In a headline-grabbing remark yesterday, Sudanese presidential advisor Ghazi Salaheddin said it would be a “recipe for war” if the North and South don’t make decisions about how they would draw their border and divide up wealth and resources before the South votes on its independence a year from now.
The comment spurred what’s beginning to look like a war of words that, more than anything, simply reveal how far the process has strayed from the original aim of working “in good faith” to make unity of Sudan attractive.
The substance of what Dr. Salaheddin said isn’t really the problem, nor is it terribly surprising. Frankly, the same sentiment pervaded a conference I recently attended in the southern capital of Juba that examined all that needs to be done in the South to prepare for peaceful relations between the two regions – or two countries – post-2011/CPA. Dr. Salaheddin merely vocalized what’s on many people’s minds.
But at a time when Sudan has entered the final push toward national elections (in April) and the South’s self-determination referendum (next January), such blunt statements disturbingly expose the calculations of the leadership: to prepare for the possibility that negotiations could devolve into a return to war.
In a piece by VOA today, the head of the U.S. Mission for the Government of Southern Sudan, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth “expressed shock” over the Dr. Salaheddin’s remark. Gatkuoth said that it shows that Khartoum’s “sole” interest is in the country’s natural resources, not unity, and accused Salaheddin of wanting to re-write the peace deal. Gatkuoth argued that in fact the SPLM is currently in the process of negotiating with the NCP on the issues Salaheddin raised.
But southern leaders have had their fair share of controversial statements that ratcheted up the overt tension. More recently, compromises made by the SPLM with the North – in what appears to be a bargain for getting the referendum law passed – leave some Sudan watchers wondering just how committed the SPLM really is to democratic transformation in the country. More on that tomorrow.
Suffice it to say that the stakes are very high, and clearly, neither the NCP nor the SPLM plan to lose what they see as rightfully theirs without a fight.
Photo: Dr. Ghazi Salaheddin (U.N.)