In April, following presidential and parliamentary elections, Sudanese party leaders began informal discussions about structuring negotiations on post-referendum and post-CPA arrangements between the North and South. Concurrently, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, headed the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), whose mandate had been extended to “assist the Sudanese parties in implementing the CAP and related processes”.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Mekelle, Ethiopia in June that committed the parties to a discussion of the post referendum issues and outlined its modalities. In the following three months there were few significant negotiations and even less progress. The interconnection of issues, minimal sequencing of the agenda and the absence of strategic directives from the parties handicapped the working groups. The SPLM was lacking in technical expertise and felt they were being marginalised by their NCP counterparts. Initially the SPLM saw the benefits of third party engagement in the talks, but as time passed by the AUHIP group saw less negotiation time as a the go-to third-party, with observers questioning the infrequency of its direct engagement.
Broader negotiations were resumed on 7 November at the Council of Ministers’ premises, with the goal of developing a framework agreement within one week, before voter registration began on 15 November. The Obama administration offered to lift the “state sponsor of terrorism” nomenclature, normalise diplomatic relations, and offered aid packages and multilateral debt relief to the North as a counterweight to the potential cost of partition, thereby helping reintegrate Sudan into the world economy.