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Malakal and Bor Violence: Prelude to Greater Instability in Southern Sudan?

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Malakal and Bor Violence: Prelude to Greater Instability in Southern Sudan?

Posted by Maggie Fick on May 5, 2009

Two recent Washington Post articles by Stephanie McCrummen covering recent episodes of violence in southern Sudan underline the threat that ongoing insecurity in this fragile region poses to the future of Sudan.  

The recent deadly attacks by armed men from the Murle ethnic group on Lou Nuer people in Bor, a town along the Nile in the oil-rich state of Jonglei, highlights one of the daunting challenges facing the new government of southern Sudan, or GoSS, in the next two years. As the Bor county commissioner told the Post:

With this insecurity, we can’t collect taxes, we can’t open   schools, we can’t drill for water…Sometimes people tell me it was better during the war, because at least then we were getting support from the international community.

In the run-up to the national elections in February 2010 and the referendum for the region’s independence in March 2011, the GoSS must address a number of economic, political, and social challenges. These tasks are particularly thorny in the midst of increasing insecurity and what is likely an attempt by the Sudanese government in Khartoum to undermine the South’s ability to govern by using proxy militias to spawn further instability in the region.

There is no question that reconstruction and development in southern Sudan will not happen overnight. As Human Rights Watch recently noted, the government of southern Sudan, created in 2005 under the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, is responsible for governing an extremely under-developed area nearly twice the size of France that endured over two decades of civil war. However, as Enough has consistently argued, the precarious peace established between the North and the South by the CPA is at risk of outright collapse due to the Khartoum government’s intransigence, the southern government’s growing pains, and the utter neglect by the international community to the crucial benchmarks outlined in the CPA (see our recent strategy paper for more). No matter how much development assistance the international community has or continues to shuttle to southern Sudan, the question of how to make the so-called “peace dividend” a reality in the region remains unanswered.

Hard thinking and sustained efforts by all of the parties involved in the CPA negotiations—the Sudanese government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (now the ruling party in southern Sudan), and the international community—on how to implement the key provisions of the CPA and monitor this stalled process must happen now. As the situation stands today, the small flashes of violence in southern Sudan in places like Bor and Malakal are poised to give way to more widespread conflict and instability that could threaten the future of a peaceful Sudan.