Sudan is at a critical point in its quest for peace and security. Under the 2005 accord that ended Africa's longest-running civil war, a referendum is to be held in January that will enable southern Sudanese to decide whether to remain part of the nation or to become an independent state.
Preparations for the vote are behind schedule, however, and all parties should recommit themselves to the work at hand. If the process were to collapse and the fighting renewed, the results would be devastating not only for the Sudanese people, but for the entire region.
The latest complication came July 29, when a senior official of Sudan's ruling and northern-based National Congress Party appeared to condition January's vote on completing work on a border formally demarcating the north and south. He also warned that failure to agree on a border could lead to a new conflict.
Differences have emerged between the NCP and representatives of the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement over several distinct sites along the envisioned dividing line and work to define it is behind schedule.
Fully implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is a top priority of the United States. We are working on the ground and at the highest levels within the international community to bring that about. However, for this effort to succeed, the Sudanese must lead the implementation. It will be better for the process if there is a clear border demarcation that paves the way for whatever decision Southern Sudan will make. Rather than putting conditions on the vote, it would be better for Sudan to cooperate and work to resolve the outstanding issues. Southern Sudan is entitled to a referendum in January and the United States will continue its efforts to bring the parties together so that it will happen on schedule.