USIP’s Jon Temin provides a preview of South Sudan’s upcoming independence on July 9.

South Sudan Independence

USIP’s Jon Temin provides a preview of South Sudan’s upcoming independence on July 9.

How would you assess the overall state of play in Sudan in the days leading up to southern Sudan’s independence?

Sudan has gone through a difficult period following the surprisingly successful and peaceful referendum in January. Recently, there has been substantial violence along the north-south border, especially in the Abyei region and the northern state of Southern Kordofan. Violence within southern Sudan has also increased, as has violence in the western region of Darfur. This does not bode will for the future stability of (northern) Sudan and South Sudan; for too long violence has been the norm, not the exception. Critical negotiations on post-referendum arrangements – including sharing of oil revenue, debts and assets and complex citizenship issues – are ongoing and will have a significant impact on north-south relations after the south secedes.

It is hoped that key aspects of those negotiations will be concluded by July 9th, but time is short and there are many distractions for the parties. Part of the role of the international community should be to try to keep them focused on these crucial negotiations.

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What are some potential flashpoints that you will be looking for in the run-up to the July 9 independence?

One near-term indicator of the future prospects of both states is whether those post-referendum negotiations are largely concluded around July 9th, or if they linger without resolution. Another will be whether recent temporary agreements intended to arrest violence in Abyei and Southern Kordofan are fully implemented; Sudanese history is littered with well-written agreements that are largely unimplemented. Longer term, the economic stability of both states will be vitally important.

The north will lose a significant percentage of its revenue due to diminished access to southern oil (approximately 80 percent of Sudan’s oil is in the south), and will struggle make-up for that lost revenue elsewhere. The south is almost entirely dependent on oil revenue for income, but needs access to northern pipelines and refineries to export it. The south will eventually need to diversity its economy away from oil, but that will be a challenge is a very underdeveloped state. The patience of populations in both the north and south may be tested by coming economic difficulties.

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How is USIP working to ensure stability in Sudan – and why is Sudan’s security important for U.S. policy?

USIP has been deeply engaged on Sudan for years, and will continue to focus on both states following southern secession. Experts from our Academy frequently conduct trainings and workshops on the ground in Sudan, with a focus on strengthening local capacity and stimulating dialogue between contentious groups (for example, we are supporting a series of dialogues between police and civil society in southern Sudan). We are also providing support to important political processes intended to increase stability, such as the popular consultation processes in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Both Sudans will remain priorities for U.S. policy. They are located in a strategic and volatile neighborhood, especially given the recent upheaval in neighboring Egypt and Libya. Sudan is Africa’s third largest oil producer, and there may be additional oil to be exploited in both the north and south that is so far untapped. The advocacy community that has coalesced around Sudan will continue to be vocal and influential.

Finally, the sheer scale of the suffering in Sudan over the decades – more than 2 million people killed in the north-south civil wars, approximately 300,000 killed in Darfur – means that the U.S. has a strong humanitarian interest in helping the two Sudans to be at peace internally and with one another.

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