Writing on Wired.com’s Danger Room blog recently, Nathan Hodge has a good scoop related to the increasingly frequent rumors of a mounting arms race between Sudan’s North and South in the run-up to the (twice-delayed) general elections scheduled for April 2010 and the southern self-determination referendum slated to occur in 2011 according to the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA.
Hodge reports that the South is receiving “low-key”—in wonky terms “non-lethal”— military support from the United States. Hodge says that, according to a State Department official, State’s contract with security firm USIS is designed to:
…take [the southern army, known as the SPLA] out of the bush, basically, within the construct of the CPA—as a force that can come together in a unity government. Or if in 2011, the south secedes, that force could become the element of a South Sudan that’s sovereign.
An important takeaway from this story in any case is that the U.S. undoubtedly has significant leverage with the Government of Southern Sudan, which it should use strategically to encourage full implementation of the CPA by the GoSS. But implementation of the agreement is not a one-way street, and sustained, equal pressure on both of the parties to the CPA – the South’s ruling SPLM and the NCP in Khartoum – is needed now more than ever to counter dangerous trends such as the mounting arms race between the North and South.
The North continues to make its fair share of weapons purchases, as the last report from the U.N. Panel of Experts on Sudan makes clear. A recent news story suggests the Chinese have been providing Khartoum with long range rocket systems. Bottom line: The arms race in Sudan is on, and the countdown to 2011 has begun. On a pessimistic note, it is hard to be anything less than very concerned about the current state of play in Sudan. This is precisely why follow-though on the recent commitments by the international community and the Sudanese parties to renew efforts to implement the CPA are so badly and urgently needed.