Southern Sudan Referendum – Preparing for the day after (Part 2)

Category: Diaspora
Published on Monday, 12 July 2010 23:35
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If southerners vote for independence in January, the south will face the challenge of being a land-locked country. The only oil refineries in the country are all located in the north in Port Sudan.
(Washington DC) - As we have outlined in part 1 of this series, there are serious implications and consequences for the upcoming referendum that merit our collective concern and preparation. While it is true that the ultimate decision to vote for the dissolution of Sudan as we know it will be precipitated by a long standing list of factors having to do with entrenched marginalization and the failure to establish an inclusive Sudanese system of governance, it is wise to also explore the manifestations of that choice on the livelihood and future of millions of Sudanese from both sides. 

The potential economic realities for both North and South Sudan after the referendum were the subject of a paper presented by Sudanese economist, Dr Ibrahim El-Badawi, formerly with the World Bank and currently with the Dubai Economic Council. The Sudanese Democratic Forum, a civil society organization based in Washington, DC, hosted the symposium. Like a real practitioner of the “dismal science”, Dr ElBadawi presented a very grim but unfortunately likely picture of the future in the aftermath of separation for both parts of Sudan. The North in his estimation faces a serious loss of revenue, even if a post-referendum oil deal is struck with the South. It is also especially burdened in his assessment by a balance sheet excessively allocating significant sums to the military-security sector, and adjusting that allocation to adapt to the new fiscal realities will present its own set of tough political troubles. For the south, the picture is also gloomy in his estimation, because of the challenges of being land-locked and the attendant costs of transporting its energy products under such conditions. Moreover, it will also have a hard time in the immediate aftermath of the vote to effectively manage the oil sector as a new nation state with nascent institutions and capacities. The issues of citizenship, debts and assets, and other outstanding issues were briefly touched on during the presentation, and were also the subject of impassioned comments by the audience, with special focus on the elementary question of who is responsible for the imminent separation of Southern Sudan.

One of the interesting sections of Dr. ElBadawi’s presentation had to do with the set of principles advocated by the British organization, Global Witness, to arrive at a post-referendum oil sector agreement. Global Witness proposes a simple, verifiable system of compensation based on pipeline fees instead of the current percentage split between the central government, the Government of Southern Sudan and the oil producing states. However, as enumerated in the presentation, this system would be subject to full disclosure of the terms, verifiable, independently monitored, incorporate a dispute resolution mechanism and start with a clean slate by auditing the current existing agreements. The two parties would also be expected to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global effort by governments and civil society organizations to shine greater light on the management of natural resources by governments and to empower the people of those countries in their effort to know how the proceeds of their resources are being managed. It is usually a bitter pill for many governments like that in Khartoum, which has consistently shrouded the oil sector in a wall of secrecy and duplicity. I am hopeful that the Government of Southern Sudan, barring any legitimate reason I am not aware of, would commit to the EITI principles if the South becomes independent, and go a step further by exploring innovative ideas such as a “future generations” fund that would be funded from the upcoming revenues and set aside for future generations or exclusively allocated to the education sector of the youth of today.

All these bad omens in the horizon will still prevail even while presuming that the two parties will strike political deals in the interim that will preclude a return to war, because a return to conflict between two heavily equipped armies will be the worst case scenario. Such a violent eventuality would be too catastrophic to even necessitate the sort of forecasting we are discussing now, according to Dr. El-Badawi. I happen to agree with that sentiment, and share the optimistic view that the two parties will see that sustaining the fragile peace we have now and stumbling our way through accommodations that will sustain the two parts of Sudan is not only the best case scenario for our long suffering people, but the only mutually beneficial track for both South and North Sudan.

However, even this basic objective of precluding a return to war by all means requires the sort of political will and farsightedness that is usually a rare attribute among many of the decision makers in Khartoum. It would require the sort of statesmanship that recognizes that the stability of Southern Sudan and the strengthening of the control of the Government of Southern Sudan on the security situation in the region are in the interest of Northern Sudan. It would demand projecting the sort of goodwill that is necessary by not arrogantly insisting that the south accept an unfair burden of the debts of Sudan that helped finance the war against its people. Such actions from the ruling party in Khartoum would serve to pacify many hardliners in the South that may not see the inevitable need to reach arrangements with the North to help transport the oil through the existing pipelines in Port Sudan.

The South on its part has obligations to help this process along, including being an honest broker in the two regions of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan in the quest for conducting the popular consultations and finding resolutions to the continuing legitimate concerns of their people. The same would be required of it in Darfur, because any sense of southern instigation of the Darfurians to escalate war against the central government in Khartoum will also strengthen the hand of those controlling the militia lords to ramp up their work against the South, which they are already doing now. The government in Juba should therefore responsibly weigh in support of legitimate peace efforts that will once and for all end the conflict in Darfur fairly and justly, and help it consolidate security in its western corridor.

As we can all see, consolidating a peaceful break between the two parts of Sudan will require these conciliatory actions from both sides in the immediate term. However, these will remain temporary fixes, because the issues at the roots of the conflicts in Sudan will have to be fundamentally addressed to even start to envision a stable North and South Sudan.  The question of marginalization in Sudan will not go away with the South, but will actually fester further for the North if those in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Eastern Sudan, Dafur and the extreme North are not sufficiently integrated into the system of governance as fairness dictates. As Mr. Yasir Arman of the SPLM is fond of saying, and I paraphrase, there will be a new South even after the current South Sudan leaves. Therefore, the problem of other Sudanese demanding relief by all means from Khartoum’s heavy-handed exploitation and marginalization of the periphery will always be there unless fundamentally resolved.

The South also has its challenges that will not go away with a break from Sudan as we know it, and it will also need its leadership to redouble their efforts to foster a national identity that accommodates its own rich diversity and overcomes the historical tribal and political fault lines that were exacerbated by the two civil wars in its modern history. While it is prudent and advisable that we be optimistic, we must first also acknowledge the storms ahead and endeavor collectively as Sudanese to weather them.

*Parek Maduot is a regular contributor to The New Sudan Vision. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..