Eric Reeves •
It is no overstatement to declare that the fate of the nation-state of Sudan hangs precariously in the balance. If the National Congress Party (NCP) regime in Khartoum refuses to allow free, fair, and timely conduct of a self-determination referendum for the people of southern Sudan—scheduled for January 9, 2011—then war will follow. And it will not be confined to the south of the country, as previous civil wars have largely been. Peoples of the peripheral regions of Sudan have endured decades of marginalization and discrimination by the riverain Arab elite in Khartoum, and they have grown increasingly frustrated and angry in recent years. We have already seen one consequence of this frustration and anger in Darfur; if war begins again in the south, it will quickly spread across much of Sudan, geographically Africa’s largest country. We will witness a truly national civil war, with unfathomable human suffering and destruction
There are, of course, various possible outcomes for the self-determination referendum—now only seven months away—but prospects for a successful and peaceful process look increasingly grim. If the election is allowed, southerners will vote overwhelmingly for secession. This would produce at a stroke one of the world’s most impoverished and underdeveloped countries, requiring enormous international support—far more than is presently planned or contemplated. There is, however, little reason to believe that the NCP regime will allow such a decision to stand, despite public protestations of its support for any outcome. This is mainly because Sudan’s large oil reserves, presently generating some 500,000 barrels of crude per day, lie largely in southern Sudan and the border regions with northern Sudan (by some estimates, more than 80 percent of Sudanese oil reserves lie in the south). Khartoum could abort the referendum in dismayingly numerous ways; as a consequence, the diplomatic imperative for the international community could not be clearer. The regime must be convinced that the costs of compromising the integrity of the referendum will be intolerable. At the same time, the international community must take responsibility for providing what will be required to make the new nation of South Sudan viable. This will be costly, but not nearly as costly as renewed war.
The Failure of U.S. Leadership
It is precisely this diplomatic imperative that the Obama administration fails to see. And like the Bush administration, the Obama administration fails to see that Khartoum will continue to play the crises in Darfur and southern Sudan against one another as long as advantages accrue….
( full text continues at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online.php?id=363 )
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