The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is a set of protocols signed in January 2005 between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan. It is facilitated through a regional effort by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the international community, namely the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway.
The agreement is aimed at ending the second Sudanese civil war, developing democratic governance in the country, and sharing oil revenues on an equitable basis. The agreement also set a timetable by which southern Sudan would conduct a referendum on its future.
So how effective has the CPA been in achieving its intended objectives? According to Ezekiel Gatkuoth who heads the mission of the Government of South Sudan to the United States the results to date have been mixed.
He says, "the CPA agreement signed in 2005 was meant to adress two issues. One is the democratic transformation of [the country] making Sudan a better place for all Sudanese. The second objective is self determination for the people of South Sudan so they can determine their future.
"Objective number one we have failed to achieve because the National Congress Party is committed to continuing Islamization and Sharia law.... to make the whole of Sudan an Islamic republic. That is why the majority of South Sudanese are going for option number two, which is self determination for the people of South Sudan. We have achieved objective number two. Registration has started, and we are going to have the referendum on the 9th of January 2011."
Mr. Gatkuoth says Khartoum’s failure to transform Sudan into a more equitable country for all its citizens has left southern Sudanese with only one option – a likely vote for separation.
The comprehensive peace agreement opened an opportunity to turn the devastation of more than 20 years of civil war into a new era of peace and prosperity. But peace in southern Sudan remains fragile, with governance and rule of law structures in need of strengthening.
Mr. Gatkuoth sizes up the situation differently. He says," Southern Sudanese know freedom is coming. We are going to determine our future. All are united regardless of political affiliation or parties. South Sudan is at peace, we are stronger than before. Their is no fighting or communal violence...things that used to happen which were sponsered by the north."
Border demarcation and the future of [the oil-rich region of] Abyei -- major elements of the CPA -- still loom large as the referendum approaches. So where do those issues stand today?
Rabie Obeid – a senior member of the ruling National Congress Party – says the twin issues remain unresolved. He says, "the issue is still pending. The NCP is sticking to the provisions of the Abyei protocol, which mentions that all people of Abyei should have rights regardless of tribe, ethinicity or party affiliation. This is the difference between SPLM and NCP."
Many in the south say Khartoum is doing everything possible to undermine the CPA – and possibly delay the January 9th referendum. Dr. Obeid disagrees. He says the people of South Sudan have the right to say yes for unity or yes to secession. This, he says is a concern for the NCP because it is a political party for all of Sudan and not only the south.
Reports out of the southern capital of Juba suggest ballots for the upcoming referendum have yet to be printed. Many question why it’s taking so long to have the documents issued. But southern Sudan’s chief representative in the U.S., Ezekiel Gatkuoth downplays its significance. He says there could be delays here and their but that will not affect the referendum date.
Barely a few weeks remain before the all-important referendum. Dr. Obeid says he thinks the south Sudan referendum will be carried out on schedule – as long as it adheres to established guidelines.