After an 11-day visit to Sudan, United Nations Special Representative on Human Rights Sima Samar chose to call attention to the serious challenges of insecurity and inter-communal violence currently plaguing southern Sudan:
I think all the situation of human rights, the basic rights of the people to life which is affected unfortunately by the tribal clashes and also by the attacks of the LRA and also basic social services is not really very good.
Inter-communal violence throughout southern Sudan in the past several months has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced thousands more, prompting Ashraf Qazi, head of the U.N. Mission in Sudan, or UNMIS, to announce that the death tolls in Sudan’s semi-autonomous southern region have been greater than those in Darfur since the beginning of the year.
Samar urged the government of southern Sudan to “do more” to address the recent inter-ethnic clashes and violent cattle-raids, which, while not being a new phenomenon in the South, have recently targeted women and children, a worrying and new trend.
For its own part, UNMIS has struggled to implement its mandate on the ground in the South: monitoring the ceasefire and security arrangements in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA. The most recent Small Arms Survey report on internal and external security challenges facing the Government of Southern Sudan urged UNMIS to take a more proactive role in, “building confidence in the peace” by emphasizing, “direct interaction with local actors” through patrolling key areas with military and civilian observers. The Small Arms report also noted the southern government’s ongoing struggles to implement peaceful and effective civilian disarmament programs, and argued that disarmament may not be the best strategy to achieve improved security in the South. A key quote from the report:
Disarmament in the current context is unlikely to contribute to the broader goals of peace and security…A renewed focus on South-South dialogue and reconciliation is essential if the South is to remain unified.
As the clock ticks toward 2011, when the interim period of the CPA will end and southern Sudan will hold a self-determination referendum for “unity” with the North or “separation” and independent statehood, the challenges and threats facing Sudan and the international community are only continuing to build. While it is a positive sign that key U.N. officials are beginning to voice concern about the tenuous situation in the South, much more critical thinking and serious engagement by the international community with Sudanese actors is urgently needed if these concerns are to be addressed effectively.