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May/June 2011
Vol. 36, No. 3

Sudan: Problems still exist

In early April the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a statement on this period between the January referendum and the July independence of the South. They wrote:

In a previous statement, we said, Sudan will never be the same again. This has come to pass in the most concrete way, as we await the formal Declaration of Independence of the South and the formation of two new countries on 9th July 2011. However it is also true in a deeper way. The people of the South have had the opportunity to determine their own political future. This is a basic expression of human dignity. We call upon all the citizens, politicians, security forces and leaders of the two countries to respect human life and dignity, and to build the future based on these God-given values.

We call for patience, understanding and restraint as this dramatic change takes place. Those in authority must act justly, and foster openness and participation in spirit and action. Citizens must recognize that great changes are not completed overnight; there is a process which may not always meet immediate expectations. Legitimate authority must be respected, but leaders must work selflessly for the common good and avoid exaggerated political ambition. Leadership is a service to the people, and offices must be surrendered willingly at the end of the requisite term.

While there is great joy, there are also those who are saddened at the division of our country. There are fears and concerns about the future. Problems still remain: Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, citizenship, borders and oil. There are concerns about the inclusivity and transparency of the constitutional review process. Not least, the conflict in Darfur continues and there is increasing violence in the South, including the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA]. We are saddened that our people have been inculturated to turn to violence when faced with disputes, whether ethnic, or over resources, or over personal or political issues….

The situation in post-referendum Sudan remains fragile. South Sudan has to deal with multiple ongoing internal and external problems while it settles into the post-euphoric stage of building a new nation with diverse local communities that are both very poor and unfamiliar with lasting peace.

Most of the challenges identified in a March-April 2011 NewsNotes article have not been resolved. For example, fighting continued near Malakal in Upper Nile state between the army of Southern Sudan and rebel militias, with civilians bearing the brunt of the conflict; clashes have occurred between south Sudan police and members of the nomadic Messirya tribe; and the people of Western Equatoria are again being attacked by the LRA.

Talks between north and south Sudan have not settled the dispute over the oil-producing area of Abyei. Renewed accusations and a build-up of military weapons are of great concern. North and south Sudan have yet to agree on post-referendum issues such as border demarcation, oil, water, international agreements and citizenship. The African Union (AU) panel led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki is mediating on these items. The new U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, is involved. The NCP and the SPLM have agreed to work together toward cancellation of Sudan's foreign debt.

The northern government in Khartoum has been accused of supporting the rebels and in other ways violating provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). In response to reports that First Vice president of Sudan Salva Kiir might lose his federal post before the South officially secedes next July and to a decision by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to exclude Southern MP's from attending the new session of the parliament, analyst John Ashworth wrote: "This is an extremely significant development, and a further breach of the CPA by NCP. First Vice President Salva Kiir's position is far from 'ceremonial and without any powers.' The CPA defines 'the presidency' as being the president with the first and second vice presidents, and a number of key decisions can only be made by 'the presidency,' i.e. by all three of them agreeing, not by the president alone. The fact that the NCP has ignored this rule on occasions does not invalidate it. With key decisions coming up on Abyei, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and a number of North-South issues, this is an attempt by NCP to remove the first vice president from any role in decision-making as defined in the CPA, which is valid until 9th July despite the fact that the south has voted for secession. By the same token, it is not clear on what authority NCP has dismissed the southern members of the national legislature several months before the end of the CPA. The interim arrangements for governing the (united) country as laid out in the CPA and the interim constitutions are valid until the end of the CPA on 9th July."

After somewhat of a lull, Darfur is in crisis again. The United Nations Security Council recently expressed its "deep concern over the serious increase in violence and insecurity in Darfur, including ceasefire violations, restrictions on access to vulnerable populations throughout Darfur by UNAMID (the UN-AU Mission in Darfur) and the humanitarian community, attacks by rebel groups, aerial bombardment by the Sudanese Armed Forces, and the ongoing displacement of civilians." More than 70,000 people have arrived in camps for displaced people since December.

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