Sudan's referendum is over, but the country still needs attention
Guest blogger Laura Heaton outlines the issues still facing Sudan after the south's independence referendum and urges the media and international community to not lose interest.
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- Darfur is just one area of the North that will require concerted attention to avoid falling off the map; the dynamics in the new northern Sudan state will change significantly.
- Alarming rhetoric about the need to implement Sharia law more strictly and withhold rights for southerners who remain in the North, crackdown on protesters, arrest and intimidation of journalists and human rights activists show that political space is shrinking further; Sudan’s northern leaders feel threatened.
- With the breakaway of southern Sudan, things just got even more difficult for northern opposition groups, who previously were able to align with the SPLM because they had in common the experience of being marginalized and neglected by the central government.
- Outstanding elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, like popular consultations in the marginalized Three Areas of the North, at-risk of being derailed or at least not fully implemented in post-CPA Sudan.
- UN and US government sources especially concerned about threat of violence in South spurred by renegade generals; revised mortality figures from the most recent clashes between by former SPLA commander George Athor and the southern army indicated more than 200 people died – far more deaths than we’ve seen in any single incident in a long time.
- Southern government quick to link southern militias with the elements in the northern ruling party; “smoking gun” to back up the theory will likely be hard to pinpoint (though there has been some talk of Athor’s men wearing new uniforms and carrying new weapons, which can come from few sources).
- Important to note long history of the northern government deploying proxies and/or fomenting local tensions to meet its aims.
To end remarks on a more positive note…Skip to next paragraph
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Women’s empowerment in South and North
- Moment of transition presents unique opportunity for women to claim greater influence in governance and push for gender-sensitive policies.
- Constitutional review process in North and South, government working groups are laying the framework for new states; women’s groups are mobilizing to increase representation of women and press for specific policies and objectives.
- Steep road ahead because progress will require shifting cultural norms and confronting some significant development challenges, but women’s groups are organizing to take advantage of this occasion.
The event organizers mentioned that a podcast of the full event will be available soon.
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