President Thabo Mbeki’s leadership of the peace process, which led to the signing of critical agreements between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan late last month, cannot be underestimated. Had those agreements not been signed, it is likely that the two countries would have gone back to war in the coming year. While they still could, the chances of war will diminish further if President Mbeki and the African Union, or A.U., are willing and able to take bold and specific actions in the coming week to marshal the parties closer to a more comprehensive peace.
The signed agreements, if fully implemented, will go far in consolidating peace and security within and between the two Sudans and creating two viable African States. However, certain key issues remain:
•The final status of the Abyei area
•The definition of the disputed and claimed areas along the North-South border
•International humanitarian access to the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile
•Direct political negotiations between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, on the basis of the unimplemented June 28, 2011 agreement between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N
If left unaddressed, these issues will not only further compound the burgeoning humanitarian crisis in Sudan and in northern areas of South Sudan, but they will also risk untold further civilian casualties and allow the slowly escalating war in Darfur to intensify. Moreover, ignoring these key issues would undermine economic growth in the Sudans and pose an ongoing risk to regional stability.
Finally, there is an urgent need to devise internationally-backed implementation mechanisms for the agreements already signed between Khartoum and Juba.