An official of South Sudan’s government says Sudan is in danger of witnessing another civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south unless the international community intervenes.
The National Congress Party, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, has repeatedly broken the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the country’s bloody two-decade-long civil war, reported Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of government of South Sudan Mission to the United States, to International Christian Concern.
As a result of the North’s failure, the delicate peace process is in danger of being derailed, he said.
“The role of the international community is to get in now and help us (the South and North Sudanese) to make sure that we work together to avoid war, to have peaceful disengagement and a fair election [and] put a lot of pressure on the NCP to end the war in Darfur,” Gatkuoth said.
Sudan is scheduled to hold its first national and presidential elections in April 2010. The elections will be the country’s first in 24 years. Then in January 2011, Sudan is slated to hold a referendum on whether South Sudan will secede from Sudan.
Gatkuoth said studies show that 98 percent of the people in Southern Sudan plan to vote for separation.
The elections and referendum are part of the 2005 Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil wars. The two-decade conflict between ethnic African southerners, who are mostly Christian and animist, and Sudan’s Arab-dominated government left an estimated two million people dead and tens of thousands of others displaced and wounded.
Hundreds of churches in Southern Sudan were also destroyed by Muslim militiamen from the north during the civil war.
In the five years that the CPA has existed, there has always been fear that the peace process would be derailed over disputes about the border between the north and south, the enactment of a national security law, and the April 2010 election, among other issues.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last week noted that the NCP escalated the tension between the north and south by pushing through the National Assembly – a body the party controls – a Southern Sudan referendum bill with new language that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement did not agree to. The SPLM is the primarily Christian political party that governs South Sudan.
And on Dec. 20, the National Assembly pushed through a revised National Security Act that the SPLM also objected to because it did not include any new measures to hold the security services accountable. Sudan’s security forces are widely known to abuse their power with impunity.
Earlier this month, USCIRF highlighted how government police and security personnel arrested and abused opposition members of Sudan’s National Assembly during their peaceful attempt to present a letter calling for human rights reform and other key legislations necessary to implement the CPA.
A USCIRF delegation was in Khartoum at the time and met with senior SPLM leaders who told delegation members about the arrests and showed them the bruises of an SPLM official who was beaten with batons and kicked repeatedly by security forces.
“The NCP’s latest actions imperil the CPA,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair, in a statement. “An emboldened NCP needs to hear directly from the Secretary [of State] that its violations of human rights and repudiations of agreements it made long ago to implement the CPA will not stand.
“These violations are threatening to derail the CPA which provides the only existing roadmap to peace in Sudan and it is now hanging by a thread,” Leo warned.
The U.S. State Department labels Sudan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its severe and systematic violation of religious freedom.
ICC, meanwhile, has noted that it is “very concerned” that another “jihad” against Christians and animists in South Sudan will occur soon.
The interdenominational human rights group has called on the international community to put pressure on the government of Omar al-Bashir to implement its obligations under the CPA.