bore witness to the last gasps of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement - an internationally backed peace treaty between North and South, which was designed to make unity more attractive to the two sides still smoldering from a 21 year conflict.

Now all that remains of the agreement is the January 9th referendum.  Despite the prospect of losing a majority of its critical oil revenues, northern officials - including Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir have agreed to respect the results.  But all is not well with the vote.

The governments of North and South Sudan have yet to agree on crucial post-referendum agreements such as oil revenue sharing and the demarcation of the north-south border.
Throughout the process international actors such as the United States have pushed hard on both sides to reach an agreement. 

At the U.N. General Assembly meeting in late September, U.S. President Barack Obama held a Sudan Summit in hopes of an agreement.

State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley again pushed for a final agreement during a follow-up to the summit in Ethiopia. "There are clear responsibilities that both North and South have," he said. "And while we worked through some of the issues this weekend, we expect that both sides, particularly Khartoum, needs to come to the next meeting prepared to reach an agreement."

But an agreement was not reached.

These long-running disputes have now been compounded by a recent decision to delay the simultaneous referendum in oil-rich Abyei region.  Abyei, which straddles the border, was set to decide whether it joins the north or south, but commission officials say logistical challenges have forced a delay of "a few days."

Many see these developments as a precursor to war, but Zach Vertin of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group has urged caution for all actors involved.

"The self determination vote will take place in January but that does not automatically equate to independence.  It is more likely that there will be a period between January and the end of the Peace Agreement's interim period in July 2011 to work out remaining details," Vertin said.

But uncertainty surrounding the referendum has left the border dangerously militarized.  Members of the Sudanese Armed Forces stand guard along the north-south border just miles away from contingents of the Sudan People's Liberation Army of the south.

Nobody believes a return to war would benefit either side, but the complexity of situation may take matters out of officials hands. According to Small Arms Survey, one of the flashpoints for violence may not actually be in the south, but just across the border.  If the referendum produces a split, there are many southern communities that could be left behind in the North.

Small Arms Survey Sudan Project Manager Claire McEvoy told VOA that worry about further marginalization could spark further conflict, possibly drawing in the southern army.

One possible way of preventing conflict in those regions may be through "popular consultation, outlined in the CPA. Popular consultations would allow for renegotiation of the terms of the CPA in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. McEvoy says such engagement would allow groups to define their relationship with Khartoum. "If that were done in a meaningful way it could allow for devolution.  It could go some way to satisfying the aspirations of people of those states," he said.

But Popular Consultation should have taken place long ago. Although international pressure has been unsuccessful in many respects, McEvoy says diplomatic engagement would be crucial for Popular Consultations as well as regional stability.

"Concerted diplomatic pressure is required as we move towards the referendum for the south, both before it and after it.  It is highly likely that the result may be disputed," McEnvoy said. "I think the international community needs to be prepared for that eventuality and to have a plan - a credible plan."

With so little time until the beginning of the vote, observers, aid workers, and Sudanese alike are preparing themselves for the worst, and without both international and local engagement, the worst may come to pass. 

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More