(In case it's unfamiliar, that's the new South Sudanese flag. Cow-as-flagpole optional.)
Sunday, January 9th 2011 is virtually certain to mark the date of South Sudanese secession, with the major question remaining whether or not turnout reaches the required 60%; when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (currently the subject of an ICC indictment over suspected genocide in Darfur) appears to accept the inevitable, it's a pretty clear steer that the game's up.
What really matters is what happens next up to formal independence and recognition.** In no particular order:
- Defining the border,
- Determining the status of the province of Abyei (which happens to cross the putative border and incidentally has lots of oil wells),
- Sharing oil and revenues and agreeing citizenship rights, both for northern Sudanese in South Sudan, and South Sudanese elsewhere in Sudan. (Oh, and protecting the rights of these minorities.)
- Developing one of the world's least developed places, blessed with oil, lots of guns and a 95% illiteracy rate inherited from the decades of war.
It's no mean challenge. But the prize of overcoming decades of war that has left more than 2 million dead is well worth it. And demonstrating that States can divide amicably and use this to overcome conflict is in my view critical to peace-building efforts in the next 20 years as centrifugal forces in some states lead to their breakup.
So, Happy Birthday, South Sudan.
*197 Current States comprising 192 UN Members, 2 Non-members which have declared independence and enjoy some recognition (Vatican City, Kosovo), 1 Former-member yet to declare independence (Taiwan), 2 Observer members yet to achieve Statehood (Palestine, Western Sahara). To which we could potentially add Somaliland and Darfur in time for 200, though a reunified Korea would drop this back to 199.
** Always worth asking Robin Williams / Adrian Kronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam - "Great Britain recognized the island state of Singapore. How do you recognize an island? Do you go, exc-- Hey, wait. No, don't tell me. Wait, wait. Didn't we meet last year at the Feinman bar mitzvah? You look a lot like Hawaii. Didn't we meet last year at the Peninsula Club? No."