a pre-election truce in darfur? fingers crossed

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president,  might be having information that we don’t in relation to the upcoming general election in April. His government just signed a peace accord with the JEM, Darfur’s biggest rebel movement. Mr. al-Bashir is desperately trying to stay in power. He also dreads the inevitable secession of Southern Sudan come 2011. Perhaps this is why he wants to make peace with the Darfuris so that he won’t have to deal with two war fronts if he chooses to maintain the territorial integrity of Sudan by force post-2011.

The conflict in Darfur has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced almost 2 million. Like Southern Sudan, the former independent Sultanate of Darfur has never really integrated into the Sudanese state – dominated since independence by the north central valley. The Southerners fought a protracted civil war between 1983 and 2005 before Khartoum agreed to a peace agreement that provided secession as an option. Southern Sudanese will most surely vote to secede in 2011. It will be interesting to see how the Darfuris will react to this. Khartoum is obviously loathe of any further dismembering of the Sudanese state.

Sudanese elections

Southern Sudan continues to be an extremely dangerous place as it prepares for elections in April. “Ethnic clashes” have so far killed at least 2500 this year alone. The SPLM has nominated Yasir Arman, a northerner, as its presidential candidate in their attempt to dislodge the genocidal al-Bashir from power. The fact that President Kir of Southern Sudan is not running at the national level is a clear signal that the South has its eyes on secession come 2011. President al-Bashir is likely to win the presidential election in April. What matters the most is whether he will let the Southerners go if they so choose in the 2011 referendum.

In the meantime, one of the things that should be done ASAP is to professionalize the Southern Sudanese army and mop up the excess weapons floating around. There are 2.7 million small arms in circulation in Sudan. Quite the definition of a tinderbox if you ask me.