News / Africa

Report Urges African Consensus on Sudan Referendum

Michael Onyiego

As Sudan moves closer to a referendum that could split the country in two, the pressure is building on the African community to ensure the credibility of the process and prevent conflict from spilling over into the region.

Southern Sudan is scheduled to hold a referendum in January to determine whether it remains part of larger Sudan or forms a new state.  The referendum is part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended more than 20 years of fighting between the government in Khartoum and the Southern People's Liberation Movement.

In a report released last week, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group called for Sudan's neighbors and continent-wide groups such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to engage Sudanese authorities on its referendum, and to formulate a coherent and unified stance toward Southern independence.

Sudan's ruling National Congress Party has agreed to respect the results of the referendum, but accusations of vote rigging and a southern boycott of national elections last month have many worried the referendum could spark renewed conflict between the two sides.

International Crisis Group Horn of Africa project director E.J. Hogendoorn expressed concern a lack of prior engagement could make matters worse.

"The regional partners and the international community cannot control all that the NCP and the SPLM does," he said. "What we do think that the regional states especially need to do is to have contingency planning, to think through the different scenarios and to be prepared for those eventualities. One of the problems is that, often times, countries are not prepared and because they are not prepared they act with very little thought. And that can obviously precipitate a wider conflict."

Crucial international support

According to the report, a coherent African stance on the referendum is a critical point on which the international community will base its position.  It says international community support will be crucial for the implementation of the poll as well as its legitimacy.

Since the end of the colonial era, several countries have been struggling with disparate communities and ethnicities held together by artificial imperial boundaries.  Many African leaders worry that a successful Sudanese referendum could create a precedent that would promote instability on the continent.  

Hogendoorn raised the possibility of a split within the African Union on the issue, but warned that indecision could embolden either party to break the terms of the CPA and delegitimize the referendum.

"By sending mixed signals it can actually promote or increase the likelihood that a crisis escalates," he said. "You want both sides to be very sanguine about what they are doing and, obviously, not to try to resort to violence.  But of course that is a possibility.  We do not say it is the most likely possibility but we think that, given the consequences in the region, people need to anticipate those and try to work against that."

Major issue

Despite Khartoum's acceptance of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, its implementation has not gone smoothly and many questions surround southern independence.  

The most significant of these questions is oil.  Southern Sudan contains vast oil deposits.  The Comprehensive Peace Agreement calls for both sides to work out a resource-sharing deal in the eventuality of a split, but there has been little, if any, progress on the issue.

Southern Sudan's neighbors are counting on this oil to drive development in the region.  Countries, such as Uganda and Kenya, have already undertaken massive development projects to export the south's resources to the rest of the world.

These countries have much at stake in southern independence.  Should the referendum be tarnished in any way, it is unknown how the region will respond.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs