The European Magazine: A Pact With the Devil

The possible independence of South Sudan is exacerbating the crisis in Africa’s largest state. President Bashir, who has already shown that he is indifferent to international humanitarian rules, is not going to renounce the oil revenues from the south. A carrot-and-stick-policy might be the only option to prevent a new war.

In less than two months we will witness if a new war in Sudan, Africa’s largest state, will break out. On January 9, 2011 the South Sudanese will decide in a referendum if the south will separate from the north. This is included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of Africa, in 2005. But when looking at the poll ratings it is indisputable – the South Sudanese are going to vote with an overpowering majority for their independence. However, the question arises if Sudan will be granted the right of self-determination. If the south is becoming independent, the north will lose a lot of money. The reason is simple, about three-quarters of the Sudanese oilfields are located in the south. Therefore, hardliners from the north are willing to accept a new war because the South Sudanese are also willing to take arms to fight for their independence. This would have disastrous consequences for the whole region.

The inviolable referendum

The closer it gets to the referendum, the more pressing becomes the question: Is president Bashir allowing a secession of the south? It is hard to believe that the north will relinquish the revenues from the South Sudanese oil. But for the South Sudanese, the referendum is inviolable, in order to free themselves from the tight grip of the dominating north and to found an independent state. If necessary, they will even take up arms. Should the north get its share of the oil-revenues of the south, the whole issue might come to a happy end.

Until early January 2011, the former oil agreement will still be in force. According to this, the South Sudanese oil revenues are halved between the north and the south and in return, the south is allowed to use the infrastructure in the north, like the pipelines, for exports. However, both parties would do well to resume this agreement because otherwise it is likely that the north will not dismiss the south into independence, even if this implies the danger of a new war.

A trustworthy president?

Since Bashir will still be president in 2011, it is necessary to come to terms with him. But how do you negotiate with a murderer? Even if we have to make allowances for the peace agreement from 2005, we need to be very skeptical – the genocide in Darfur speaks for itself. But will the international community be able to change the situation by not only having to rely on Bashir’s word but by actually being able to rely on it? With diplomacy, the international community holds a powerful tool in its hands. A carrot-and-stick-policy might be the only option here. On the one hand, increased pressure needs to be applied in the run-up to the referendum in order to make the north and Bashir campaign actively for a peaceful outcome of the referendum. On the other hand, Bashir needs to be appeased to avoid the outbreak of open civil war. Options include the reduction of US sanctions or the partial remission of Sudan’s foreign debt. If the international community is not willing to do this, it is very likely that a new war won’t be long in the coming.

Published on The European Magazine.