Today is a day of joy for the people of South Sudan. After one of the most protracted and bloody civil wars on the African continent, with more than 2 million war casualties and over 4 million displaced people, the formal declaration of independence took place yesterday, following the over-whelming referendum where 99% of the mainly Christian South Sudanese, voted to spilt from the predominantly Muslim North Sudan. The cited casualty and refugee numbers do not reflect the victims of the Darfur genocide. Darfurians hope to establish a secular state of their own.
Although independence has been declared, a range of difficult and important issues remain to be negotiated, for instance final borders and how to split oil revenues. To add more complications, traditional pastoral lands have been bought up by foreign companies, many of them from neighboring Arab countries. This practice is referred to as land grab and represents a potent risk factor in an area where traditionally, conflicts are solved by gun power.
Norway has played an important role in the negotiations, for which we have every reason to be proud.
But unlike our meddling in the Israel-Palestine conflict, where the current government clearly has taken sides, Norway has supported quiet diplomacy and interim solutions. I cannot be the only one who will recall the sneer and outright rejection when Israeli PM Netanyahu suggested a long term interim peace agreement with temporary borders?
Another striking difference is that while no doubt difficult negotiations have taken place, while blood has been flowing in the streets, activists of the kind that make a mockery of the word humanitarian aid, as well as journalists with an agenda, have been blissfully absent from the scene. Perhaps this has been an essential ingredient to keeping the focus on the larger goal, to achieve peace, and not to delegitimize one of the parties to the conflict.
Although, on the other hand, a little moral outrage over the millions who have died, and the millions who are now in imminent danger of death on the Horn of Africa would have lent credibility to all the NGOs who flatter themselves to be “humanitarian” or “human rights” oriented.
But on a day such as today, we can only cheer our new sister nation, South Sudan and wish them the very best of luck in attaining a final negotiated outcome that will secure peace and prosperity for all.