Africa could have a new country just a year from now. The continent’s largest, Sudan, could divide into two if the people of the southern region vote next January to secede. A monumental peace deal, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed five years ago tomorrow, recognized southerners’ right to self-determination.
The agreement stipulated that before southerners would have a chance to exercise this right, Sudan’s longtime adversaries – the National Congress Party of the North and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement of the South – would have to address the differences that fueled the country’s 22-year civil war that cost over 2 million lives. When this interim period – during which both sides pledged to work to “make unity attractive” – comes to an end in January 2011, southerners will decide what future they prefer: unity or independence.
Tomorrow’s CPA anniversary marks the start of the final year in that interim period.
Having recently returned from southern Sudan, I can testify that the overwhelming sentiment in the South is that while anniversaries often mark positive accomplishments, there is little to celebrate this year.
The most significant, and most contentious, components of the CPA haven’t been implemented; arguably, some haven’t even been formally discussed.
Increasingly troubling is the dramatic rise in violence in the South over the past year; more than 2,500 people died in violence in the South in 2009. There are widespread fears that 2010 could be equally if not more deadly for southerners. There are indications that the NCP has had a hand in stirring up local tensions in an effort to frustrate the SPLM’s ability to show that it is capable of governing on its own. While there may not be a smoking gun to prove these speculations, the NCP has a history of using such tactics, and the timing of the uptick in violence hardly seems a coincidence.
A couple of weeks ago, Enough’s South Sudan field researcher Maggie Fick and I were in the town of Yambio, where the official CPA “celebration” will take place (though no longer tomorrow – it’s been postponed to Jan. 19). As Maggie discusses in this short video we shot in a refugee camp outside of town, there was a stark contrast between the rhetoric about the “excitement” of the upcoming anniversary, and the testimonies we heard from displaced people, members of civil society, clergy, aid workers, and local leaders. This, they said, is not what they bargained for five years ago.
So what can you do?
- Call the White House using the hotline 1-800-GENOCIDE. Tell President Obama that the time is now to lead other countries in pressuring Sudan’s parties for full implementation of the CPA and a Darfur peace deal. The U.S. must apply serious consequences for actions by any party that could lead Sudan back to full-scale war.
- Join Enough in supporting events around the world this weekend to mark the 5th anniversary of the CPA and raise a call to action. For a listing of local events and more information about the new Sudan365 campaign – focused on advocating for stronger international support for the implementation of the CPA leading up the January 2011 referendum – click here.
Video edited by Will McElhinny.