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Pulitzer Center Update June 7, 2012

Experts Say Two Sudans Must Solve Their Own Problems


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New rebel recruits march during drills at their camp in the Nuba Mountains. Image by Trevor Snapp. Sudan, 2012.

As Sudan and South Sudan edge closer to an all-out war, Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, hopes the international community can hold the conflict in its current stalemate.

"If we, the international community, and the two parties themselves can move towards a situation where things don't get worse, where they don't stumble back into conflict, and where they can get to more pragmatic decisions and relationships for each other, I think for the time being that's pretty good," said Lyman, a former ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa.

Lyman addressed the conflict facing the two Sudans at a panel discussion hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on June 5. Lyman, joined by Ambassador Alan Goulty of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and Carnegie's Marina Ottaway, recognized the limited role the international community could play in a country where violence and lack of trust have become the norm.

"The pressure has to be on from the international community but, in the end, if the parties don't accept what comes out of it, it won't last very long," Lyman said.

Both Goulty and Lyman stressed the soft power influence outsiders can have in the conflict. Lyman recommended encouraging communication between Khartoum and Juba through outside facilitation. Goulty said the two need to end hostilities before they can begin to resolve the much greater problems facing both nations.

The two countries remain deadlocked in a conflict they refuse to call war. Both countries are in an economic stalemate from the halt in oil production, border disputes, a Southern invasion into Northern Heglig and Northern bombs raining down on the South in April.

"Now you are in a position where each side is waiting for the other to crumble or to weaken," Lyman said.

The experts' echo Pulitzer Center grantee Trevor Snapp's comments in his recent interview with "The international community has no clear plan on how to resolve this," he said. "What is clear from recent events is that there will be conflict in the border regions for many months, and probably years to come."

Snapp and Alan Boswell have been reporting on the conflicts surrounding the independence of South Sudan for their iPad book project "Milk and Blood: The Making of South Sudan." In addition to exploring the birth of the world's newest country, the two journalists also question whether Western intervention has helped the country develop or led it further into conflict. The iPad book project will be released in parts starting in July.