Media Backgrounder in Anticipation of South Sudan Independence

WASHINGTON DC – As South Sudan’s Independence Day on July 9th approaches, the international community is focusing on the birth of its newest nation. Media outlets from around the world are covering this historical event. As a tool for journalists who do not have extensive background knowledge on the subject, the Enough Project has created this brief contextual overview on South Sudan and its related issues.

Overview

When Sudan becomes two countries on July 9, 2011, the two new states will face multiple and urgent crises. Although the referendum on Southern independence occurred peacefully on January 9, 2011, many of the other provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, meant to result in democratic transformation across Sudan, remain unimplemented. Provocative military action by the Government of Sudan, especially in the flashpoint areas of Abyei and the Nuba Mountains, may constitute ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This has also aggravated tensions between North and South Sudan, and threatens a new international conflict. In the North, the Darfur conflict has deepened during the past year. Northern-stoked militia violence threatens the stability of the South and is exacerbated by abusive and indiscriminate southern responses.

Across both North and South Sudan humanitarian access is worsening and human rights abuses are increasing:

Key challenges

A peaceful and principled resolution to the crisis on the North-South border, including Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Across these critical areas, there is a need for both credible security arrangements that would protect civilians and help displaced people return home, and a political settlement based upon the measures agreed to by North and South in the CPA. Independent investigations are needed to hold those responsible for the reckless violence accountable. Pressures and consequences will need to be deployed to press the North and other spoilers of peace to accept a principled settlement to these crises before they erupt into an international conflict.

Peaceful resolution of other outstanding separation issues that could lead to a resumption of North-South war, including border demarcation, oil wealth sharing, and citizenship status. The internationally recognized secession of South Sudan will not itself prevent the resumption of large-scale conflict between North and South. Sustained U.S. diplomatic involvement will be critical to preventing a return to war over remaining issues including border demarcation, oil wealth sharing, and citizenship status.

An end to the crisis in Darfur and a comprehensive peace agreed to by all parties. Stopping the violence against civilians in Darfur and enabling the region’s millions of displaced people to return to their homes will require a political settlement between the government and the armed movements, as well as grassroots engagement once some semblance of security has been established. In the meantime, humanitarian and peacekeeper access is hampered by the government, and despite the presence of 23,000 peacekeepers, there is little protection for civilians and limited independent reporting on the situation.

Security for all people in the Republic of South Sudan, including protection from militia violence and responsible and accountable southern security services. As anticipated, proliferating militias have emerged in the wake of the southern referendum. Historical precedent and circumstantial evidence suggest that many are backed by the northern government with the aim of destabilizing the South, but there remain a range of grievances within the South that have fueled these uprisings and have been exacerbated by the southern government’s behavior.

Tangible and measurable steps toward democratic governance in the North and the South. Democratic transformation remains the unfulfilled promise of the CPA. The revolutionary wave across North Africa has already begun to impact Sudan, and although Khartoum has cracked down on protests, steps toward power sharing and democratic governance could still promote a more stable, less violent future for Northern Sudan. In the South, less than inclusive decisions by the ruling party have already contributed to worsening security, and the window for getting South Sudan started on the right foot is closing.

Accountability for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Despite International Criminal Court, or ICC, warrants and African Union efforts, when it comes to atrocities committed in Sudan, impunity prevails. Until perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are held accountable, violent and exploitative patterns of governance are likely to persist.

The Indispensable Role of the United States.

The U.S. has deployed high level diplomacy in pursuit of peace in Sudan, but in the face of intransigence and worsening violence, a solely incentives-oriented policy will not succeed. In fact, the imposition of escalating consequences is a complement to diplomacy not a substitute for it. By pressing for accountability for war criminals and using economic pressures to target spoilers, the U.S. can hamper warmongers and help encourage Sudanese leaders to return to the roadmap toward normalization on the basis of sustained peace.

Under these circumstances, Sudan Now calls for the following immediate U.S. government responses to escalation of war in Sudan:

  • Expand existing U.S. sanctions to target the individuals most responsible for the conduct of war in Sudan. Update the existing sanctions regime to enable the sanctioning of anyone who contributes to violence along the North-South border, per existing measures focused solely on Darfur.
  • Map the financial connections between senior Sudan government officials, the Sudanese military industrial complex, and their outside trade partners, financial backers, and intermediaries. Raise the pressure with credible threats and, as necessary, implementation of financial disruption and economic isolation on any party who contributes to the violence along the border, beginning with President Omer al-Bashir and his top advisor Nafie al Nafie.
  • Work with the European Union and lead multilateral efforts to block dollar and euro transactions against any party who contributes to the violence.
  • Dispatch a senior Obama administration official to Beijing, and engage China to work on joint diplomacy in support of a peace deal and develop an understanding of the need for both carrots and sticks to leverage that agreement, including economic isolation and an international arms embargo.
  • Provide UN civilian protection forces and a monitoring mechanism with access to Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile after July 9. Civilian protection forces could come in the form of a UN mission with civilian protection as a priority and access to the border regions backed by a flexible monitoring mechanism such as the Civilian Protection Monitoring Teams, or Joint Monitoring Mechanism previously used in the Nuba Mountains.
  • Push for an independent UN Human Rights Council investigation into the violence in Abyei and South Kordofan with possible referral to the International Criminal Court where cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or ethnic cleansing are identified.