ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, July 11, 2005 (PANA) -- Last weekend ushered in a 'New Sudan' with a legendary guerrilla war bastion from the devastated south of the country becoming First Vice President of the country.
But what does the future hold for the country whose history is full of ignominious chapters of conflicts and associated human crises?
The swearing on 9 July 2005 of Dr. John Garang, leader of Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), as Vice President in the new Sudanese Government of National Unity may represent a giant step towards durable peace in Africa's largest country.
What worries many, however, is whether peace would hold and let the whole country prosper or any misstep could lead the 60-year old Garang back to the bush.
For over two decades, SPLM/A fought a vicious guerrilla war against the Arab-speaking dominated regime in Khartoum.
While the outside saw it as a war of getting an Islamic hold on the largely animist and Christian South, the Southern Sudanese maintained that they were shedding blood for self-determination.
Sudan has been ravaged by civil wars on different fronts since its independence in 1956.
Political, social and economic marginalisation, as a veiled policy of the minority clique in Khartoum, was at the centre of the conflicts in which millions of lives perished, millions were displaced and millions became destitute.
Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on 9 January 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya, between SPLM/A and the Government of Sudan (GoS), Garang has also assumed the Presidency of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), provisionally based in Rumbek town.
The Interim Constitution under which GoS and GoSS have been formed, provide for the holding of a referendum in Southern Sudan in 2011, which will enable the people of the South to determine whether they will choose to remain within Sudan, as it is known now, or opt to become a new state.
"It is the calculation of Northern politicians that, during the interim period, they will persuade the people of Southern Sudan to appreciate the attraction of unity," argues Dr Njunga Mulikita, a freelance democracy and governance advisor, based in Nairobi.
Mulikita, who until recently was senior governance advisor with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in South Sudan, suggests that by channelling oil revenues into the South Sudan Reconstruction and Development Fund (SSRDF), GoS could attract the fervour of the Southerners to national unity.
"The revenues would then be used for a massive recovery and reconstruction programme in a region that was devastated by the long-running civil war," he told PANA.
"As schools, water, sanitation, hospitals, roads and other social infrastructure become available, the political elite in the North reckons that Southerners will choose to remain in Sudan."
Given the deep mistrust between Northerners and Southerners after so many years of war, it is absolutely vital that the international community promotes confidence-building measures between both sides.
"Had the international community, particularly African countries, adopted a robust stance against the Numeiri government when it unilaterally abrogated the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, Sudan might not have suffered two decades of a destructive civil war," Mulikita argues.
That pact had accorded Southern Sudan substantial autonomy.
According to the governance expert, the international community should draw a lesson from the past experience and ensure that both sides meet their obligations under the CPA.
Moreover, Mulikita said that a rapid and vigorously implemented capacity building programme was needed for Southern Sudan.
Essentially, the programme should focus on human and institutional capacities to accompany autonomy for Southern Sudan.
"Capable states in Southern Sudan, founded on transparency, accountability and the rule of law must rapidly emerge if the oil revenues, plus external resources, are to reach the most disadvantaged and vulnerable categories," Mulikita emphasised.
To avert disenchantment with the 'New Sudan', the expert strongly advised that SPLA combatants wounded during the war must be rehabilitated.
Also, fighters who will be demobilised and the rest of the war-weary population must be given access to sustainable livelihoods.
"It is not possible to tell which way Southerners will vote in the referendum scheduled for 2011," Mulikita said, recalling the 1993 referendum in the erstwhile Ethiopian province of Eritrea.
Eritrea voted to break away from Ethiopia and has since become an independent nation.
"Evidence shows that armed conflict situations tend to give groups of people who have suffered real or perceived suppression or subjugation, a distinct group or national identity," Mulikita added.