A return to civil war in Sudan would be a tragic outcome for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. But with tensions high over the upcoming referendum on Southern independence, we hear violent rhetoric even from the top.
Sudan risks “violence on a massive scale” if there is any delay to a planned January referendums that will likely split the oil-rich African nation in two, South Sudan’s leader said on Friday.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir said it increasingly appeared that “unity is not an option” following the January 9 vote, which will cap a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war in the country.
“At the moment all signs point to the fact that on January 9, 2011 Southern Sudanese people will vote overwhelmingly for their own independence,” Kiir told an audience in Washington.
“There is without question a real risk of a return to violence on a massive scale if the referenda do not go ahead as scheduled,” he said.
Can US policy prevent bloodshed in Sudan? President Obama will make a major statement at a UN summit on Sudan that will take place this Friday, and many will be carefully observing what he says and does. Policy changes are in the works:
This past week, the Obama administration announced a package of incentives for Sudan, including normalized relations, if Khartoum chooses peace. [US Special Envoy Scott] Gration said there would also be consequences if Sudan turns to war, but he didn’t detail what those would be.
The new incentive package immediately loosens restrictions on agricultural equipment and would lift non-oil-related sanctions on Sudan if the vote takes place on time. Sudan would get debt relief, the lifting of more sanctions, and the restoration of full diplomatic ties if it supports the outcome of the vote, and resolves the conflict in Darfur.
[An anonymous State Department official] noted that Khartoum is already facing the prospect of losing a third of its territory and up to 80 percent of its oil revenue if the south breaks away, so there is little that additional US threats would accomplish.
Asked after a press briefing last week if his policy is all carrot and no stick Gration said: “We have a policy that gives the north a pathway to better bilateral relations. If they don’t take it, that’s already a stick.’’
Three and a half months till the referendum.