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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

US Scott Gration on the Referendum of South Sudan

By Steve Paterno

May 9, 2010 — By now, there is little doubt on what the USA Special Envoy for Sudan Gen. Scott Gration wants for South Sudan. He is vying for the separation of South Sudan and preparing for the emergence of a new country as an outcome of South Sudan self determination scheduled to take place in January of 2011.

With only seven months left for the referendum, Envoy Gration is running out of time. Initially, he proposed the South Sudan referendum vote to take place between six to four months ahead of January 2011, to enable South Sudan get better prepared to transition into post referendum. The January 9, 2011, would be for formal conduct of referendum ceremony, which its outcome would have been known way in advance. Nonetheless, Envoy Gration’s proposed scheduled could not pan out for several reasons. For one, it met oppositions from partners to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), particularly the National Congress Party (NCP). Secondly, the proposed scheduled could not have happened prior to implementations of other important benchmarks to the CPA, outstandingly amongst them the elections.

To Envoy Gration, the conduct of Sudan elections was necessary, not so much that it would be free and fair, but it was necessary as a process of getting to the last stage of the CPA, which will define the future of Sudan. In other words, the elections are a springboard for the future transformation of Sudan.

Right after Sudan’s elections results were announced, Envoy Gration rushed into Sudan to promote for the post elections arrangements. Among his top agenda is the referendum of South Sudan. His idea of proposing the voting for referendum ahead of January 2011 has finally prevailed. The Government of South Sudan announced that the people of South Sudan will go to polls in December of 2010 to vote for the referendum. The January 9, 2011, will be the date the referendum results is officially announced and hopefully celebrated.

In all likelihood, Envoy Gration predicts the secession of South Sudan. His challenge and task is to make the secession as smoothly as possible, without both the North and South return to another cycle of war. Even more challenging for Envoy Gration is the sustainability of South Sudan as an impoverished and newly emerging nation—a region devastated by decades of wars and without basic infrastructure, institutions, and capacity.

As a solution, Envoy Gration is proposing a “Juba Surge,” a phenomenon that will enhance capacity building for South Sudan. For example, as far as the USA administration is concerned, it intends to upgrade its consulate in Juba by sending in an experienced former ambassador with a purpose of mobilizing necessary resources worldwide to build and sustain South Sudan as a nation. According to him, the Sudan problem is a “global problem” that will require a global efforts. In a small way, Envoy Gration must be credited for mobilizing international attention and support, especially on CPA implementations. It is asserted that he maintained constant contacts with Special Envoys to Sudan from around the world, at least weekly. His goal is to make sure that Sudan ranks at the top ten on world stage, in menu of the globally concerned nations. This will be the kind of attention and support the independent South Sudan state will deserve from the global community.

The world cannot afford to see a potentially prosperous nation like South Sudan fails. Most of South Sudan problems are man made, noticeably, the insecurity. Envoy Gration recent visit to South Sudan was significant in essence, because he attempted to address the issue of insecurity. To show the seriousness in this aspect, he traveled to Juba along with Vicki Huddleston, the USA deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa at the Department of Defense.

Despite the relative peace ushered in by the CPA, South Sudan, during the interim period, experienced violence of unimaginable proportion. There are at least three major sources of violence; the foreign, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda, the Khartoum armed forces, and the internal South Sudan ethnic conflicts. The LRA had for the last two decades roamed South Sudan freely, with the clear intention to abduct, loot, and kill South Sudanese populace. Up to this day, the LRA are still enjoying their brutalities in South Sudan, with it civil population bearing their brunt. Since the signing of the CPA in Jan 2005, Khartoum armed forces have provocatively launched three major devastating attacks against South Sudan, in Abyei and Malakal towns. The Khartoum armed forces threats against South Sudan remains one of the major security concerns that require great deal of attention, especially as secession of South Sudan looms in the horizon. Last year, the world was shocked with the intensity and scale of South Sudan ethnic conflicts that its death rate, at that time, surpassed that of Darfur war ravaged region by far.

All these sources of violence need to be stemmed out. For the LRA, it requires military strategy that will entail the hunting, capturing and killing of the LRA combatants. The USA military, AFRICOM can play a greater role in shaping such strategy. The Khartoum armed forces can be contained through exerted pressure to bear on its political leadership. Khartoum must be assured that it is not in its interest to initiate a war in South Sudan when the entire country is about to disintegrate violently. As for the South Sudanese ethnic violence, the bulk of it rests on the authorities in Juba, with little support the outside world can offer. However, the international community can assist to improve the legal, policing, and military capacity of South Sudan. It will help reduce ethnic conflicts. Although most of the ethnic conflicts in South Sudan have roots in traditions, in the modern state era, the root causes of these conflicts can be termed criminals by nature, which are handled through state justice system. Take for example the cattle rustling, the major cause of ethnic violence; in a modern state justice system, it is either theft or robbery. The reasons these types of violence blow up is due to lack of state interventions. In any incidents, only individual or a group of individuals are involved, and the state has an opportunity to deal with those individuals before the entire incident spread to involve all. That is why the onus here lies with the government of South Sudan where its capabilities in law enforcement is necessary, including the use of military intervention to stop ethnic violence.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at [email protected]