Friday, April 13, 2012

VOA Interview on Sudan

The Voice of America English-language service asked me to comment 13 April 2012 on the volatile situation along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. I emphasized that the complexity of the issues facing Sudan and South Sudan makes this dispute harder to resolve than similar problems elsewhere in Africa. Not only is there a long historical background, but the conflict has numerous parts. When South Sudan became independent last year, about 20 percent of the border had not been agreed upon. In addition, three regions--Abyei, South Kordofan (including the Nuba people) and Blue Nile remained north of the border although there are significant numbers of people living in those areas that have sympathies with South Sudan. Citizenship issues were not resolved at the time of South Sudan's independence and there was no agreement on oil revenue sharing. Both sides made the assumption they could resolve these problems after South Sudan's independence. So far, it has not worked out that way. Refugee flows and internally displaced persons caused by recent conflict have exacerbated the problem. As compared, for example, to the still unresolved Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute, the situation between Sudan and South Sudan is infinitely more difficult and complex.

When asked what steps might be taken to avoid a renewal of war between the two countries, I suggested that while the border situation is much more dangerous today than just a few days ago, I doubt it will result in all out war. Both sides know they have too much to lose. I believe this fact will convince both Khartoum and Juba to stop short of a return to war. Having said that, one step that might help avert war would be a unified international position vis-a-vis both Khartoum and Juba. While Khartoum bears more of the blame for the current situation, Juba is also guilty. If the western countries, China, Russia, the Arab countries and all of the neighbors of Sudan and South Sudan communicated the same message to Khartoum and Juba, it might have a positive impact.

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