Nairobi/Brussels, 6 May 2010: If, as likely, South Sudan decides to
secede from the North at its January 2011 self-determination
referendum, it will need support from Sudan’s neighbours to ensure the
decision is respected and new conflict is prevented.

Sudan: Regional Perspectives on the Prospect of Southern Independence, the latest background report from the International Crisis Group,
examines the historical relationships, strategic interests, and recent
engagement of key regional states as well as their views on the
possible independence of the South. Many of Sudan’s bordering states
were involved in, or affected by its civil wars, and each would be
directly affected by either peaceful separation or a return to
conflict. If there is a credible referendum process – as promised when
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended twenty years of fighting
in 2005 and in the Interim National Constitution – recognition of a
new Southern state should prove relatively uncomplicated.

“If, however, the process does not go according to plan – particularly
if Khartoum attempts to manipulate or obstruct the exercise or its
result – regional states and institutions should consider how best to
respond to ensure the right of self-determination is respected and new
conflict is averted”, says Zach Vertin, Crisis Group Analyst.

Neighbours must prepare by engaging Khartoum and Juba on
practicalities of the referendum and peaceful implementation of its
outcome. Circumstances will shape specific policy responses, but
regional actors must prepare now for all possible eventualities,
including: a choice for separation and subsequent recognition of an
independent state; a decision to preserve unity; any challenge to the
right of self-determination; or contested referendum result.

Pragmatic tones are emerging with regard to support for the referendum
exercise and result, but if the process is in fact disrupted or
compromised, the broader international community will seek to
calibrate its response in light of African opinion. Policy coherence
between the regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on
Development (IGAD), and the African Union (AU) will be crucial. IGAD’s
members will likely be the first to make any recommendations regarding
Southern Sudan’s post-referendum status, but ensuring AU participation
in, and ultimate backing of, that policy is crucial if an independent
South is to secure maximum legitimacy.

“Any return to conflict in Sudan would undoubtedly draw in the
region”, says Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa
Project Director. “Regional neighbours, the AU, and IGAD should
harmonise efforts to support the referendum process, recognise its
results and help manage peaceful implementation of its outcome”.

Full report (PDF):

Sudan - Regional Perspectives on the Prospect of Southern Independence