October 11, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, points out that while a great deal of attention has been recently focused on the humanitarian situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region, the story being missed is the slow unraveling of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended decades of civil war between the Arab-dominated Muslim north of the country and South Sudan, where the population is largely Christian or adherents of traditional African religions, a conflict which killed more than two million people dead.

Citing a chain of missed deadlines as well as special presidential envoy for Sudan Andrew Natsios who wrapped up a ten-day visit to Sudan last weekend pronouncing the political climate there “poisonous,” Dr. Pham concludes:

In the recent months, the United States has finally gotten around to implementing the promise made during the final stages of negotiations for CPA that America would help transform the heroic, but ragtag SPLA into a professional military. This State Department-funded program, using private contractors, needs to be accelerated and expanded—and, possibly, even made a priority of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which was achieved its “initial operating capacity” last week. With the tensions simmering just below the surface and the collapse of the peace agreement looming at the edge the horizon, only a credible armed force can provide the long-suffering South Sudanese with the security they yearn for and deter the Khartoum regime from igniting a new conflict that will be far deadlier and geopolitically more destabilizing than the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Dr. Pham’s column was filed earlier this week, before today’s announcement by the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that its members were suspending their involvement in the national unity government for the very factors w cited in the article.

To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s article, “ South Sudan: Simmering Below the Surface,” click here.