Voting Was the Easy Part

In July, Sudan and newly independent South Sudan will go their separate ways. They both have their work cut out for them.

Tags: Sudan Africa
Amiel Ungar , | updated: 9:48 PM

Bridge in Juba  South Sudan
Bridge in Juba South Sudan


For a while it looked as though South Sudan was headed for a happy ending. Last month's referendum, in which the participants voted overwhelmingly (99%) in favor of secession from Sudan, appeared to have resolved the issue and broken the back of any hope that Khartoum would be able to forestall independence.

Western countries, most notably the United States, are willing to reward Khartoum for playing the good sport and swallowing South Sudanese independence by lifting Sudan's classification as a state that abets terror.

The referendum has turned out to be the easy part.  Now the North and South must each attempt to govern the amputated and new state, respectively, as well as decide the unresolved issues between them.

South Sudan has been plagued by violence instigated by renegade military leaders. Over 200 people. mostly civilians, were killed when George Athor, who had been defeated in an election for a state governorship that he claimed was fraudulent, launched attacks. The ability to impose order is a primary test of statehood.

An embarrassed South Sudan leadership was quick to blame the North. Pagan Amum, a senior official of the South's ruling party, charged "You know that George Athor  who just caused the massacre … his guns are coming from Khartoum,”.  What makes the charge credible is that the North used precisely such tactics during the Civil War as part of a 'divide and conquer' strategy aimed at the South. A member of the National Congress Party of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was quick to deny the accusation. The renegade group, he affirmed, was strictly a southern group, without any connection to the North.

The Moslem north, however, has been drawn into the maelstrom of the protests in the Arab world and its ruler Omar al-Bashir has launched a series of preemptive arrests of potential rivals. The rivals range from those seeking greater participation to Islamists who criticize Bashir for allowing the South to secede. 

Each side is trying to put its own house into order, and other problems are being neglected.

The most dangerous issue is the control of the oil fields that constitute Sudan's main source of revenue. What makes this issue even more explosive is that the richest oilfields are located in the border areas between the North and South. The border has not yet been demarcated.

During the hiatus between the 2005 peace agreement and last month's referendum, a 50-50 split of the revenues between North and South as well as the presence of a UN force helped stabilize this issue.  Now Northern Sudan wants the UN force to leave, claiming it constitutes a source of foreign interference in the country. The next step is uncertain.

Another unresolved issue is who succeeds the former single state  in terms of rights and obligations. When the Soviet Union broke up, Russia succeeded the Soviet Union on such issues as the Security Council Seat at the UN and ownership of the former Soviet embassies. In return, Russia assumed all the obligations. How this will work out between two more or less equal states is still a matter for speculation.

South Sudan has heightened fears that it will try to freeze the North out of the oil game by floating proposals for constructing pipelines in the event of new oil discoveries in the South, so as to bypass the North.  This  would have the landlocked South not having to share revenues with the North for exporting its oil. The South is looking to Kenya as a potential outlet for its oil to avoid dependence on the North, and  this has served to heighten northern suspicions.

A major difference between the two states may be a change in attitude towards Israel. Southern Sudan leader, Suleiman Al Chariri has invited Druze MK Ayoub Kara (LIkud)  to visit  his country to discuss establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.