BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Welcome to this month’s episode of voices on genocide prevention. With me today is Jon Temin, who is the Senior Program Officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Jon, thank you for joining me.
JON TEMIN: Thank you for having me.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Jon, you ran some of USIP’s programs in Sudan, particularly before the recent national elections. Can you talk about the work that you were doing in the lead up to the elections?
JON TEMIN: I worked with a lot of my USIP colleagues on several programs in the lead up to the election. The most relevant one had to do with preventing election-related violence in Sudan in the run up to the elections, during the elections, and after the elections. We were able to conduct a series of workshops throughout the country, in the North and in the South, helping people to better understand strategies for preventing election-related violence, and better understand how election-related violence has happened in other countries, and how it has been prevented in other countries.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Can you describe the scene in Sudan as the elections became closer?
JON TEMIN: It was very confusing for a lot of Sudanese I think, particularly in the North as to which parties were participating in the elections and which parties were boycotting because several of the opposition parties went back and forth on whether they were participating or not. Ultimately the largest opposition party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, SPLM, which is also a part of the government of National Unity, chose not to participate in parts of the elections in northern Sudan, and that was a disappointment to a lot of people, particularly in the North. Some of the other opposition parties chose to participate and some did not, but there was a real lack of clarity for people really throughout the election process and right up to election day and beyond.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And these were the first elections in decades in Sudan, and I think for a lot of our listeners who know of Sudan through learning about the incredible targeted violence that has occurred there, there is a bit of a disconnect between a country led by someone who came to power in a military coup and assaulted entire civilian groups in the South and then again in the west in Darfur, and then this idea of the possibility of holding legitimate elections. How free and fair were these elections?
JON TEMIN: It’s hard for me to say concretely how free and fair they were, I was not there during the election, I was in Khartoum immediately after the election for about a week. I defer more to the election observers who were there and particularly some of the reports that came out from some of the election observation mission. The Carter Center had a large mission, the EU had a large mission, and there were some others as well. They raised some significant concerns about the process and they continue to in their reporting. So I think generally speaking, they were far from what expectations were in terms of the quality of the elections. But it’s also important to emphasize that there was a decent amount of variation in terms of the quality of the elections from place to place and there were some communities where I’ve spoken to observers who feel that the process, by and large went well. And there were other communities where I’ve spoken to observers who feel that it was a deeply flawed process.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: I’m speaking with you on May 27th, and I believe today was the day the new President was inaugurated, and he is the same as the old President, General Bashir. How does his election impact the prospect for Sudan’s capacity to move forward with the really momentous additional political markers that are coming up this year?
JON TEMIN: Yeah. It is important to emphasize that Sudan has two Presidents. It has President Bashir, who is the President of the government of National Unity, based in the North. And it has President Salva Kiir, President of the government of southern Sudan, who was inaugurated last weekend. Both of these, as you noted, are the same Presidents as previously and what that suggests is that there was a vote for stability, which may translate into the stability of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, that contains so many of the important events that are upcoming in Sudan, especially the two referenda, for both the South and for Abyei.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Okay the two referenda. Can you describe what the two issues are? Abyei is a very small region that borders --well its borders have been disputed, but between the North and South -- and then what is also the referendum for the South?
JON TEMIN: Both of these referenda are scheduled to take place in January of 2011 at the end of the time line of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Now the South is going to vote on whether they want to remain part of the united Sudan or secede and become their own country. A lot of expectations right now are that they are going to vote overwhelmingly to secede.
At the same time, a small piece of the country called Abyei, which is right in the middle of the country, right along the North-South border, is going to have its own referendum on whether it remains part of the North -- which it technically is now, although it’s under a special status within the Comprehensive Peace Agreement -- or whether it becomes a part of the South. Abyei is particularly important for several reasons. One is that it has significant oil underneath its ground, and obviously oil is very important to the Sudanese economy in both North and South. Abyei is also a traditional homeland for many of the Dinka, which is the dominant ethnic group in the South, and particularly for some of the leadership in the South, in the government of southern Sudan. It has great emotional significance as well for some. Abyei has been the trigger point for violence between the North and South just within the past two years. It is a particularly important place, even though it’s a small place. Some people say that it could also be the trigger for renewed violence if that is to come.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And what are your concerns? Are you worried about violence coming again, with the referendum, either before it or in the aftermath?
JON TEMIN: Renewed North-South violence certainly should be a concern. Whether that is going to happen, really nobody can predict at this point. It has a lot to do with the referendum and how peacefully and how credibly that referendum process proceeds. The South has been very clear that they need to see the referendum happen on time and in a credible way. Otherwise, from their perspective, there is a high likelihood of return to violence. The real question for the North is whether they are going to allow the referendum process to proceed peacefully and freely. President Bashir and other leaders in the North have been very vocal in saying that they will. That is encouraging, but the actions need to match the words. But so much of the potential return to violence in Sudan has to do with that referendum. That’s why it’s so important that there is proper preparation for the referendum and also proper preparation for what’s going to come after the referendum.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And what are some of the issues on the table in terms of preparing for the referendum and afterwards?
