Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview with daily Slovakia-based newspaper, Pravda

I was interviewed recently by Andrej Matisak (@matisaksk), deputy chief of the foreign desk at the newspaper Pravda, based in Slovakia. Here are the questions and answers:

Pravda: President of Sudan Bashir said he will respect the result of referendum, and Southern Sudan welcomes his words. Does it mean both sides will really accept any outcome or do you still see some challenges lie ahead?

Shinn: The referendum offers two choices: Southern Sudanese can vote for self-determination, effectively secession from Sudan, or they can remain united with the northern government in Khartoum.

I believe both sides are prepared to accept either one of these outcomes. Every indication is that Southern Sudanese will vote overwhelmingly in favor of self-determination. Beyond the referendum, however, there are huge challenges facing both Southern and Northern Sudan.

There must be an agreement on the division of oil revenues, guarantees for southerners who continue to live in the north and northerners who live in the south, a second referendum on the future of oil-rich Abyei region, which is located in the north-south border area and claimed by both sides, and a number of other issues.

There is also the possibility that an independent Southern Sudan could result in pressure on the north for further geographical divisions and that an independent
Southern Sudan will also continue to face factional tendencies. The challenges ahead are enormous, although the short-term prospects for a successful and peaceful referendum are good.

Pravda: Which side is better positioned to exist as a fully functioning country
in the future, and why?

Shinn: Over the next year or two, the north is better positioned to exist as a fully-functioning country because it has operated successfully as an independent government since 1956, has established governmental institutions and an adequate number of trained personnel to run a government.

Secession of Southern Sudan will result in the loss of significant oil revenue, but
the north still controls the oil pipeline and all of the oil infrastructure, which will guarantee continuing oil income.

The biggest threat to the north will be pressure from other parts of the country, especially Darfur and the Eastern Region, for more autonomy. Following secession of Southern Sudan, the euphoria will initially be very high. But reality will quickly set in.

Southern infrastructure is woefully lacking. There are not yet enough trained Southern Sudanese to run the government and corruption is a major problem. There could also be regional separatist tendencies in the south. Much will depend on the willingness of the international donor community to support development in Southern Sudan.

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