New Study on Sudan
New Study on Sudan

With Sudan's referendum on independence approaching, a coalition of economic and security groups are warning that renewed violence could cost as much as $100 billion.

There are less than 50 days left before southern Sudan holds a critical referendum on secession from the north. This vote could see Africa's largest country split in two, but fears amounting that technical problems, political stalling and protracted negotiations could delay the vote and spark a renewed civil war.

The international warnings about human suffering and violence have not provoked the unity between north and south that observers hope would ensure and amicable split, so a coalition of economic, political and social groups are offering a different perspective.

Their report, released Thursday, in Nairobi is now warning both Sudanese and international stakeholders that a renewed civil war in the wake of the referendum could cost as much as $100 billion.  

According to the coalition, the amount is a conservative estimate spread over 10 years. And the group says this cost will not be borne by Sudan alone. Only about half of the $100 billion will be lost by Sudan. The report calculates anywhere from $25-30 billion would be lost by neighbors Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, due to decreased trade with the region. The amounts make up more than 30 percent of each nation's GDP.

The report also calculates that as much as $25 billion would be required over 10 years from the international community in the form of peacekeeping and humanitarian aid to manage the conflict.

While an economic analysis looks cold in the face of potential war, Institute of Security Studies African Conflict Prevention Director Roba Sharamo said such analysis are often effective in persuading leaders.

"Often politicians are driven by other interests," Sharamo said. "But I think the economic figures which are reflected in this study are quite critical in the sense that it really shows the reality of war might cost them, what peace might bring to them. It is important for all of them to exercise some sort of restraint."

While the $100 billion price tag of war seems steep, the figures are based on current projections and do not even include the potential of an independent South Sudan. Many analysts in the region expect a newly independent South Sudan to immediately join the East African Community and rapidly increase trade with its neighbors.

The region's vast deposits of oil are expected to be a major catalyst for the south's development. Countries in East Africa are also preparing for a boom in southern Sudan. Kenya has already secured funding for the construction of a multi-billion dollar port on its northern coast to export Sudanese oil. Uganda is also looking to build a pipeline and railway to the southern capital, Juba.

Standing in the way of this economic boom is a renewed civil war between north and south. The referendum, being held January 9, is the final phase of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended a 21-year civil war in 2005. While President Omar al-Bashir has promised to accept the results, delays in referendum registration and difficult negotiations over the border and oil-sharing have prompted some northern officials to call for a delay in the vote.