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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid