Jan 292010

War and Peace in South Sudan

The US-brokered peace agreement between North and South Sudan stipulates that in 2011 Southern Sudanese may vote in a referendum whether or not to remain part of the Republic of Sudan or to secede, thereby taking much of Sudan’s oil-reserves with it.

As the government in Khartoum fails to make good on the peace dividends mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement Southerners remain wary of the North.

Moreover, continued incursions by Sudanese Armed Forces or allied militia in oil-rich parts of South Sudan, such as that witnessed in Abyei in 2008 in which 18 civilians were deliberately killed and tens of thousands more displaced, only serve to create further instability and threaten to de-rail the peace agreement altogether.

Sabre-Rattling – Charles Yor Odhok, PhD, Parliamentary Speaker; former SPLM rebel; “Warlord”.

Subtitle Dr. Charles: “Tell Omar Bashir, we told them, tell Omar Bashir, and we are asking our American friends also to talk to Omar Bashir, if not even subdue him, not to talk about war, because it is not a good thing. It’s not even a good thing for him. It’s not even a good thing for Northerners. Because who knows? Despite the Chinese weapons he is getting, can they defeat the SPLA? Which is now existing in our main towns, and at the boundaries. Can they defeat it? They could not defeat it when they were just fighting in the jungle. When we are fighting at the boundaries we do not know who can easily cross whose border. We do not know who is at the boundaries. The boundaries are being disputed. We are almost closer to the boundaries. As we don’t want war, we don’t want war. But if they attempt to invade Southern Sudan we do not know who will cross whose border quicker than the other.”

Jan 292010

This documentary film looks more closely at why we need to pay attention to the story of Sudan, to the violence in Darfur of course, but also throughout the country, and to the reasons behind the International Community’s failure to end the violence in Darfur. The experts on Sudan that I have spoken with all agree that a solution for Darfur, indeed the origins of the conflict in Darfur, must not be seen as an isolated situation. Both must be seen in context with the North-South conflict. The violence in Darfur broke out as the US brokered a peace agreement between North and South Sudan, one which ended almost 50 years of civil war between North and South Sudan.

Beyond the moral imperative to stop what many call, “the first genocide of the 21st century”, if Sudan’s conflicts and the Government of Sudan’s impunity go unchecked, and if violence continues to threaten to erupt between North and South Sudan, as well as indeed within South Sudan, as it does in fits and starts, the consequences would be felt throughout the region, and even globally. All of Sudan (including South Sudan) is rich in oil, uranium, and gold, Al Qaeda is present, and arms are smuggled through Sudan to and from the Horn of Africa, through the Sinai and onward. Iran is a good friend of the regime in Khartoum. So was Libya’s late leader Muammar Ghaddafi.

Life is untenable, despite the CPA (2009) :

My colleague in Juba, South Sudan’s capitol, tells me that oil prices are so high that there is no clean water available in the city – the water filters run on generators, which run on oil. And this is in Africa’s third-largest oil producing country. 85 percent of that oil is in South Sudan.

Food prices have shot up also – since the irrigation system in South Sudan was destroyed during the civil war most staples come from the North. Oil prices have also accounted for the increase in food prices. Life has simply become untenable, my colleague reports, compared to one year ago when I was last there.

Since the expulsion of aid organizations from Darfur more people have been displaced by violence and hunger and disease and are crossing regional and national borders, while the aid agencies cannot cope with the need because their budgets are dwindling. The men are all too aware of the possibility of a new war, and the women and children continue their daily chores of searching for clean drinking water, pumping the water filters all day long where they even exist, and grinding the grains, thatching roofs, and lamenting that life has become so hard that the children cannot go to school, where schools even exist.

In short, mothers cannot feed their children, let alone send them to school.