CAIRO July 13, 2011 (Witnessing Life) – Despite countless attempts by African leaders to negotiate a resolution between north and south over the current border crisis, experts warn that Khartoum could face some major challenges following the south’s split.
Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir and president of the autonomous region of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Myardit agreed to continue Sudanese peace negotiations following the south’s independence.
The announcement came during talks at the six-nation East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa – which were aimed at resolving pending issues around the future of the contested region of Abyei, demarcation of the common border areas, resource sharing, oil revenues and citizenship.
“If Khartoum’s relationship with South Sudan is not well managed then it could lead to a resumption of large-scale war,” Africa researcher with Chatham House, Roger Middleton told Witnessing Life.
“This could damage Khartoum’s attempts to normalise its international relations, cost a huge amount and the National Congress Party’s (NCP’s) ability to deliver economic growth to northerners would be compromised and hence their political legitimacy.”
IGAD, which was a key player in brokering the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan’s two decades long civil war, is among a series of negotiations held by African leaders in recent months with the hopes of averting a new civil war in Sudan.
However, a recent report by the International Crisis Group titled, ‘Divisions in Sudan’s Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country’s Future Stability,’ contends that accords like the 2005 CPA have failed to resolve the main factors driving chronic conflict in Sudan.
“Khartoum’s ruling NCP think they have the situation in Darfur under control and discount the possibility of conflict in the transitional areas of Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, believing that those regions are divided, and their military forces are not an imminent threat to Khartoum now that the South is focused on other issues,” Fouad Hikmat, International Crisis Group’s African Union and Sudan Senior Adviser based in Nairobi told Witnessing Life.
“However, if the NCP remains committed to the party’s goal of imposing an Arab-Islamic identity on the rest of Sudan then a ‘new south’ could emerge in the transitional areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile and other marginalised areas – leading to more violence unless Khartoum addresses their grievances by establishing a more inclusive government.”
Despite geographically located in the north, many in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state sympathized with the south’s quest for freedom.
During the Sudanese civil war many fighters from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile joined the south’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political wing of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in their fight against the central government in Khartoum.
Analysts warn that current fighting in Southern Kordofan and ongoing attacks in western Sudan’s Darfur, may lead to indigenous uprisings from marginalised northern provinces that feel their demand for greater autonomy will not be achieved politically after South Sudan’s partition.
“What we’re going to increasingly see in places like the Nuba Mountains is that some of the old grievances that haven’t been addressed will re-surface because if they feel that the southern question is settled in the post July-era then they’ll want to make their voices heard,” Senior Fellow and Program Coordinator of African Security Institutions at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, Dr. Alhaji Sarjoh Bah said in an interview with Witnessing Life.
“Of course this is happening in an environment that is highly militarised where the consequences for the civilians is certainly bound to be high.”
Clashes between northern and southern forces have escalated in recent weeks in South Kordofan as well as in the highly disputed oil-rich region of Abyei, which the United Nations (UN) says has internally displaced thousands.
During negotiations two weeks ago in Addis Ababa, Khartoum’s NCP expressed interest in signing an agreement with the south’s SPLM to resolve the conflict in South Kordofan state but talks later broke down after accusations started flying from both sides.
Although leaders of the SPLM-dominated government of South Sudan (GoSS) has expressed an eagerness to focus on development rather than engaging in another war with Khartoum post-secession, analysts say that the south could indirectly be drawn into conflict.
“South Kordofan and Blue Nile state is of course home to a strong, militarized pro-SPLM community, which is resisting and fighting for political autonomy,” Acting Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment project manager, Emile LeBrun told Witnessing Life.
“We might certainly see the GoSS’ SPLA supporting its allies in South Kordofan and Blue Nile post-secession,” adds Le Brun. “At times both the northern and southern governments have armed communities either because they didn’t want to commit armed forces there, or in order to create and maintain proxies."