Key elements of the peace deal that ended the long-running civil war in Sudan may not be resolved before the south formally separates from the rest of the country in early July, a senior United Nations official said today, warning that disputes over these sticking points threaten to pull the parties back into open conflict.
Briefing the Security Council, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Atul Khare said the UN was concerned about the “slow progress” on several outstanding issues from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the north-south war in Sudan.
Mr. Khare cited the status of Abyei, which remains disputed by the north and south; border demarcation; and popular consultations in the states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan as examples of halting progress since the referendum on independence for Southern Sudan was successfully staged in January.
“Due to these disagreements, there is a possibility that the residual CPA issues will not be solved and/or that the post-referendum negotiations will not be concluded by 9 July [the expected date when Southern Sudan becomes independent],” he said.
Mr. Khare said internal tensions in the south between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), one of the signatories to the CPA, and militia groups and insurgents was also hindering progress and posing a serious threat to civilians, particularly in the state of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity.
“The Government of Southern Sudan will need to take concrete measures to address ethnic tensions, mismanagement, political and social marginalization, economic development and governance, especially in rule of law institutions.”
The Assistant Secretary-General stressed the need for a resolution to tensions over Abyei, where there has been a sizeable military build-up on both sides. The region “remains a flashpoint that has the potential to further escalate,” he said.
He described the popular consultations being held in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan as “vital for the development of peaceful north-south relations and the north’s own adjustment in the post-CPA period.”
Mr. Khare added that the elections in Southern Kordofan, slated to start on 2 May, are critical to the process and he voiced great concern at the recent increase of violence in that state.
But he did note that a recent round of negotiations in Addis Ababa between the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP) had wrapped up with an agreement on a joint approach to debt management and “some progress” on joint management of the common border.
The successful referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan was also a “momentous achievement,” he said, and was a clear reflection of the will of the Southern Sudanese people.
The mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) set up in the wake of the CPA expires at the end of this month, and Mr. Khare said a report will be prepared by mid-May on the future scope and shape of UNMIS once Southern Sudan becomes independent.