A new report says many “supposed solutions” to violence in southern Sudan are doing little to deal with the causes of the violence.
The London School of Economics and Political Science report - Sudan: At Odds with Itself - says government and ngo attempts to bring peace and stability are not providing a “sustainable system of justice and economic development.”
Professor Tim Allen and postgraduate researcher Mareike Schomerus led teams into remote areas of southern Sudan to gather public opinion at the grassroots level.
‘It was obvious as soon as we started working on Sudan that there was a greater interest in technical aspects of the election and then the upcoming referendum. A lot of emphasis on what the role of Khartoum – the northern government – might be in southern Sudan,” said Allen.
In 2011, southern Sudanese will vote on whether to become an independent nation and break away from the north.
Allen adds, there was “much less emphasis on what’s actually happening in southern Sudan… since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.” The CPA, signed in 2005, ended a long civil war that claimed millions of lives and displaced many others.
What they had to say
The teams asked residents in remote areas a wide variety of questions, including whether they planned to vote for independence from the north.
“We found that the vast majority said that they were going to, though we found certain areas where there were quite a lot of people – even the majority in some locations – who said that they would vote for unity,” he says.
Those residents feared they would be “dominated by certain groups and… lose out if they’re cut off from the north,” added Allen.
“Contrary to what was being asserted by so many people,” he says, “when we looked in detail at ongoing conflicts on the ground they tended to have local dynamics” – dynamics that began after the signing of the CPA.
Allen says, “Groups have moved into new areas. They’re trying to find ways of securing control over their areas. They’re often excluding other groups. There are real concerns in some places about being dominated, for example, by the Dinka or in Eastern Equatoria [Province] by the Toposa.”
Since the CPA was signed, many southern Sudanese have not lived in peace.
“In some places,” he says, “There have been considerable levels of violence. I’m not talking just about the areas along the border with the north, but deep in southern Sudan. There is a real problem with security. Now, will those escalate into something else?”
Desperate for peace
“It’s worth bearing in mind the war between the north and south, inside the south, was largely fought by militias. Both sides deployed militia groups against each other. Now, militia groups of various kinds are continuing to be active in southern Sudan. And if there is to be a further problem with the north or if certain politicians want a power base, they will exploit similar thoughts of local issues,” he says.
The report says, “Peace needs to be made concrete through economic and infrastructural development.” Many southern Sudanese say they’ve seen no peace dividends from the CPA.
“In many parts of southern Sudan, we found people saying that since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement there has been almost a withdrawal of international assistance," explains Allen. "Now, this seemed very surprising when you see the concentration of aid agencies running around in Juba. But you go out of the towns and people say…’during the war we received food., we received all sorts of relief.’ That’s all gone now.”
He adds, “People are desperate for education and all sorts of other services. And currently, there is no basis for providing them in most areas. It’s no good thinking about the referendum… after which all of southern Sudan’s problems will go away.”
And he warns if no action is taken soon, things could get much worse in the south.
“At the moment, if things go on as they are, even without any involvement from northern Sudan, it’s hard to see how there will not be serious armed conflict within southern Sudan possibly reaching the level of a civil war in the south,” he says.