Deal Making in Sudan


Enough experts analyze the agreements being negotiated by the major parties in southern Sudan's upcoming independence referendum.

A series of deals in February 2010 over elements of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, largely went under the radar of international media attention, but offer important insights into the current dynamics of deal making between the National Congress Party, or NCP, and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army, or SPLM/A, as Sudan approaches the vital question of southern independence.

Both the NCP and the SPLM continue to approach deal making as a largely elite process. While the parties have found some areas of consensus, and are making progress in resolving some key issues, there is a worrying thread of self-interestedness in these decisions that could have unfortunate long-term consequences for both North and South. Given the range and complexity of issues still on the table, a far better coordinated and organized international approach to facilitating these discussions is needed. The strategy (or lack thereof) behind the international community’s involvement in the North-South negotiations will have an enduring impact on security throughout the region. A better coordinated international effort is needed to ensure that North-South discussions over the most contentious issues related to the likely “divorce” of North and South Sudan next year occur sooner rather than later in order to reduce the chances that these talks will degenerate into a dangerous zero-sum game.

National elections scheduled for April 2010 (they may be rescheduled) are currently distracting both parties to the CPA—who are both negotiating very high stakes issues surrounding the referendum, but doing so at a time when they hope to use the polls as a means to consolidate their power. February’s negotiations demonstrated that the NCP and SPLM are willing to make accommodations, but the most difficult issues still lie ahead with time before next year’s referendum rapidly running out.


The agreements concluded in February 2010 between the NCP and the SPLM garnered far less international diplomatic and media attention than the ongoing Darfur discussions in Doha, yet from the long view of history, they may have far more lasting implications. By examining how these were reached, we can also understand the myriad challenges still ahead and the motivations driving the key players.

The ways in which the political leadership in Khartoum and Juba opt to engage in further negotiations in the coming months over unresolved CPA issues and postreferendum arrangements—and their respective motivations for doing so—will ultimately determine whether the South’s self-determination referendum and its aftermath are peaceful or not. The strategy (or lack thereof) behind the international community’s involvement in the North-South negotiations will also have an enduring impact on the futures of what are likely to be two separate states and on broader security in the Horn of Africa.