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Africa, particularly the sub-region we live in, continues to suffer from bloody conflicts and all-out wars from countries that cannot avert a war for a piece of land.
Eritrea’s succession came after a bloody civil war. Border related disputes between Ethiopia and Eritrea resulted in another war just over a decade ago and it is yet to be resolved. Some say it’s a ticking bomb. Asmara is not ready to talk with Addis Ababa.
Among the deadliest of conflicts, is the Sudan’s civil war. Dubbed as ‘the second Sudanese civil war’, the conflict ran from 1983 to 2005 between the central Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the latter fighting for independence of the southern Sudanese provinces.
It was largely a continuation of ‘the first Sudanese civil war between 1955 and 1972. Although it originated in Southern Sudan, the civil war spread to the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile by the end of the 1980s.
Roughly two million people have died as a result of war, in addition there has famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people in South Sudan have been displaced at least once (and often repeatedly) during the war.
The civilian death toll is one of the highest of any war since World War II. The conflict ended with the signing of a peace agreement in January 2005.
The long, bloody civil war culminated in an open and peaceful referendum that saw the South emerge as an independent nation in July. Many thought this was the end of the conflict and that both North and South Sudan would learn to live side by side peacefully.
Latest Sings coming from both Juba and Khartoum however paint a different picture; maybe Sudanese leaders are not yet ready to put their arms down.
Earlier last month, first usually tampered South Sudanese forces made a strange move by forcefully taking control of the oil-rich Heglig region. Sudan responded by constantly bombarding South Sudanese territories.
As he sent troops “to liberate the invaded territory”, Sudan’s strongman Omar al-Bashir vowed to oust the South’s government as a favor the Southerners. This and other rhetoric from Khartoum alarmed the world; fearing an all-out war between the two states.
Though war seemed inevitable, the African Union Commission moved to put out a roadmap that could avert it.
The African Union Peace and Security Council issued a seven-point roadmap calling for a halt to the fighting and giving Sudan and South Sudan two weeks to restart negotiations which broke down earlier this month. It gave the two nations three months to complete negotiations.
The AU says for the negotiations to bear fruit, Sudan and South Sudan should withdraw their forces from the disputed border region, keep their troops within their borders and stop supporting rebel groups in the other nation.
As per this plan, the two sides have until Tuesday to restart solve their disputes as they should in the 21st century-through talks.
Strengthen positive signs South Sudan on April 30 announced that it is ready to comply with the AU’s plan which is also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.
Sudan rather vaguely said earlier this week that it too accepts the roadmap “in principle”.
Welcoming both sides positive reaction to its calls, the African Union says it will be ready shortly to stage the talks.
The AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping on May 2nd issued a statement stating that the AU high level panel which will host the two state’s talks is making the necessary arrangements for the urgent resumption of negotiations on all pending issues.
Oil revenues, citizenship of resident’s in each other’s territories, border demarcation and the final status of the contested Abyei region are disputes the AU facilitated negotiation aims to settle.
As talks are scheduled, the role of mediators including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who have the confidence of both Sudan and South Sudan, become indispensable. The mediators should leave no stone unturned to avert another war between the two, so far they have been successful but it’s difficult if it will stay this way.
This is not forgetting the responsibility of Sudan and South Sudan who are not only jeopardizing their own but the region’s stability and prosperity as well.
No regional body’s roadmap, even sanctions by the Security Council, alone can solve the dispute. But statesmanship can. It all comes down to the leaders of the two countries and if they have learned from the past and can now, once and for all, do justice to their countrymen and their nations’ future.
Negotiations, giving and taking, could be difficult. But surely it is less difficult than going to a war, both countries should know.