The Chaotic Birth of South Sudan

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between mostly Christian southern Sudan and the Muslim North, which ended one of the bloodiest civil wars in modern times is poised to face its most vital test: the South’s referendum on independence, scheduled for January 9. It is difficult to believe that the North will let the South go without a fight.

MADRID – The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was reached in 2005 between mostly Christian southern Sudan and the country’s Muslim North, ended one of the bloodiest civil wars in modern times. Lasting 22 years, that war left more than two million dead. Now the CPA is poised to face its most vital test: the South’s referendum on independence, scheduled for January 9.

Whether or not a new state is born in one of the most strategically sensitive areas of the world is of utmost concern to Sudan’s neighbors and others. Vital issues are at stake: the scramble for oil; China’s robust presence in Sudan; the West’s desire to see a mostly Christian state break the contiguity of Muslim regimes – and the consequent threat of Islamic radicalism – in the region; the regional distribution of the Nile’s waters; and the possibility that independence for the South might lead to Sudan’s total dismemberment along ethnic and religious lines.

The fact that Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, is not especially keen to agree to the United Nations’ plan to beef up its peacekeeping force in the country ahead of the referendum raises concern about his intentions. He would certainly be happy to delay the vote – and, if it is held, to dispute its legitimacy.

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