The author of a recently released report says that the international community needs to do more to prepare itself for the likely scenario of a return to conflict in Sudan. Senior U.S. officials are meeting Tuesday to put the finishing touches on a revamped policy towards the Horn of African nation.
Jair van der Lijn, a senior researcher at the Dutch international policy think tank Clingendael, says policy makers have not sufficiently considered the possibilities of a disintegrated Sudan if the nation's peace deal falls apart.
The analyst says that while the international community is right to be tirelessly working to salvage the 2005 North-South peace agreement, it needs to be more fully preparing for the likely possibility that the situation between the two sides will deteriorate.
"Be prepared for what is going to happen if you will fail, and the chances are very large that you will fail. So be prepared for renewed war," said Jair van der Lijn.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed almost five years ago put a stop to the civil war that first started in 1955 and then re-erupted in 1983.
The North-South deal formed an interim coalition government jointly run by the South's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the North's National Congress Party. National elections intended to lead to a new unified democratic Sudan were to be held in July 2009 but have been pushed back to April 2010.
The peace agreement also calls for a January 2011 Southern independence referendum to allow the South to secede if Southerners remain unsatisfied with a united Sudan. The South is largely expected to vote in favor of independence if given the opportunity.
The peaceful implementation of the peace deal ending in a unified Sudan is a highly unlikely scenario, according to Van der Lijn, despite the fact that it is the ideal situation being worked towards by many of the key international players.
Van der Lijn says that while war fatigue in the North will most likely prevent the resurrection of a full-blown war between the North and the South, a destabilized state plagued with proxy tribal conflicts and North-South border wars is an easily foreseeable possibility that policy makers need to begin adequately preparing for right now.
U.S. officials plan to soon announce the conclusions of the Obama administration's policy review on Sudan.
But while Van der Lijn sees the U.S. as the most supportive key international player for a potential independent southern Sudan, the top U.S. diplomat to the nation is receiving a battering both back home and from Sudanese opposition leaders for allegedly being too friendly with the Khartoum regime.
U.S.-based Darfur advocacy groups on Tuesday released a statement bashing the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, for comments published Monday in which he expressed optimism that the Khartoum government would respond positively to thawed relations from Washington.
In the eyes of Van der Lijn, the softer approach towards the North's NCP taken by Gration has been a welcome shift.
"The more confrontational you are in your policy towards Khartoum, the less effect you will have," said Van der Lijn. "So, the change of policy right now in the U.S. is a positive one, I would argue, if you want to have some influence over Khartoum."
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague for alleged war crimes committed during the conflict in the western region of Darfur.
The report authored by van der Lijn is entitled Sudan 2012: Scenarios for the Future.