Articles and Analysies
Waiting for Sudan by Abdel-Moneim Said
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Nov 11, 2010 - 8:32:57 AM

Abdel-Moneim Said

Waiting for Sudan

If the secession of south Sudan occurs, as it appears likely to in 2011, the north may move closer to Egypt, which could help maintain a fragile balance and forestall renewed conflict, writes Abdel-Moneim Said

Sudan is rapidly approaching 9 January 2011, when the people of the south are scheduled to vote on the framework in which they will exercise their right to self- determination. One of the provisions of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement for a comprehensive peace between the north and south of Sudan calls for a referendum to be held among the people of the south in which they will decide whether to remain in a unified Sudan or to secede and create a new, independent and sovereign state, with its own flag, national anthem, army, national currency, embassies and its own seat in the UN and other international and regional organisations.

The north and south of Sudan have clashed militarily for more than two decades. There have also been numerous peace initiatives: the Machakos Protocol signed in Kenya in July 2002, the agreement on security arrangements signed in Naivasha in September 2003, the wealth-sharing agreement signed in Naivasha in January 2004, the power-sharing agreement signed in Naivasha in May 2004, the protocol for the resolution of the conflict in south Kordofan signed in Naivasha in May 2004 and the protocol for the resolution of the conflict in Abyei signed in Naivasha in May 2004, and finally the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Naivasha in May 2005. The chief points of the CPA are as follows:

Self-determination: At the end of the stipulated interim period the people of the south would determine by referendum whether or not they want to remain in a unified Sudan.

Power-sharing: The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Southern People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) would form a centralised national unity government. The SPLM would also establish a separate semi-autonomous government in the south. The NCP would have a 52 per cent representation in the central government, and the SPLM 28 per cent; 14 per cent would be reserved for other political forces. Arabic and English would be the official languages, and people of the south would hold 30 per cent of civil service posts.

Garang as first vice-president: SPLM leader Colonel John Garang would be appointed first vice-president of the national unity government and enjoy a broad array of powers. General elections would be held at all levels no later than four years after the beginning of the interim period.

Wealth sharing: National wealth, especially the oil revenues from the south would be divided equally between the central government and the government in the south, after deducting at least two per cent for the oil-producing provinces. Half of the revenues that the central government derives from sources other than oil, such as taxes and tariffs, would be allocated to the south under the supervision of a joint organisation. A dual banking system would be instituted whereby the north would retain an Islamic banking system, which prohibits interest, and the south would follow the conventional system. The Sudanese Central Bank would open branches in the south and mint a new currency with designs reflecting the nation's cultural diversity.

The administration of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions: As these two regions are situated along the borders of the north and the south, the SPLM and NCP would alternate administrative control over them. Then, following general elections in the middle of the interim period, the governors of these provinces would be elected locally by registered voters. Each of the provinces would have a state legislature consisting of approximately 55 per cent representatives of the NCP and 45 per cent of SPLM representatives.

Abyei: This oil-rich region, which is currently part of West Kordofan, would have a special status in the interim period. Its inhabitants would be considered citizens of Kordofan (the north) and Bahr Al-Ghazal (the south) and would be governed by a local executive council that they elected. International observers would be sent in to monitor the implementation of the agreement on Abyei. There would be a referendum at the same time as the referendum in the south in which the people of Abyei would decide whether to retain their special status in the north or whether they would merge with the Bahr Al-Ghazal province and become part of the south.

Security arrangements: Under the CPA, the north would withdraw more than 100,000 troops from the south and the SPLM would withdraw its forces from the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile regions. The withdrawals would take place under international supervision and ensure the preservation of the north- south border as delineated in 1956. A new council for joint defence, made up of senior officers from both sides, would supervise coordination between the commands of the northern and southern forces. The two armies would keep their separate identities but be accorded equal status and treatment in the framework of a Sudanese Armed Forces. Also during the interim period, the two sides would contribute an equal number of troops to a joint force to be deployed along the north-south border as follows: 24,000 troops in South Sudan, 6,000 in the Nuba Mountains, 6,000 in the Blue Nile province and 3,000 in Khartoum.

The agreement has entered a very critical stage. Controversy has flared inside Sudan over several pending issues regarding borders, the division of oil wealth and the disputed Abyei region. Talks are currently in progress in Addis Ababa in the hope of resolving these problems. In addition, there has arisen the question of nationality in the event that southerners opt for secession. The SPLM has proposed dual nationality or "joint nationality" for citizens of the south.

The repercussions of secession of the south could be powerful and far-reaching. Many fear that it may trigger renewed conflict between the north and the south if tensions flare over the many pending issues. Disputed border regions, such as the Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Abyei areas, could well become flashpoints. The contagion of conflict could spread to other strife-ridden areas, such as Darfur and West Sudan. In the newly independent entity in the south, leaders will face enormous challenges, not least of which is the need to develop the means to counter security threats. Repercussions of the south's secession could snowball regionally, particularly into neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, all of which have ethnically diverse populations and could be potential candidates for ethnic strife.

Northern Sudan will be in for an even greater share of difficulties. It is geographically larger and demographically it is more populous, more economically productive and better educated. However, these advantages could evaporate in the event of the fragmentation of the Sudanese elite, whose disputes and fault lines might no longer be containable by a Sudanese army that had fallen into disrepute for having "lost the south". More serious problems could arise in the process of the search for the identity of the newly reborn Sudan in the post-secession era.

After its separation from Egypt in 1956, Sudan was founded as a multi-ethnic democratic state. It contrasted starkly with the more demographically homogeneous Egypt, which had moved towards authoritarian government following the removal from power of General Mohamed Naguib, who had Sudanese roots, and the end of political party plurality and, hence, the dissolution of parties that had championed the unity of Egypt and Sudan. One of those parties was the National Unionist Party whose Sudanese chapter came to power in the 1956 elections in Sudan and then opted for separation from Egypt. The same phenomenon would reoccur in the early 1960s between Egypt and Syria, when the Baath Party that had originally spearheaded the Syrian drive for unity with Egypt changed its mind three years after the creation of the United Arab Republic and spearheaded the breakaway drive.

In all events, such wondrous ironies are not of immediate concern here. The point is that time has come full circle and Sudan is once again on the verge of having to discover a new identity after having lost a large component of its plurality with the secession of the south, which appears to be the most likely outcome of the forthcoming referendum there. Will Sudan move closer to Egypt? This seems like the most natural and logical outcome. Certainly it would offer the two countries great strategic advantages and it would give the south an incentive for maintaining a close and constructive relationship with the north, or at least for avoiding an adversarial and destructive one

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