In January you argued that a number of difficult issues remained to be solved ahead of South Sudan's independence: the status of Abyei, oil sharing, border demarcation and debt-sharing. Has there been any progress as regards these issues?
– No, it rather could be said that things have gone worse. The signs of deterioration include the war and occupation of Abyei by the Sudan Defense Force (SAF) following an incident where SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) soldiers opened fire on withdrawing SAF units and killed a number of them. Further deterioration in some areas where popular consultation was supposed to take place according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has also been seen. South Kordufan which has been relatively quiet has now exploded, opening a new war front in the war-torn Sudan.
The South Sudan parliament has yet to pass a new transnational constitution meant to govern the new state. There are reports about concerns over the president's powers in the constitution. What are the likelihoods that the demands from the opposition in South Sudan are catered for?
– Fundamental differences have emerged between the ruling SPLM and a dozen of the opposition parties in South Sudan regarding the transitional arrangement. The first point of contention relates to the duration of the interim period. While the SPLM dominated parliament has proposed four years as an interim period, the opposition parties consider this as too long and have proposed a maximum of two years. Another issue of contention is the powers of the president. The draft constitution gives the president sweeping executive powers that include the power to dismiss elected governors of states, appoint new ones and dissolve parliament. The inclusion of members of the federal parliament to the parliament of South Sudan following their removal from Khartoum, thereby making absolute SPLM’s domination of the legislative body in Juba, has also become a bone of contention between the SPLM and the opposition. In light of the domination of the transitional parliament by the SPLM, however, it seems unlikely that the demands of the opposition would receive positive response.
Your own research focuses on conflict and state building in the Horn of Africa. What will be the greatest challenges for Africa's newest state?
– The challenges facing the emerging state of South Sudan are immense. In terms of conflict and state building South Sudan is confronted with daunting tasks. Regarding conflicts, even before the country has become formally independent, a number of insurgencies have surfaced. Insurgencies led by dissident Sudan People’s Liberation Army generals are running in five out of ten states (Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity State, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Eastern Equatoria). This and other serious problems facing South Sudan make state building in the new nation extremely precarious. There are those who already talk about a failed state in South Sudan.