Two Sudans: the Challenges Ahead
9 July 2011:
As South Sudan secedes from the north, tensions between the two continue. Key issues have yet to be resolved, including many points of shared economic and political policy. EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project Director, discusses the challenges facing the two Sudans.
Download podcast (mp3) | Subscribe through RSS | Subscribe through iTunes
Welcome to this podcast from the International Crisis Group. I'm Kimberly Abbott. Today, South Sudan officially secedes from the north, concluding a decades-long struggle for independence and creating the world's newest state. But the situation on the ground is far from settled. The south's secession has strained north-south relations and sparked clashes over contested territories such as Abyei. In addition, negotiators have so far been unable to agree on many points of shared economic and political policy to implement after partition. I'm joined today by EJ Hoogendorn, Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project Director.
EJ, what are the immediate concerns as the south finally transitions to independence?
I think there are a number of concerns. First of all, we need to ensure there’s peace between the north and the south, and that essentially entails finding agreement on as many post-separation issues as possible. We also need to deal with insecurity in some of the border regions, in particular Unity State. And thirdly the parties in South Sudan need to find agreement on the transitional draft constitution that will take the government forward after independence.
What are some of the sticking points in the post-transitional environment that you mentioned first?
Right now, as we speak, they're negotiating on sharing oil. They are trying to negotiate an agreement on the border and exactly where the border will run. They are also dealing with such issues as citizenship of northerners living in the south and southerners living in the north, particularly in Khartoum - things like currency, things like debts, financial arrangements, trade, all these things that allow two countries to peacefully interact.
And you also mention the draft constitution. What are the main sticking points there?
Well, unfortunately, the draft constitution, as it is written right now, has some pretty troubling authoritarian tendencies in it. So, for example, one of the things we are very concerned about is that the president will have the right to unilaterally sack governors and state representatives. That, of course, gives him a great deal of power vis-à-vis opposition members. Also, for members within his party, it would make his government less inclusive than we think is necessary for peace and stability in the south.
So, it seems to me that one of the main tasks of the new government of Southern Sudan should be to open up that political space?
Correct. One of the priorities we would identify for the south, and specifically for the ruling party, the SPLM, would be to open up the political process, both among political parties and within the SPLM itself. One of the biggest challenges we have right now is that there is a perception, certainly in the south, that it is being dominated by the SPLM and that these opposition parties from other regions don’t get enough of a say in the government at the moment.
The SPLM was a liberation movement and was run along very authoritarian military lines, and that legacy still remains. It is not a very democratic party internally, and that has led to many frustrations among grassroots members of the party as to their ability to influence policy development by the government.
What needs to be done, then, to decentralize a bit and bring some of those other parties into the fold?
That's a good point. In fact, we would like to see decentralization on a number of different fronts. One would be to make the environment much more accommodating for a healthy multiparty political process, in which there is an exchange of ideas, where people compete meaningfully for power in Juba and also in other states.
That said, one of the problems we have seen so far in South Sudan is that power is concentrated very much in the capital, in Juba, and that many of the other regions in the peripheries don't feel that they are being adequately represented by the capital and are not getting their fair share of the resources that the state is generating. This is actually something that has been a problem in Sudan for decades, and we would hate for the south to start to replicate this bad model of governance that has led, actually, to separation from the north.
When you speak of getting their fair share, one of the things that comes to mind is oil, which you did touch on earlier. But what are some of the other issues that need to be diversified in terms of development?
Right now, the government earns about 98 percent of its revenue from oil resources. The government is extremely dependent on oil. At the same time, oil is essentially the economy of South Sudan. That means it has lots of money at its disposal, but it doesn't mean that it is generating a great deal of opportunity for most Southern Sudanese. There is a problem with oil in that, essentially, the infrastructure and the employment opportunities in that sector are extremely concentrated, so very few of these benefits trickle down to the regular population.
What we think is most important is for South Sudan to focus on developing some of those other sectors that would employ many more people in the south, in particular agriculture. We believe that South Sudan has the potential to become the bread basket for the entire region. Unfortunately, South Sudan lacks the infrastructure, it lacks the technology, it lacks the know-how to maximize its potential for agricultural production. In addition to that, there are other industries such as mining and logging that could also be very lucrative and job creating industries for South Sudan.
What role should the international community play after partition, specifically the UN or UN Mission in Sudan?
What will be happening is that the UN Mission in Sudan will be moving all of its operations to South Sudan, and it is changing its mandate to a large degree from one that was largely focused on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to supporting the establishment of a strong and stable state in South Sudan. Obviously, that is a nation-building exercise rather than a peacekeeping exercise.
And it’s a mission that has evolved over the past several years, since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement?
Correct. There has been a lot of planning going on around what the UN mission in Sudan will become as it transitions to just operating in the south. Clearly, what will happen is that there will be a lot more support activities that it’s providing in terms of giving the government of South Sudan the capacity to better administer its territory, to provide basic service, etc. That said, there will still be a protection of civilian component, because, of course, as we've mentioned insecurity will probably be a concern for a number of years to come.
And will there be another border monitoring mission as well, separate from the UN mission?
Yes, in fact, there will be. One of the problems we've identified and that the international community has identified is that the border is being contested in a number of different sectors. At the same time, creating this border is going to also generate tensions within local communities. Both the north and the south have agreed to establish a demilitarized zone of ten kilometers on each side. That demilitarized zone will be monitored by unarmed monitoring teams composed of international observers, and also observers from both the north and the south. Those teams will have to be supported and protected by the UN. It looks now like that support will be generated mostly by the UN interim security force for Abyei. That will remain to be seen what the modalities of those missions are.
Will this border monitoring mission have a role beyond a military role? Should it have any sort of political role?
At the moment, that’s unclear. We do believe that this mission requires a civilian political component, in large part because an important role that this border monitoring mission can play is to provide conflict mediation, and creating trust and confidence among these communities and enhancing transparency and accountability amongst all the different actors that are involved in this process and this agreement.
Edited for Print