The Southern Sudanese independence referendum ended on Jan. 15, closing with an overwhelming majority voting yes to independence for South Sudan.
But does that mean that Sudan will operate peacefully on the road to South Sudan’s secession?
The country already had problems at the end of January with UN sources saying that the Sudanese army threatened to destroy the makeshift camps of those who have been made homeless by the Darfur conflict. This led to a tense standoff with the peacekeepers that are part of a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Sudanese soldiers surrounded the road in to the UNAMID camp as well as the adjacent camp where thousands of displaced were residing. Eventually the army left.
Since December there has been renewed fighting between the Sudanese army and Darfur rebels, prompting Western powers to call for UNAMID to be more aggressive in their mission in Darfur. There is international concern about Darfur as Sudan prepares to break away from the North.
Unfortunately, Darfur is not the only issue for South Sudan. It has a number of development challenges for the future. The region may face not only economic problems but political problems as well.
In the area of politics, a concern is political reform. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement is the biggest voice in South Sudan right now as all other parties have grouped with them to work toward independence. Since the goal has now been achieved, the opposition will want a role in decision making in the country. Those ruling right now can accommodate or let it turn back into an autocratic state.
Another internal problem is defining citizenship in the new country. There are refugees and other non-native people in the area. Other refugees will be returning. The question arises of who will be integrated and who will be granted citizenship. Then how do you make people feel pride for the new nation? Pick a new name, national anthem, and flag? That question might not be too hard to answer because the people have felt connected from struggling against the North in rebellions.
Oil is a big factor in Sudan’s economy. South Sudan relies more on oil for its revenue compared to the North. There was a 50-50 revenue-sharing agreement previously, but with a new country, the North and South will have to agree on new terms. This is a key to bringing peace between the two countries, but it won’t be easy. The North has the pipelines and the refineries while the South has most of the natural oil.
Finally, a border has to be agreed upon between the two countries. Abyei might pose some problems because it’s referendum to decide whether to secede with the South or stay with the North was postponed due to conflict. Both sides say the region belongs to them.
I’m no expert and I’m not going to pretend to be. With this number of challenges, it will be long road to peace, but I do hope it comes.
by Alexa Huffman