omar al-bashir, al bashir, sudan president
Amr Nabil/AP
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir attends the closing session of the Arab summit in Doha, Qatar,
Monday, March 30, 2009.

Sudan Agrees to Conflict Prevention as Border Issue Goes to Court

July 18, 2009 08:30 AM
by Liz Colville
A court in The Hague will rule on a border dispute between the rival north and south regions of Sudan next week.

Fighting Ended in 2005, But Tensions Remain

There are "up to 14 unresolved issues" between the north and south regions of Sudan, according to Malik Aggar, a negotiator and member of the south's former Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), speaking to the BBC.

A border dispute is just one of them, and according to Aggar, there is "bound to be disappointment from one side or another" over The Hague's Permanent Court for Arbitration decision on the border, to be delivered the week of July 20.

The Hague is handling the demarcation after clashes broke out last year. The southern region of Abyei lies close to oil fields "claimed by both the north and the south," Reuters explains.

U.S. Sudan envoy Scott Gration oversaw a meeting between the two sides this week in the northern capital of Khartoum that aimed to iron out some of the differences outstanding after the 2005 peace agreement. Talks are continuing on July 19 and 20, according to Reuters.

"[B]oth parties are prepared to quell any violence" resulting from the court's ruling, Aggar vowed, with President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party spokesperson adding that the two are willing to work together "to prevent renewed conflict," the BBC reports.

But Reuters' report suggests that the two sides "remain divided." Apart from the Abyei borders, other murky issues include "preparations for national elections, a disputed census and a raft of laws seen as central to the peace deal."

The north-south conflict is said to have claimed 2 million lives and displaced 4 million people between 1983 and 2005, according to Reuters. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 allowed for oil revenues to be shared by the north and south. It also "set up a coalition government and promised elections, now scheduled for April 2010, and a referendum on southern independence in January 2011," Reuters adds. The Aegis Trust, a nonprofit group campaigning to prevent crimes against humanity, summarizes the outstanding provisions in the agreement on its Web site.

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Related Topic: Conflict and humanitarian crisis in Darfur

Sudan is Africa's largest country and one of its most diverse, and is the setting of two major conflicts. The conflict and humanitarian crisis in the western region of Darfur, separate from the 22-year north-south dispute, was sparked by clashes between "pro-government Arab militias" and non-Arab groups over natural resources.

The militias "are accused of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arab groups," the BBC's country profile on Sudan explains. In 2009, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the BBC adds, the first ever issued by the ICC for a sitting head of state.

The humanitarian crisis that resulted from this conflict has received widespread attention. It is believed to have claimed the lives of between 200,000 and 300,000 people, and displaced 2.5 million since 2003, according to U.N. statistics.

In March, following the ICC's arrest warrant for al-Bashir, President Barack Obama spoke out about the conflict. After meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Obama offered U.S. support in working with the United Nations to create a “path for long-term peace and stability in the Sudan," he was quoted as saying in a White House press release.

Earlier in July, the African Union announced it would not be cooperating with the ICC's arrest warrant for al-Bashir, citing concerns that it would interfere with the peace process in Sudan. Following that decision, several South African "organizations and individuals" released a statement pleading with South Africa President Jacob Zuma to retreat from that decision, saying it "represents the most serious challenge to the struggle against impunity and lawlessness on the African continent," Voice of America reported.

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