Mbeki Speaks on the Eve of Historic Sudanese Referendum

On the eve of what will no doubt become an historic referendum for South Sudan, Mbeki gave two speeches at the University of Khartoum and the University of Juba, in which he noted that the referendum will be a cause for celebration regardless of the outcome. Either way, Sudan will emerge as a true contributor to the emancipation and transformation of the African continent, and will help lead Africa on its ‘Pan-Africanist’ path.

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Sudan’s Eye In The Sky

To my surprise I recently came across an article on the Sudanese referendum which was unlike all the other commentary I had been reading up until now, in that it serves as an interesting example of a situation in which celebrities are becoming involved in a cause, and their actions seem to be both heartfelt and may hold a genuine promise of producing some meaningful results.

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Determined by Blood and Oil

Back in the days of International Environmental Law seminars, I had a conversation with a fellow seminar attendee, a Sudanese gentleman, about the future of South Sudan. Being a relatively cold-hearted international lawyer (by Environmental Law standards anyway), I maintained that self-determination is a matter usually settled by bloodshed and natural resources useful to those offering support for independence – the referendum only necessary for legitimacy in the minds of the South Sudanese population. The thing that struck me was the conviction with which he told me that the secession would (first, foremost and ultimately) be determined  by the  people of South Sudan through the omnipotent referendum.  This is not a naively unreasonable position. History shows us that secession only happens in exceptional circumstances, often in the form of ‘remedial secession’ aimed at remedying a severe wrong suffered by a population. After all, the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations embodies the idea of secession being people-determined. This declaration  says that all people have the right to determine their political status and pursue their own political, social, economic and social development. Self-determination may also be a principle generating true rights in the post-colonial sense of its usage in Common Article 1(1) of the two covenants on human rights. However, the conspicuous scarcity of the secession phenomenon suggests that, in the secessionist notion of self-determination, self-determination does not have the same status as a right. There are very few examples of secession against the preservation of territorial integrity despite grievances of minorities. In simplistic terms, Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993, following a civil war and internationally-supervised referendum. Biafra’s secession claim failed in the absence of regional and international support. Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan with support from India following the withdrawal of troops from the territory. In an unprecedented use of their powers, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) gave Kosovo substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration in UNSC Resolution 1244 (1999). History shows us that secession...

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Lessons for Sudan from Ivory Coast

There isn’t a whole lot similar between the Ivory Coast and Sudan. The latter’s impending referendum is not at all similar to the presidential election recently held in the Ivory Coast in which Laurent Gbagbo has blatantly ignored defeat and seems intent on dragging his country into damaging conflict with the international community and his own people. One is a question of presidential power, the other of the identity of the Sudanese state. But it is the stern condemnation of Gbagbo’s petulance by ECOWAS which is of note when we begin to look forward at Sudan’s referendum in January. There have been strong messages from the West African regional organisation, with the threat of intervention far from empty rhetoric. The key to this referendum, much like in what we are witnessing in the Ivory Coast, is how the current leader reacts. Neither the Ivory Coast nor Sudan are strangers to military intervention, with both experiencing violent conflict during their histories. Thus when fellow African statesmen threaten to remove Gbagbo from his illegitimate seat of power, it would behoove Sudan’s Bashir to take note. Should the referendum go ahead without another delay, all indicators point towards a pro-secessionist south result. The key to this referendum, much like in what we are witnessing in the Ivory Coast, is how the current leader reacts. Should Bashir deny the Independence of Sudan and attempt some manner of equivocation, be it some sort of quasi-federation or simple rejection of the results, one has to question the international reaction to it. Should the United Nations and AU condemn Bashir in the advent of post-referendum political stubbornness, the current situation in the Ivory Coast sets up a decent Jus Ad Bellum in the sense that simply ignoring the will of the people is no longer acceptable in Africa. Whatever develops in the Ivory Coast will be sure to have ramifications in Sudan. How far-reaching and important this link might be will be determined almost completely by Bashir’s reaction. In the advent of post-referendum violence, the Sudanese...

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Sudan 2010

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...

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