December 21, 2006

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, warns that while “almost all of the attention which policymakers in the West have given to Sudan over the course of the last year has been rightly focused…on the ongoing genocide in the country’s western Darfur region,” nonetheless “the specter of another, potentially even more devastating, conflict now looms large over Sudan.”

According to Dr. Pham, since almost all of Sudan’s foreign exchange derives from its joint petroleum ventures with Chinese, Malaysian, and other Asian firms, and over 80 percent of Sudan’s hydrocarbon reserves lie in South Sudan, while the United States-brokered 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Islamist regime in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) promises southerners the possibility of seceding by referendum in 2011, the government “ is well aware that the clock is ticking away and that it only has a few years in which to obtain maximum benefit from the oil wealth before losing it forever”—and that is assuming that it will respect the CPA. As Dr. Pham observes, “Given the record of Sudan’s National Islamic Front regime, there is little reason not to anticipate that, rather than resigning itself to losing its most valuable territory, it might adopt the same scorch earth approach that Indonesia did when the East Timorese voted overwhelming for independence in the [United Nations]-supervised referendum in 1999.”

Recalling that the Sudanese regime slaughtered over two million southerners before the peace accord, the article concludes that “America must remain engaged—politically, diplomatically, and militarily—to ensure that both the spirit and the letter of the peace accord which it helped broker is upheld and that South Sudanese will indeed be able to exercise their sovereign self-determination at the end of the decade.”

To read Dr. Pham’s article, “The Next Sudanese Conflict,” click here.