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The Bigger Issue in Sudan

TEL AVIV – The most immediate result of the arrest warrant issued for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court last month was the expulsion of most aid agencies from the country. But this global focus on Sudan’s Darfur region, though justified, has overshadowed an even more vital issue: sustaining the quest for a broader peace in all of Sudan. What is most needed now is to build an international consensus on a strategy to implement fully the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) for Sudan.

The CPA ended Africa’s longest civil war, which had left behind over two million dead. That agreement not only contains benchmarks that should lead to self-determination for Sudan’s South; it also spells out a democratization process in Sudan itself. After all, the oppressive nature of the regime in Khartoum is at the root of the many conflicts that have torn the country apart.

If the government in Khartoum persists in undermining the reform process and derailing the referendum on self-determination promised for the South in January 2011, a return to full-scale civil war, with calamitous consequences for the peoples of Sudan and the entire region, is a real possibility.

The commitment of Sudan’s government to the CPA has always been equivocal. Indeed, since the civil war’s end in 2005, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the South has frequently had to confront militias that operate as government proxies. Moreover, Sudanese security forces continue to arm Arab tribes straddling the North-South border with the aim of destabilizing the mostly Christian South.