With less than a year before the referendum on its unity, Sudan is on the brink of a historic achievement. Five years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement brought to an end more than two decades of fighting which killed nearly 2 million people and displaced 4 million, a lasting peace may be within the country's grasp. However it is not yet assured.
The interim period of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has faced many challenges. The will to make unity attractive has not driven the process, many of the most contentious political decisions still have to be confronted, elections have been delayed to a point where they are only nine months before the referendum, and the threat of violence in the South seems to be increasing. This report outlines the major remaining challenges to the peace process as it enters this critical phase - based on evidence from the parties in the peace process, CPA observers and guarantors, international civil society, church groups, international agencies, and academic experts - and makes recommendations to the main actors in the process for how these challenges can be mitigated.
If Southern Sudan votes for secession, the Committee heard that significant preparation will be necessary to make the transition to an autonomous state possible, involving both parties.
This is not to prejudge the outcome of the referendum or to abandon the aim to make unity attractive, but without adequate consultation of how a transition would be managed, including security and wealth sharing arrangements, the resulting uncertainty could potentially become a source of insecurity in itself. In the past, both sides have resorted to brinkmanship to resolve disagreements, as seen recently over Abyei or in the SPLM's withdrawal from the GoNU in 2007. However in the context of the referendum this is a very high risk strategy, with possible consequences for the whole CPA. The challenges of constructing a new Government of Southern Sudan were also emphasized. Although progress has been made, there are many issues - infrastructure, an under-resourced recovery effort, capacity problems, accusations of corruption - which need to be addressed whatever the outcome of the referendum may be. Addressing these challenges will require sustained commitment from the international community over many decades.