UN must help Sudan Stabilize!

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

African state Sudan is on the verge of division or even disintegration and the oil-rich South is spearheading for a separate nation. The region remains one of the poorest areas of the world. The south in Sudan is due to hold a referendum on independence in 2011. The peace deal five years ago ended a 22-year civil war. Last year’s death toll was higher than that in Darfur, in the west, where the humanitarian situation is already dire.

Africa’s largest country marks the fifth anniversary of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), signed by Sudan’s central government and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The deal, brokered by outside powers, ended one of Africa’s longest conflicts: a civil war between north and south that began in 1983 and has claimed an estimated 2 million lives, driving 4 million people from their homes and destabilizing much of east Africa. The peace deal saw President Omar al-Bashir’s northern National Congress Party (NCP) enter government with the SPLM rebels fromthe south.

The SPLM has accused the NCP of stirring up ethnic violence in the south to destabilize the region ahead of the polls – charges the northern party denies. More people died from violence in southern Sudan last year than in Darfur. There is also a call on the UN SC to make the protection of civilians a priority when renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in April 2010. The humanitarian situation in southern Sudan is already one of the worst in the world. However, there is now a heavy international presence in the country – unlike previous crises the country has gone through. Sudan’s ambassador to London, Omar Muhammad Siddiq, acknowledged that the situation in southern Sudan was “deteriorating”. He said communities were competing for scarce resources and were arming themselves and fighting “tribal wars”. However, he argued that the unrest would not affect the election, in which he said parties and voters were preparing to participate.

Most of Sudan’s oil fields straddle the north-south border, which has yet to be demarcated, while hundreds of thousands of southerners in the north, and northerners living in the south, would be left in limbo if their nationalities were left undefined. The problem of whether a separate south would respect international agreements is also highlighted, citing the example of an agreement with Egypt over Nile waters. Guarantors of the CPA, including the US, the EU and the UN, have been distracted by the crisis in Darfur and have failed to take a tough stand in response to clear violations of the agreement- probably, they deliberately ignored the issue so as to let insurgency develop into a full form. This has allowed the situation to fester. aid groups are calling for concerted international mediation to help Khartoum and southern Sudan resolve key issues, above all those related to the 2011 referendum and its aftermath. They are urging the government of southern Sudan to move beyond civilian disarmament and strengthen its ability to provide internal security, protect civilians and address community grievances.

The aid agencies cite disputes over Sudan’s oil resources, April’s election and the independence referendum as potential flashpoints. Ten international aid groups say a 2005 peace deal in Sudan is also on the verge of collapse and that the world must act now to prevent renewed conflict. A return to conflict would have devastating consequences extending far beyond southern Sudan. The country is clearly at the start of a highly charged and risky 12 months. The agencies blamed a “lethal cocktail” of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions. They perhaps fear that tensions ahead of planned elections in April and a referendum in southern Sudan next year – tensions that will almost certainly result in secession – could kill off the CPA and unleash renewed strife.

On the eve of referendum, Britain, Sudan’s former colonizer, announced a £54m aid package for humanitarian aid for elections. Most of the money – £36m – will be used by UN agencies and NGOs to to help rebuild southern Sudan and prepare for April’s elections; to provide emergency water and sanitation, healthcare and shelter. Aid groups have warned that international diplomacy to support a fragile peace deal in Sudan must intensify orthe south of the country will suffer a humanitarian disaster. British Foreign Office minister Glenys Kinnock, who is due to visit Sudan, noted that many Sudanese still live in poverty. “They are doing disastrously, and that is reflected in the terrible poverty and relentless suffering of the people,” she said. But she added that fully blown conflict could still be averted.

NGO Oxfam has pointed to a surge of violence last year in southern Sudan, with the death of 2,500 people and the flight of 350,000 people from their homes. Divisions within the SPLM add to the sense of volatility. But tensions are again rising between the former enemies in the run-up to the referendum and April’s general election – the first nationwide poll for 24 years. Earlier this week, Ghazi Salaheddin, a senior adviser to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, raised the spectre of all-out hostilities when he warned that the 2011 referendum would lead to a new war unless key questions of the north-south border, nationality, the sharing of oil wealth and foreign debts of $30bn (£18.7bn) were settled.

Clearly, the Western powers, as usual, are interfering in the internal affairs of Sudan too, especially Briton does it so openly. The Sudan situation is not as good as the Sudanese were expecting after the signature of the comprehensive peace agreement. The strength of the UN peacekeeping mission has yet to be tested, but almost 10,000 military personnel are charged with keeping the peace inthe south. World appeals for the leadership of both sides to ensure that they talk together, they work together with the same motivation, which is to bring peace, prosperity and security to Sudan. UN has to play a pro-active role in Sudan by not letting foreign forces take control of the situation with an eye on its energy resources- a modern trend in Western terrorism-cum enegry politics.

Dr. Abdul Ruff ColachalSpecialist on State Terrorism
Independent Columnist in International Affairs, Research Scholar (JNU) & the only Indian to have gone through entire India, a fraud and terror nation in South Asia.


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