Southern Sudan stands on the brink of a massive humanitarian crisis. In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended the 20-year civil war that claimed over 2,000,000 lives and displaced millions more. While the people are still struggling to rebuild their country after the war, the relative peace that has held since 2005 is strained to the breaking point. Both the governments of the north and semiautonomous south are increasing the pitch of their rhetoric ahead of the January 9th referendum, which will decide unity or southern independence. The north issues periodic demands to delay the referendum. The south warns that any delay will not be tolerated.
Buildup to the Referendum
Despite the approach of the referendum provided for by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, difficulties registering potential voters have been reported. There is no doubt that southern Sudan will face significant challenges if it votes to secede, as the years of war have taken a devastating toll upon the infrastructure of the country. One of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, the average life expectancy is 42. The maternal mortality rate is the fifth highest in the world,and only 12 percent of women are literate. The World Food Programme currently targets 1.4 million people for relief services in the south. These indicators suggest that the situation in Sudan could be easily destabilized. Moreover, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) has made it clear that it is ready to struggle in whatever way necessary to ensure that south Sudan has the opportunity to vote for independence.
For civilians caught in the midst of increasing political unrest, violence and displacement harbinger a massive crisis. Wide-scale dislocation threatens to force people from their homes with little food and scarce access to basic resources. Other organizations are equipping to offer post-displacement aid, while NP works to reduce and prevent such displacement ahead of time. We aim to help ensure people are safe from the extreme hardship of forced displacement. In addition to our current sites, we plan to extend our presence into Mvolo County in West Equatoria state and expand into Unity state.
Reducing Deadly Cattle Raids and Land Disputes in Mvolo County
Establishing a civilian protection team in Mvolo County will allow NP to even more effectively address the cattle and land disputes that beset the area.
Heading Off Civilian Displacement in Unity State’s Volatile Borderlands
Unity state sits precariously on the volatile north-south border. The contested boundary has undermined trust and increased tensions between the three main communities in the region. Disputes over migratory routes, land ownership and resources have always been contentious but are now increasingly so. Adding to the volatility, the borderlands contain 80 percent of Sudan’s oil reserves. Violence here risks major human displacement southward in 2011. We are working to help reduce such displacement. Helping people stay in their own communities means more than providing protection. It also means helping civilians take ownership of their own protection needs. We do this by helping them learn the tools of unarmed civilian peacekeeping so they can act to keep themselves safe and secure. Building and strengthening such local capacity will prove core to our efforts to help contain the post-referendum violence.