Less than one year after the formal split between Sudan and South Sudan, the two countries are wrapped in conflict again over border demarcation, oil, and other issues. Both nations are also contending with serious internal turmoil in the form of tribal conflict, weak institutions, and mounting popular dissatisfaction.

Ambassador Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, joined Ambassador Alan Goulty of the Woodrow Wilson Center and Carnegie’s Marina Ottaway to discuss the issues at stake in the conflicts between and within Sudan and South Sudan and the role of the international community. Carnegie’s Fred Wehrey moderated the conversation.

Conflicts in and Between Sudan and South Sudan

  • Two Countries, One Revenue Source: While both Sudan and South Sudan have the potential to develop a holistic economy, they are heavily dependent on oil as a revenue source, said Ottaway. Furthermore, the two countries did not agree upon oil transit fees or prepare an economic solution to make up for lost revenue before the split, she added. Lyman noted that oil is a weapon that each side uses to fight against the other.
  • Border Conflict: Parts of the border between Sudan and South Sudan have never been clearly delineated and, even more problematically, some populations along the border are not convinced of their official legal location, Ottaway said. As a result, some in the North identify with those in the South, having actually fought alongside them, she said.
  • Nation-Building in the South: Ottaway noted that the South remained underdeveloped and it has not received much help in nation-building, raising questions on the country's ability to manage its needs and its population.
  • Conflict and Leadership in the North: The North continues to suffer from clashes and violence around its periphery, Ottaway said. It needs a new political structure in light of the old leadership that has long controlled the government, she concluded.

Lessons from Negotiations

  • Peace after the CPA: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) demonstrated that peace can only be made by the Sudanese and South Sudanese, not imposed by the outside, said Goulty. He added that the CPA's success during the interim period was due to a number of factors, including widespread war weariness, the absence of a possible military victory for either side, and the engagement of powers like the troika (the US, UK and Norway).
  • Successes of the CPA: The CPA was successful in providing for the separation of forces, achieving peace, establishing an autonomous government in the South, and ensuring that elections (however flawed) and a Southern referendum would take place, Goulty added.
  • The Problem with the CPA: Goulty noted that one of the major failures of the CPA was that it was based on a vision for a single unified country and for this reason, it did not provide for any post-secession agreements or arrangements. Each country assumed that the other was responsible for making unity palatable. Lyman added that each side felt that they would be better off after the split and that is why there was no real incentive to solve some of the most serious issues between the two nations.
  • Remaining Optimistic: Although conflict continues in and between Sudan and South Sudan, Lyman argued that there are reasons to be optimistic. He noted that both Sudan and South Sudan do not want an all-out war and both have significant economic challenges that may prevent them from making unreasonable demands during negotiations.
  • The Next Steps: The African Union came up with a specific roadmap which the UN Security Council adopted and added a timeline to, said Lyman. The Security Council has threatened to implement sanctions against both Sudan and South Sudan if a settlement is not reached within 90 days, he added. The two countries are now in formal negotiations facilitated by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Goulty added that he disapproves of placing sanctions on either nation, given that sanctions have been attempted before unsuccessfully and had harmed ordinary people and made it difficult for humanitarian aid to be sent.
  • A Comprehensive Solution: While many have talked about a comprehensive solution and the speakers agreed that it a nice idea, it is logistically difficult to get the necessary actors around one table. Ottaway added that a comprehensive solution would require a regime change, as well as a change of mindset among opposition groups in the country.
  • The Role of the International Community: While outside powers can certainly mediate, they should not take sides and they should give the Sudanese room to implement their own peace, Goulty said. The international community should encourage the cessation of hostilities, he added. Lyman also noted that dialogue between the militaries, banks, and trade ministers of the two countries should be encouraged.