Africa in the News: Sudan and South Sudan Sign

Khartoum announced a groundbreaking agreement that will open 10 crossings on the border of an agreed upon demilitarized zone between Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan.  Perhaps even more encouraging than the economic and humanitarian strides this agreement promises is the , now proven, ability of both nations to come to a peaceful, and mutually beneficial, foreign policy agreement.

The arrangement was a result of a continental effort, led by a special African Union Task force with former South African President Thabo Mbeki at the helm.  The UN is also involved in the effort, deploying 300 Ethiopian troops to monitor the “buffer zone” in addition to the six troops from both countries on either side of the boarder. Although the situation is still contentious, many are relieved that they will now be able to visit family, conduct business, and communicate between communities across sovereign borders. South Sudan has massive economic strides in order to provide its citizens with basic necessities and infrastructure, a goal that has certainly been hampered by lack of trade through, and with, the north.

Despite this encouraging agreement, many unresolved disputes between the two countries remain. Although officials report that nearly 80 percent of the border has been demarcated, the most disputed areas, including the Abyei region, have yet to be settled.  However, another foreign policy success bodes well for the possibility of future cooperation over the many contentious issues that linger. The two countries have agreed to meet again next month to continue negotiations on the border and lay out the logistics of the new crossing points. In and of itself, the willingness of the leadership in Khartoum to sit at the negotiation table is a major step in the right direction for the people of both nations.

Discussion Questions

•                How significant do you think it is for Sudan and South Sudan to make this agreement? Will it allow for future negotiations over more contentious issues or is it too soon to tell?

•                What is the role of the African Union in these negotiations? The UN? Are they doing enough? How might they go to far?

•                How do you think movement between the two countries will affect each one individually? What do you think will change?

Additional Information

•                A quick video from Euronews on the negotiations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5Z8qQORiso

•                An article from Bloomberg news on the situation: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-19/sudan-and-south-sudan-move-to-ease-tensions-with-border-accord.html

•                An article from the Sudan Tribune on other border issues: http://www.sudantribune.com/South-Sudan-border-wars,40178

•                An article on “Google Earth’s” challenges recognizing the borders between Sudan and South Sudan: http://ogleearth.com/2011/07/mapping-south-sudans-northern-border-not-so-fast/

http://www.sudantribune.com/Sudan-South-Sudan-sign-deal-on,40186