This summer, Sudan splits into two countries after a reasonably peaceful referendum earlier this year. But even as the country prepares to go separate ways – Southern Sudan is expected to declare its independence July 9th – there remain a number of issues that, if unresolved, put at risk the hard won peace.

April 21, 2011

USIP AND THREE AFRICAN PRESIDENTS – This summer, Sudan splits into two countries after a reasonably peaceful referendum earlier this year. But even as the country prepares to go separate ways – Southern Sudan is expected to declare its independence July 9th – there remain a number of issues that, if unresolved, put at risk the hard won peace: the status of Abyei, rising violence in the south, oil, water rights, citizenship among the populations of the two countries and the ongoing conflict in Darfur. USIP hosted on April 19 a discussion with the three members of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) that included former South African President Thabo Mbeki, former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya and former Nigerian President Abdulsalami Abubakar.

JON TEMIN’S TAKEAWAY – “President Mbeki made a strong case for why Sudan’s debts should be forgiven, as much of the focus of the AUHIP trip to Washington was on Sudan’s economic future,” says Jon Temin, Sudan expert at USIP. “He also made a compelling argument for why the upcoming processes of developing new constitutions in the north and south will be critical, even though these processes have not yet captured much attention internationally.”

ABYEI: STILL AN ISSUE – Oil-rich Abyei state sits on the fault line of the north and the south and its valuable reserves are sought by both sides. According to The Atlantic magazine in March, trouble there continues to brew: “In the last month, George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project has published satellite imagery showing a spike in military activity and attacks on residents in Abyei. United Nations civilian protection officials are also reporting more clashes in the area and new restrictions on movement of the U.N. peacekeepers.” And, as The Atlantic reports: With so much concern that land and resource disputes could turn violent, “a military conflict or refugee crisis in the area could prove disastrous.”

WATER RIGHTS – It will take time to sort out water rights issues on both sides, but Mbeki said he is confident agreements are forthcoming.

ARE YOU A NORTHERNER OR A SOUTHERNER? – One of the policy issues still under discussion is the question of citizenship for Sudanese and whether they will take citizenship in the north or the south. “Hopefully, we are quite sure that the necessary agreement will be done,” Mbeki told a packed audience in USIP’s Carlucci auditorium. But how long each country will have to work out these details remains unclear; Mbeki queried, “How much time should be given to enable people to decide if they are northern or southern?”

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