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Uneasy Neighbours: The Elusive Quest for Peace and Stability in the Sudans

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On July 9, 2011 South Sudan became Africa’s youngest nation. On July 14, the UN General Assembly unanimously voted to admit South Sudan as the 193rd member of the community of nations. Independence followed a referendum where Southern voters opted overwhelmingly for secession from Khartoum. This paper looks at the partition of Africa’s largest country, the challenges facing South Sudan, the unresolved conflicts in Darfur and along the North-South border, and some of the constraints on international efforts to promote peace and stability in the two Sudans.

In an era of post-financial-crisis austerity, the USA, European and other advanced democracies are challenged to maintain protracted and costly commitments in fragile and failing states. As NATO allies (USA, the Netherlands, Canada) draw down their troops and recalibrate their role in Afghanistan, it is timely to look at their support in other fragile states like Sudan and South Sudan. With a deepening fiscal crisis at home and a more isolationist Republican party in control of Congress, the State Department foreign operations budget, which includes USAID, may face a 20 per cent cut with implications for future US support in both Sudans.

In the UK, aid spending has been ring-fenced for now, but there is sniping underway from other powerful ministries, such as Defence. In Canada, the Harper government has announced a strategic review of government spending, which will freeze spending levels and may reduce funding for some programs and many departments, potentially including CIDA and Foreign Affairs.

After more than eight years of effort, what has the international community to show for its engagement in Darfur and the rest of Sudan and what is now South Sudan? In a rare foreign policy success of the Bush era, the USA played a pivotal role in crafting the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended more than two decades of civil war between North and South Sudan. With a renewed strategy of constructive engagement and the promise of ‘normalization,’ the Obama administration successfully persuaded Khartoum to keep the January 2011 referendum deadline and accept the will of the South Sudanese on selfdetermination. On the one hand, ‘success’ to date can be measured as much by what has not happened. Humanitarian access has been precariously maintained in Darfur, despite sporadic fighting and occasional Khartoum purges of aid organizations. And in the tense, six-year armistice since the signing of the CPA, there has been no return to full scale war between the North and the South.