Oh Sudan, Sudan, Sudan...

The more I read about Sudan, the more there is to read about Sudan. How can one country be so complicated?

I have recently been given the privilege of reading a briefing paper about one expert's opinions about the future of Sudan. Unfortunately, I am still awaiting the word as to whether I am allowed to say who or what this paper was, but I thought that in the meantime I would transmit some of its extremely illuminating and troubling details.

The Premise: How to prevent the entire country of Sudan from erupting into a huge war when the South votes for independence in the referendum scheduled for 2011?

For those who don't know, the peace treaty between the North and South signed in 2005 between President al-Bashir and Southern hero John Garang guaranteed a referendum on the status of the South to be held in 2011. The thinking was that this time could be used to convince the political elites from the North and the South of the benefits of working together, so they could subsequently either come up with a new agreement or convince the Southern people that a unified Sudan is not that bad. Unfortunately, with the violence in Darfur, the ICC indictment, and the unfortunate death of John Garang, the elites have been more than a little distracted.

If the vote were held today, the vast majority of Southerners would vote to secede from Sudan, a situation that is unlikely to change in the next two years. The North would not be too happy about this because of oil and the effect that would have on the rest of the country. Similarly, the South Sudan Government is not known as the most well-functioning government around and could quite possibly turn into a fragile or failed state itself.

Basically, the possibilities for violence in the case of a secession by the South are all-too-likely, even as it appears that this situation is an eventuality. So how do we prevent a possible future humanitarian crisis even while trying to solve the one that is happening right now?

The writer of the briefing paper has a few ideas to this end, but none of them are simple. Along the basic things that need to happen to prevent catastrophic war in 2011 are:

1) Ending the violence in Darfur.
2) More implementation of the parts of the Comprehensive Peace Treaty that have still not been implemented.
3) An agreement between political elites in the North and the South about how to proceed with the referendum. Postponing it could lose the Southern leaders their legitimacy; holding it could lose the Northerners a large chunk of their country.
4) Coming up with a contingency plan for how to deal with the possibility of a vote for secession.

Is that all? That should be easy in a country that has had a total of 13 years peace since 1956.

I hope you are all up for challenges...


Ruth said...

Talk about a sticky situation! If the Sudanese government don't stop their crimes against Darfur, then things will not only even more worse but I fear that the whole country will be a large killing fields that could possibly spread across to Chad :-( That is something we HAVE to avoid at all cost!

yoni said...


I agree with you that Sudan is one of the most complex countries in the world in terms of it's politics and the various current and potential conflicts.

However, I also think we are at, or near, a "ripe" moment for peace in Sudan. It has been said that the rebels were in a holding pattern, because they expected more favourable treatment from whoever won the U.S. presidential election.

Now that the new administration is taking over shortly, there is a new hope that America and it's allies (including Canada) will move Sudan up the list of priorities. Appointments such as Susan Rice indicate Obama is interested, and I hope willing, to do more than Bush has.

It's time for Canada to also indicate an interest in taking on a greater political role in Darfur/Sudan. I commend our government for leading on Darfur/Sudan financially, but it is time to lead politically as well, so we can move from "managing" conflict, to "resolving" conflict.