RECOGNIZING THE NEW SUDAN: INNOVATION, INVESTMENT AND CAPACITY BUILDING
by Edgar Chavez, Johns Hopkins/SAIS
Hosted By: African Studies Program, Southern Sudanese Community and Real Time Africa
Date: February 17, 2011
Location: SAIS, Rome Auditorium
On Thursday February 17 the African Studies Department, together with the Southern Sudanese Diaspora and Real Time Africa, hosted a panel discussion about the challenges that South Sudan will have to face after the independence referendum. From January 9 to January 15 the Southern Sudanese voted in favor of secession from the Republic of Sudan. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of separation with 98.83% of votes.
The participants of the panel discussed some of the main issues that the new independent nation will have to face in the following years. Deng Deng Nhial – Deputy Head of Mission for Administration and Finance for the government of South Sudan – mentioned that the new nation will be characterized by its pluralism having around 24 political parties. Security Sector Reform is one of the most important issues that South Sudan will have to deal with. In this sense, the challenge is to transform the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) into an armed force that responds to civilian power.
Deng Deng Nhial also talked about the need to develop South Sudan’s economy. The private sector needs to be developed since the government is currently the main source of employment. The country will also have to deal with its strong dependency on oil revenues. Some of the areas of opportunity are in the mining industry in which South Sudan is rich in gold, diamonds and other minerals. Ecotourism and agriculture were also mentioned as sectors that can contribute to the country’s economic development. Through legislation and with a stable and secure environment, South Sudan will try to attract foreign direct investment from major international companies that can provide a large number of jobs.
Travis Adkins – Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and practitioner in Residence at the US Institute of Peace – talked about some of the main issues that South Sudan will have to resolve together with North Sudan. Among these he emphasized four points. First, the countries will have to agree on oil concessions and oil production. Currently all the export channels for oil coming from South Sudan have to go through the North. For the North, oil revenues represent 80% of the government’s revenue which could be lost if there is no agreement with the South. The South, on its part, can start looking for other options for exporting its oil like Kenya.
Second, the two countries will need to work on the final details with respect to the demarcation of their borders. Currently, 80% of the border has been agreed upon. However, they still need to define clearly the borders of other areas rich in mineral deposits of strategic interest. The status of the territory of Abyei, which is supposed to hold a referendum concerning its inclusion in the South, remains a source of tension.
Third, the two sides still have to agree on the issue of the Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) in the Sudanese army. The JIUs were created with elements of the SPLA and the Sudanese Army. After the referendum these units will be disintegrated but there are already tensions in the South with respect to the loyalties of some of their commanders.
Fourth, the question of Sudan’s foreign debt still needs to be resolved. Sudan has a debt of 30 billion USD. The North claims that it was mostly contracted with the purpose of developing the oil industry which is located in the South. But the South argues that they never received the benefits from oil production that they were entitled to.
Gaafar Kangram – Board Member of the Nuba Mountain International Association – discussed the challenges of the Sudanese context from the perspective of the people of the Nuba Mountains. The Nuba, which have been historically supportive of the SPLA, were not included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and do not have the right to join South Sudan but they do hold the right of consultation with respect to the implementation of the agreement. Some of their concerns include the unstable security conditions in the area. The Nuba people feel threatened by the Khartoum trained militias armed with heavy equipment. They fear that external forces will try to create insecurity in South Sudan. Therefore, they consider that the international community has a role to play. They argue that Sudan should not be immediately removed from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism because this would allow the North to buy weapons and increase its military capacity.