Saturday, January 16, 2010
The International Rescue Committee commissioned a report on Sudan by Edward Thomas, who worked in Sudan for several years as a teacher, human rights worker and researcher. Dated January 2010 and titled “Decisions and Deadlines: A Critical Year for Sudan” (PDF file), the Chatham House Report discusses the upcoming January 2011 referendum in Southern Sudan that gives voters a choice between independent statehood or continued unity with Northern Sudan. Although the SPLM initially committed to seeking the unity of Sudan, its senior leaders now voice a preference for secession as the referendum nears. The widespread Southern perception that the central government in Khartoum has failed to transform itself has strengthened the hand of the SPLM leadership in favoring secession. Many SPLM leaders privately express the view that any attempt to postpone the referendum will be a cause for war, according to Thomas. Both parties have a history of bad faith and delay in negotiations. If the South secedes, the two parties will need to divide oil revenues, national infrastructure and decide on Nile water sharing. Nationality needs to be defined. Any new currency must come into circulation at a price that is sensitive to the interests of many different economic groups.
Somaliland and Eritrea recently fought wars after secession because these issues were not addressed. Following secession, Eritrea fought a war with Ethiopia during 1998-2000 because some of these issues had not been dealt with in advance. Somaliland’s union with Somalia in 1960 and subsequent war between the two, led in 1991 to a unilateral declaration of independence by Somaliland, again because some basic issues had not been resolved in the beginning.
Thomas notes that these issues are not being discussed as the two sides turn their backs on their constituencies and ignore regional lessons in order to engage in brinkmanship over procedural questions.