Sudan is scheduled to be cleaved in two, as previously posted on here, here and here. While many are celebrating this as a great move for freedom, the problem from the beginning has been deciding where Southern Sudan begins, as I noted in a previous post:
But where exactly is Southern Sudan? This is the bigger question that most news articles trumpeting the referendum are ignoring. The new border has not yet been precisely drawn, and beyond the local squabbles over grazing rights and water rights is the larger issue as the border will become the new border between Black Africa and the Arab World. The geographical margin is small, but any doubt leaves open the possibility of local violence that could mushroom into something much worse. The key hotspot is Abyei, a town located on the western most light blue box on the map below, and which is representative of a larger problem in what is increasingly likely to be a demarcation creating a new country in Southern Sudan.
There have been several reports over the past week about fighting erupting in multiple spots across the border. Abyei appears to be the most contested area, but there are stories of violence in a number of villages. And the United Nations Peacekeeping Force has a mandate that expires next month upon the scheduled independence of Southern Sudan, with Northern Sudan insisting that they leave by then. There is a proposal for an Ethiopian force to take its place.
The latest reports are that Sudan — which may soon be known as “Northern Sudan” — is gathering its forces near the disputed territories, and also reports that there could be genocide all over again in the border territories in the attempt to limit the territory that becomes Southern Sudan. As evidence that this is already occurring, the New York Times quotes a report that tens of thousands are fleeing, mass graves containing thousands of bodies have been found, and vigilante (or government forces) are going door-to-door in bordertowns to carry out executions on the spot.
So Sudan’s independence is not as smooth as some had expected, and as warned on these pages more recently. Independence — now scheduled for less than a month away — is not going to be easy.