Sudan's Southern Kordofan Problem: The Next Darfur?
21 Oct 2008
Conditions like those that produced the Darfur conflict exist today in Southern Kordofan state where prospects of a new Sudanese civil war are real.
Sudan’s Southern Kordofan: The Next Darfur?, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the deteriorating situation in this strategic region between North and South, where both members of the Government of National Unity, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP), have been dangerously engaged in ethnic polarisation in advance of national elections scheduled for 2009. The kidnapping of nine Chinese oil workers in Southern Kordofan last week illustrates the volatility of the state.
“The Khartoum government must rapidly address the worsening situation or face the prospect of a devastating new conflict”, said Fouad Hikmat, Horn of Africa Project Director. “The credibility of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South war in 2005 as a framework for conflict resolution is at stake. If it fails to settle the disputes along the North-South border, it won’t provide credible solutions for other conflicts, such as Darfur. There has been limited recent progress, but much more is urgently needed”.
The Southern Kordofan state’s inhabitants are armed and feel abandoned by their former patrons, who have not kept their promises to provide peace dividends. Return of internally displaced persons (IDPs), development projects and creation of an integrated state government administration have all stalled. Hundreds have died in disputes over land and grazing rights, with no indication of a sustainable local or national response.
There is still time to calm the situation before the elections. The NCP and SPLM must accelerate integration of the state government and combatants within the Joint Integrated Units and pursue disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programs. Reconciliation among the state’s tribes is paramount. The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the wider international community also have vital roles to play in stabilising the state. UNMIS should become an active partner in local conflict prevention, along with the tribal authorities. Simultaneously, the CPA’s international guarantors and Sudan’s bilateral partners should press Khartoum to pay more attention to peacebuilding.
“Prevention of a new conflict in Southern Kordofan needs to be placed prominently on both national and international agendas”, says Francois Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “It is dangerously late but not yet too late to show the frontline populations that a new war is not the way to address their grievances”.