Crisis in Sudan -- Again

Sudan People's Liberation Army soldiers move towards frontline positions near Pana Kuach, Unity State, South Sudan in this Fr
Sudan People's Liberation Army soldiers move towards frontline positions near Pana Kuach, Unity State, South Sudan in this Friday, May 11, 2012 photo. In late April, tensions between Sudan and South Sudan erupted into armed conflict along their poorly defined border. Thousands of SPLA forces have been deployed to Unity State where the two armies are at a tense stalemate around the state's expansive oil fields. Fighting between the armies lulled in early May after the U.N. Security Council ordered the countries to resume negotiations. South Sudan seceded from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011 following decades of civil war. (AP Photo/Pete Muller)

Co-authored by Ahmed Hussain Adam

Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement in Addis Ababa on September 27, 2012. The deal lays a foundation to reduce tensions, which threatened a spiral of deadly violence between Sudan and South Sudan. In 1983-2005, 2 million died in a bloody civil war between the two Sudans. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended the war and called for a referendum on South Sudan's status. After 99 percent voted to break away from Sudan, South Sudan was recognized as the world's newest nation on August 8, 2011.

But Bashir soon showed signs of "buyer's remorse." The CPA allocated 80 percent of Sudan's oil reserves to South Sudan. With Khartoum's treasury depleted, Bashir tried to undermine South Sudan's independence, attacking border areas and threatening South Sudan's oil fields.

The Addis Agreement brings Sudan and South Sudan back from the brink. It establishes a revenue sharing formula for oil produced in South Sudan. It also sets transit fees for oil shipped through a Sudanese pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

The agreement assigns responsibility for external debt, estimated at $40 billion, to Sudan with the two countries agreeing to jointly seek debt relief from international creditors.

It also calls for a cessation of hostilities. It creates a demilitarized zone along the highly volatile and disputed border, requiring both sides to cease supporting rebel groups.

Khartoum revoked the citizenship of South Sudanese living in Sudan after independence. The agreement grants citizens of each state freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activities, and property rights.

The Addis Agreement represents progress; yet peace is fragile.

Bashir's track record of war-mongering and repression hardly inspires confidence in him as a reliable peace partner. Moreover, the Addis Agreement fails to address the root causes of conflict.

Both countries desperately need income. But it will take months for South Sudan to re-start pumping oil, and even longer for oil revenues to accrue.

The cessation of hostilities will be overseen by an international monitoring mission. However, it is not clear when the mission will be operational or how freely its personnel will be allowed to move around.

The disputed border town of Abyei is a flash-point for conflict escalation. Sudan's armed forces used artillery and helicopter gunships to attack the Ngok Dinka, driving more than 100,000 tribespeople from their homes in the past three years.

Khartoum has also attacked civilians in North Kordofan, Blue Nile State, and in the Nuba Mountains killing thousands. Flaunting UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and international humanitarian law, Khartoum denies relief agencies access to the more than 500,000 people affected by the conflict.

Conditions in Darfur are also worsening. Just days before the Addis Agreement, Khartoum launched a new offensive against Darfur. Squalid camps inhabited by internally displaced persons were shelled. Further exacerbating tensions, Khartoum is cracking-down on political opponents targeting members of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/North with arrest and assassination.

Khartoum's provocations have opened old wounds. After 40 years of civil war, the greatest obstacle to peace between Sudan and South Sudan is deep distrust.

The United States has a special interest in Sudan's political transition and East Africa's peace. Washington has security, economic and humanitarian interests in preventing a new spiral of deadly violence from engulfing the region.

Bashir is the only seated head-of-state indicted by the International Criminal Court. His National Congress Party espouses sharia law. Sudan is already a state-sponsor of terrorism. The Obama administration does not want Bashir exporting his virulent anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism. With Sudan bordering on seven states -- South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic -- conflict and refugees could easily spill across Sudan's borders.

U.S. mediators negotiated the CPA. America's status in the region would be diminished if hostilities resumed between Sudan and South Sudan.

The United States wants to diversify its energy supplies. South Sudan has the potential to export 500,000 barrels of oil per day to international markets.

The Addis Agreement will be judged by its implementation. Deferring Abyei and disputed border areas could lead to violence, unraveling positive elements of the agreement. Similarly, the Darfur crisis can only be solved through a comprehensive solution to Sudan's regions.

The Obama administration must remain vigilant, monitoring the Addis Agreement and working towards a transition to democracy in Sudan. Without active engagement, including coordination with the Africa Union's mediation mission, the agreement will fail potentially resulting in renewed full-scale conflict.

David L. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Ahmed Hussain Adam is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights.