The Next Sudanese Peace?
These days’ mood in Khartoum is a mixture of disillusionment, suspicion and fear: not the best feelings for a country which finds itself at a crucial moment to determine its future. Amidst a growing anxiety, the different actors involved on the political scene seem to be affected by a form of paralysis: they are not willing to act, instead, they prefer to wait-and-see and then react. It is a war of positions in which the aim is to burden on the other’s back what is perceived as in imminent failure.
Since July 2005, both the NCP and the SPLM/A have given the impression to run on parallel binaries, each one pursuing its own agenda while trying to manage its internal divisions. Nonetheless, they were conscious to be traveling on the same train and they knew that if it had derailed, it would have meant the end of the ride for both. This is the reason why, maybe beyond expectations, the NCP and the SPLM/A managed during the last years to overcome all the obstacles that threatened to put at risk the implementation of the CPA.
At present, it seems that each one is planning to step down at a different stop: for the NCP, the elections, for the SPLM/A, the referendum. They seem not to be conscious that the referendum won’t be the end of the ride, but just the beginning of a longer one.
The NCP’s calculation concerning the coming elections is not something that is to be dealt with in this posting. What I want to stress is that even among Northerners, everybody has come to accept the idea that the referendum will result in the secession of Southern Sudan. Put it simply, NCP’s legitimacy rests on a full implementation of the CPA, and the referendum is part of it, willing or not.
The real question at this moment is: what to do after secession? This is the real problem. In fact, everybody seems to know it, but nobody seems brave enough to face it. The NCP and the SPLM/A, along with foreign envoys, are still quarreling about Referendum Law, quorum, etc. but what Sudan needs at present is the two parties sitting around a table and beginning to discuss how secession is going to take place and how the relations between the two new entities will be settled.
Despite years of war, Northern and Southern Sudan are still strongly tied together by virtue of economic and social relations.
I’ve heard many “Southerners” living in the North saying that they don’t want to go back in the South: they have a job here, they have a house, their children are born here and have studied Arabic at school. The question is: how to assure a smooth transition, to avoid deportation of Southerners from the North to the South and vice-versa (remember Pakistan 1947)?
What about oil? The SPLM/A has declared that it’s determined to build its own refinery and a pipeline running through Kenya to Mombasa. It is a project that will take – if carried out efficiently and without interruptions – at least five years: what are the Southerners going to do with oil during these years? A form of wealth sharing must be set up for the post-referendum period.
What about other economic ties: trade, land owned by Northerners in the South, etc.? How is the circulation of people and goods to be regulated? What is needed is to devise some sort of “soft border” safeguarding the interests of both Northerners and Southerners.
These are the real issues at stake. Time is running out, and such deals will take time to be negotiated.
Call it “CPA-plus”, “CPA-Upgrade”, “Post-transition Agreement”,… it must be clear that is not a re-negotiation of the CPA which is needed, but a fully new agreement. Of course – for instance in matters like wealth sharing – CPA formulae may provide a useful point of departure, and in some cases an extension of some CPA provision could suffice.
There is nothing that can’t be avoided. Since the signature of the CPA, too many observers have written and spoken about “the next Sudanese civil war”. War is not something unavoidable, but unfortunately peace is not something reached once and for all. It’s a choice that must be renewed, and this is the case in Sudan. It’s not a question of optimism or idealism, it’s a matter of realism.
Giorgio Musso is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Genova (Italy)