September 24, 2010
At the UN headquarters in New York today, SPLM leader Salva Kiir is scheduled to meet with President Obama, General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and EU representatives, to discuss South Sudan’s strategy for independence.
Africa’s biggest country, Sudan (“the land of the blacks” in the original Arabic), is in the process of splitting in two, North Sudan and South Sudan, the latter of which intends to proclaim its independence from Khartoum immediately after a planned January 9, 2011 secession referendum.
After 50 long years of civil war between the Arabic, Islamic north and the predominantly Christian south, which left 2.5 million people dead and many more millions displaced, the international community forced general Bashir, the president of Sudan, to accept the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The accord endeavours to transform Sudan into a federal republic, but also provides for secession in case of failure. Largely conforming to the religious and military tensions that led to the unravelling of Yugoslavia’s federalism, the southern Sudanese rejected Khartoum’s recent fistful-of-dollars approach compensating them for their huge losses and now want to build their own state.
According to analysts, the exuberance of the South’s SPLM (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement) and of its leader Salva Kiir, who already builds his presidential palace in the would-be capital Juba, is not shared by the Khartoum leadership. President al Bashir likes to talk about maintaining the high rate of economic growth and about keeping the unity of Sudan, while the North’s population is in denial regarding the country’s upcoming break-up. Moreover, Bashir is actively trying to sabotage the referendum by appointing Salah Gosh, the former head of Sudanese intelligence, to oversee its preparations. The Khartoum leadership is also supplying weapons to splinter rebel groups in the south in order to weaken SPLM’s grip on power (source: The Economist).
The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has recently stated that South Sudan’s impending independence is “inevitable”. As Western support during the referendum, or in the event that South Sudan declares its independence unilaterally, is crucial to avoiding another blood bath in the region, the EU’s representatives should extend all possible assistance to the parties concerned, with a view to obtaining a peaceful outcome.Florian Pantazi