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Sudan: Post-referendum challenges
NewsNotes, March-April 2010
Vol. 35 No. 2

A recent U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) report on Sudan (Negotiating Sudan’s Post-Referendum Arrangements) raises challenging questions about essential preparations for the critical period of time following the referendum scheduled for January 2011. “Sudan is less than one year away from a landmark event: the referendum on whether Southern Sudan will remain part of a united Sudan or secede. As many have acknowledged, including some leaders in the North, Southerners are likely to vote to secede, leading to the first new, internationally recognized state created in Africa since Eritrea. Managing this probable divorce thus takes center stage, but who will orchestrate this process? Who will mediate between Khartoum and Juba? How can the international community help, rather than hinder, the possible division of Africa’s largest country into two?”

The USIP report calls for encouragement and support from the international community for negotiations on post-referendum arrangements, including “issues ranging from wealth sharing to citizenship rights to security arrangements.” USIP also recommends that a single mediator “with a clear and strong mandate” be identified and supported by a contact group or group of friends that can insert targeted pressures and incentives into the process.

In its January 2010 paper Decisions and Deadlines: A Critical Year for Sudan, the British think tank Chatham House also focused on the post-referendum period, listing some of the essential agreements that will have to be negotiated, given different referendum outcomes:

  • If Southern Sudan chooses unity in January 2011, its army needs to be integrated with that of the central government within 90 days – a daunting task, given that the two armies now confront each other along the length of the border.
  • If it chooses secession, an independent state will be born as soon as the vote is announced. Assets, including oil revenues, water and national infrastructure, will have to be divided. Nationality will need to be defined. Any new currency will need to come into circulation at a price that is sensitive to the interests of many different economic groups.

But, the Chatham House report continues, these issues are not being discussed, “as the two elites turn their backs on their constituencies and the wider regional history in order to engage in brinkmanship over procedural questions. This poses challenges for the many international actors who sponsored the CPA and who still have an important role in supporting Sudanese elites to bring it to a peaceful conclusion.”

In fact, while the engagement of the U.S. and other international players is important, the fact that “so much of Sudan’s future will be decided at the highest level may perpetuate the politics of exclusion into the post-referendum period. U.S. mediation may mean that Sudan is not seeking to redefine itself through engagement with its peoples or its neighbors, but is looking to the superpower to set out a solution.”

According to the Chatham House report:

  • Sudan’s powerful elites need to reach agreement on a wide range of complex processes in the coming year. They also need to start an engagement with the country’s diverse populations if they are to avoid perpetuating the politics of exclusion and conflict and help citizens participate in the big decisions facing the country.
  • The CPA’s international and regional supporters need to work together to support the final act of the CPA, paying attention to local as well as national and international dimensions of the peace process.
  • Breakdowns in security in Darfur, Kordofan and most states of Southern Sudan undermine popular engagement in elections, referendums and other processes. Both parties must address the urgent need for local peace in the coming year, and the UN and other international actors should support them.
  • International actors need to provide adequate support for elections, popular consultations and the referendums while recognizing that these processes will complicate politics in regions of Sudan that are not at peace.

Faith in action:
Write to your members of Congress to express your concern for the future of Sudan. Urge U.S. vigilance and full support for peace.

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