Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Both sides stand to lose if talks in Sudan falter

As Sudan prepares to vote for against secession from the north, the most painful part of any divorce proceedings, 'who gets what', must be decided.

Divorce is rarely unexpected, but it's never easy. This certainly holds for Sudan, where voters in the south are preparing to vote for or against secession from the north. But in geography, as in marriage, it's the terms of separation with the greatest potential for pain.

Registration for the January 9 referendum began yesterday and will continue through the month. Salva Kiir, the president of the semi-autonomous southern Sudan, called on his people to sign up "en masse" for the vote, and early indications suggest they intend to opt for secession in large numbers.

Juba's drive for self-determination comes after five years of relative calm in a dispute that spans decades and has left millions dead. There are many reasons it seeks a break with Khartoum, but in doing so it risks a return to hostilities. Southerners blame President Omar Bashir's government for political exclusion, and many are sceptical the north will accept the secession of the oil-rich south regardless of the vote.

There have been tentative moves towards reconciliation. Both sides agreed this week to a deal brokered by the African Union that addresses issues related to borders, economic activity and citizenship.

Demarcation of the border, 20 per cent of which is still contested, could prove the thorniest issue. While a resolution can technically wait until votes are cast in January, the longer the border remains in dispute, the more opportunity for violent clashes.

Troop build-ups on both sides of the border seem to be expecting trouble. For Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur, the prospect that violence could spill over has worried peacekeepers who are already dealing with a humanitarian crisis.

Equally contentious are agreements over the distribution of oil wealth and the disputed region of Abyei. With reserves mostly in the south and refineries in the north, both sides stand to wreck their economic potential if they fail to find common ground.

The United States has joined the diplomatic effort, engaging Mr Bashir's government and offering to remove it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Senator John Kerry has personally called on both governments to come to agreement over Abyei.

The onus - and the decision - will remain in the hands of both sides. They have been separated for some time, and many think that a final divorce is inevitable. But regardless of what happens on January 9, they still must come to terms with their interdependence.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Walter Zenga is one win away from claiming silverware for the first time in the UAE. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Walter Zenga seeks early retribution at Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup final

A victory over Al Ahli in the Arabian Gulf Cup final will help prove the Italian has turned around the fortunes of the capital club.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National