Magazine article New African

High Noon in Sudan

Magazine article New African

High Noon in Sudan

Article excerpt

A new independent African state may emerge on the banks of the Upper White Nile after 9 January 2011 when the people of Southern Sudan (both at home and in the diaspora) vote in a referendum to either remain part of a united Sudan or secede for a country of their own. This is unprecedented in the history of independent Africa, where attempts to break up colonial borders have either been achieved through war or quashed by force of arms. How did Sudan get to the point where a peaceful divorce now seems possible? Jacob J. Akol, a long-time contributor to New African, charts below the various scenarios that have led Africa's largest country to the unique position it is in today.

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SUDAN IS ON THE VERGE OF HISTORY - HISTORY AS has never been made this side of post-independence Africa where a peaceful break-up of colonial borders is unknown. On 9 January 2011, a brand new country may be carved out of Southern Sudan. And not one bullet would have been fired!

Much of that will be thanks to the determination of the USA to bring about a comprehensive peace deal in Sudan. Not only did Washington pay most of the hotel bills (running into millions of dollars) of the various delegations of peace negotiators, the Americans also insisted on the negotiating parties finding solutions to difficult issues that previous negotiations had failed to resolve or had led the negotiators to dishonour the agreements.

When various negotiators seemed to lack the authority to make decisions, the Americans insisted on having on board cop leaders who would make those decisions. Dr John Garang, the late chairman and commander-in-chief of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and Ustas Ali Osman Taha, the then first vice president of Sudan, became the lead negotiators in Naivasha, Kenya.

But there were times when the negotiations came to a standstill for days while the two leaders wanted to get away, only to be told by the Americans to stay put. At one point in September 2003, the Americans insisted that the two leaders stay in Naivasha until they reached an agreement.

But the Americans were not being entirely altruistic. They have long associated President Mohamed Omar al-Bashir's government in Khartoum with the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. And after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, Washington was even more determined to remove any suspected or alleged connections between Bin Laden and Khartoum.

In addition, President Bashir's troops were pinned down in garrison towns in the South as well as fighting the SPLA in the Nuba Mountains in the North, and in Southern Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan. The Darfur insurgency in Western Sudan also came to the boil in 2003.

President Bashir signed the deal, known as the "Comprehensive Peace Agreement" (CPA), in Nairobi, Kenya, on 9 January 2005, after three long years of negotiations.

The CPA gave Southerners the right to vote for unity or secession following an Interim Period of six years and six months, during which time unity of Sudan would be made "attractive" to Southerners. The CPA also gave Abyei, a part of the South that was administered from the North, the right to decide in a referendum either to remain with the North or rejoin the South.

Two other territories in the North bordering the South, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, were also granted the right to decide through their parliaments whether to closely associate with the North or the South at the end of the Interim Period.

A Government of National Unity (GoNU) would be sec up in Khartoum while a Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) would be set up in Juba. While the Sharia (Islamic law) would remain part of governance in the North, the South would be governed under secular laws.

The South's oil would be shared equally between North and South in the Interim Period. …

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