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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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