Sun Jan 17th, 2010 at 07:58:41 AM EST
nrc.nl - International - Features - Tribal violence undermines South Sudan's future
Crows picked at the last grains near some collapsed silos. A twisted bike lay in the remnants of a burnt-down house. Crops had been torched. Under a fig tree, empty grenade shells bear silent witness to a battle in which women and children were killed, and tens of thousands of civilians sent on the run.
This is not the Darfur region in West Sudan, which has been in a state of war since 2003, but South Sudan, which has officially been at peace since 2005. In the past year hundreds of villages have been burnt-down here, 2,500 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced because of tribal conflicts.
"Everyone in the villages is armed these days. It's frightening," said an aid worker who wished to remain anonymous. "The presence of arms has changed the existing tribal and political conflicts. In South Sudan small children carry arms now; you would never see that in Darfur."
That was December last year.
That is not all.
Early January, the following report came out, signed by ten NGOs: Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan where the essentials of the coming year are outlined as:
The next 12 months are crucial. When the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed 2005 - Nomad] was signed, a six-year interim period was agreed from 2005 to 2011, in which time a number of key benchmarks were to be achieved. However, implementation is massively behind schedule and the parties enter the final year with a number of potential flashpoints ahead. Two landmark events - April 2010 national elections and a January 2011 referendum where southerners will vote on whether to remain part of a united Sudan or secede - could well result in further instability if all actors are not well prepared. Key issues such as the demarcation of the oil-rich north- south border and the wealth-sharing of oil and other revenues, are still not agreed.
The same NGOs call in the report for intensified diplomatic pressure from the international community to solve the problematic situation between north and south Sudan.
According to this piece in NRC Handelsblad from 07 January, the key negotiator of the CPA for North Sudan, Ghazi Salaheddin, has hinted on war if there is no solution to the border conflicts and, not trivial, the 30 billion of national debt.
In a publication not on-line, the NRC Handelsblad correspondent has sketched a further background of the political intrigues afoot. The two main players, the NCP (National Congress Party) led by the president Bashir, and the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement), the political wing of the opposition army, led by vice-president Mayardit, have agreed end last year that in the referendum next year at least 51 percent of the voters in South Sudan should vote for independence, at a participation rate of 60 percent, if South Sudan wants to become an independent entity.
Furthermore, in the oil-rich area of Abyei, which straddles the boundary of North and South Sudan, a separate referendum will be organised to decide if the region will belong to the north or the south. The complications are massive. Abyei is, mostly, inhabited by southerners - but each year nomadic herds from the north migrate into the Abyei. An undecided point of severe friction is whether these migrating nomads will be allowed to vote. According to an unnamed diplomat in Khartoum, the difficulties surrounding Abyei "still can lead to war".
Map of Sudan with Abyei region marked. Picture from NRC Handelsblad website.
The situation in Abyei is not an unique example for Sudan, although the area represents the crux of most problems. Each year hundreds of thousands North-Sudan nomads migrate southwards for greener pastures, as more of the annual rains fall in South-Sudan. Increasing droughts intensify this process. Increasing collaboration between North Sudan and South Sudan becomes more and more essential, while the reverse processes are dominant.
With an outstanding warrant on his head, Bashir his prime interest lies with organising elections that'll receive a stamp of international approval. The original CPA had outlined steps to democratise Bashir's North Sudan, but practically naught has come to fruition. Bashir's party has ruled Sudan since 1989, and the entrenched clasp on media, the militias and web of spies will almost guarantee a win at the vote booth. The already semi-autonomous South Sudan is (therefore) more interested in making sure the referendum is held. Vice-president Mayardit has attempted to scrap the elections, but was whistled back by political pressure from the neighbouring countries (and South Africa).
The pressure is on for 2010. Either way how the coin will flip, more division for Sudan lies ahead.