JON TEMIN: One of the most important issues concerns establishing the referendum commission that is going to administer the referendum process. Right now that commission does not exist, and needs to be formed quickly and it needs to be formed through agreement between the North and the South.
Then there needs to be real, on the ground preparation for the referendum and that includes registration for the referendum. In fact, registration for both of these referenda in the South and in Abyei. That’s not going to be an easy process. It has to happen throughout the South. It has to happen during a time of year when there are a lot of rains in the South and it can be very hard to get around the South. The South already has limited infrastructure, roads and so forth. So those are two of the things that need to happen in the near term.
Looking beyond the referendum -- and I’m speaking about the southern referendum now -- it’s very important that arrangements be put in place for managing some of the key issues between North and South post-referendum so that the day after the referendum, there are plans and agreements in place to manage some of these issues. I’m speaking about things such as oil, and how some of the oil is shared, because a lot of the oil is on or near the border between the North and the South.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And the pipelines all run through the North.
JON TEMIN: That’s correct. The majority of the oil is found in the South, roughly eighty percent or so. But the pipelines run through the North to Port Sudan; the refineries are in the North -- which really means that in order for both North and South to benefit from the oil in Sudan, they have to cooperate both in getting the oil out of the ground and in getting the oil out of the country.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And, could you also talk a little bit about where we’re seeing violence today? There have been some incidents in the South, I think actually more violence against civilians there, even in- than in Darfur, in the west. How will that volatility play into the referenda and other issues?
JON TEMIN: That is correct. There has been more violence and more violent death in southern Sudan, so far in 2010 and also in 2009, as compared to Darfur. And the growing local violence in southern Sudan has to be a major concern, both for the government of southern Sudan and for the international community, particularly given the likelihood that southern Sudan will vote for secession in this referendum. The sources of the violence are not completely clear; the South does accuse the North of having a hand in some of this violence, but at the same time, a lot of these issues are southern issues and have to do with ethnic relations and some tensions between various ethnic groups and access to resources.
How the government of southern Sudan and its security forces -- the army and the police -- respond have a lot to do with how this violence will be managed or mismanaged. There is a lot of speculation that particularly the army has something to do with the violence. We see some evidence of this, for example, in a former general in the army who has now basically become a renegade and is attacking some of the army barracks recently after he feels like elections that he ran in for state governor in one of the states were not free and fair.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Do you think that the ongoing conflict in Darfur is also a factor?
JON TEMIN: Well, it’s certainly important not to overlook what’s going on in Darfur. A lot of the global attention has shifted towards the North-South relationship and the coming referendum, but the situation in Darfur remains dire for a lot of people, particularly for those living in the camps. There is not a lot of connection between the violence in Darfur and the violence in the South, other than accusations that the North and the government in Khartoum is involved in violence in both places. Those are important things to consider. But particularly some of the rebels in Darfur, they have never made particularly strong connections with aggrieved groups in other parts of the country and right now some of those rebels in Darfur are looking fairly weak given recent events.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And one final question, I wondered if you could put the issue of a new state in Africa -- if the South votes to secede and to create a new state -- put that in a larger African context. There have not been many new states since the post-colonial period, I believe just Eritrea. Will this make any fundamental change across the continent?
JON TEMIN: That is a big question and an important question that the African Union in particular is grappling with right now. What kind of precedent will this set?
That is an important question, but I also don’t think that that question should be used to question the right to the referendum and the right to self-determination in southern Sudan. The time to have that conversation was while the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was being negotiated and finalized earlier in this decade. But it is important to emphasize that at this stage, the southerners have established their right to have the referendum and if they so choose, the right to have their own independent country.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: I didn’t mean to imply that those larger debates should impede the South; I mean that is clearly a negotiated right as part of the peace agreement, but It certainly will have some sort of ripple effect or impact on the rest of the continent.
JON TEMIN: One of the really remarkable things about post-colonial Africa is that the borders by and large have held, and there is the notable exception of Eritrea. But these borders that don’t make a lot of sense, in some ways, and were drawn rather arbitrarily at a conference in Berlin in 1885, have largely stuck. And this is one of the most important challenges to those borders, the referendum in southern Sudan I’m speaking of, that has come up in some time.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And I suppose a peaceful secession would provide a rather remarkable model.
JON TEMIN: Yeah. There are not a lot of other examples of this kind of peaceful secession globally.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Yeah. Well, Jon, thank you for taking the time to speak with me and we’ll be continuing to watch Sudan and draw attention, if any of these potential risks do increase.
JON TEMIN: Well thank you for having me, it’s been fun.
NARRATOR: You have been listening to Voices on Genocide Prevention, from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. To learn more about responding to and preventing genocide, join us online at www.ushmm.org/genocide.