Thursday, December 10, 2009

2010 will be the most crucial year in recent Sudan’s history - SID Forum on Conflict: Launch of Sudan Observatory

From Society for International Development (SID)
By Irene Panozzo, November 3, 2009
SID Forum on Conflict: Launch of Sudan Observatory
2010 will be the most crucial year in recent Sudan’s history. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005 in Nairobi between president Omar al-Bashir’s government and the then southern rebels of the Sudan’s people liberation movement/army (SPLM/A) is approaching its final and most decisive tests: parliamentary and presidential elections, the first multi-party consultation in 24 years, scheduled for next April and, in January 2011, a referendum through which southerners will decide whether to remain part of the largest African country or to secede, giving birth to an independent South Sudan. More than one year in advance, southerners are widely thought to favour separation. In an unprecedented move, on October 31 Salva Kiir, SPLM chairperson and president of the autonomous South Sudan, has clearly linked the vote for independence to a first class citizenship status in a new country for southerners.

Whichever the South’s choice will be, Sudan’s future appears gloomy. The outcomes of different scenarios exercise by Clingendael Institute and the United States Institute for Peace (Usip) go in the same direction: war might erupt again. Even the best case scenario by Clingendael, ‘CPA Hurray!’, doesn’t exclude conflict, though small-scale and localized. The worst case scenarios by both institutes clearly speak of a renewed large-scale war between North and South Sudan, paralleled by North-North and South-South conflicts and a total collapse of the Cpa. Should this future become reality in 2011 and afterwards, the consequences would be felt well beyond Sudan’s borders, with probable dangerous spill-overs in some East African countries, mainly Uganda and Kenya, and in the Greater Horn of Africa region. Moreover, a new North-South war would certainly have repercussions on Darfur, making a quick solution to that crisis even harder and less probable.

Avoiding a new Sudan’s war is thus clearly the main single challenge the country and its leaderships, both in the North and in the South, must face and possibly win. There is little time left for it: elections will be held in less than six months and there is still a large number of unsettled and potetially disrupting issues blocking the process. North-South borders have not been demarcated yet and the two partners in the government of national unity (GNU), president Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) and the SPLM, have an ongoing dispute over the use of last year census results, on which part of the electoral process is based.

However, the most urgent issue to solve is the reform or promulgation of a bunch of laws, provided for in the CPA. At the end of November the last pre-electoral parliamentary session will end. The National Assembly has then the next few weeks only to discuss and vote outstanding bills such as the ones reforming the national security and intelligence services and setting the rules for the 2011 southern referendum. While on the latter the two peace partners are still working for a compromise, few weeks ago the NCP tabled a National security forces draft law which would allow the intelligence services to retain powers of arrest and search, a provision the SPLM and opposition parties say would violate the interim constitution. Therefore, on October 19 the SPLM bloc decided to boycott parliamentary activities until the NCP presents a clear timetable to speed up discussions on the remaining bills, so as to have them approved within the end of November. Failing that, the former southern rebels and some opposition parties have already said they will boycott April general elections.

Preserving the CPA and fostering its full implementation could also help address the Darfur crisis, looking at it through a national lens. Significantly, the new US Sudan policy, formally announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on October 19, gives new emphasis to the troubled relationship between North and South for its importance in itself and as a means to approach Darfur problem for what it is: another (unfortunately not the first, hopefully the last) Sudan’s war. The African Union high level panel on Darfur (AUPD), headed by former South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki, has come to a similar conclusion: in their final report, adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council on October 29, the AUPD members underlined that “Darfur is an integral part of Sudan” and Sudanese people should be enabled “to approach the next important phase of their history as one nation”. Therefore, the AUPD concluded, “there is an urgent need to secure a definitive peace settlement for Darfur before the 2010 general elections”. Time is running dramatically short.
About Irene

Irene Panozzo (Dr.) is researcher and journalist, expert of Sudanese history and politics. Irene’s research work has been focusing on Sudan for more than ten years, with a particular focus on North-South relationship. Her research interests also include the Chinese presence in Africa and the international relations of African countries. Irene holds a bachelor’s in International and Diplomatic Sciences from the University of Trieste and a PhD in History, Institutions and International Relations of Extra European Countries from the University of Pisa.

Get in touch with Irene via Email.

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