JUBA, Sudan â€” after decades of war fought for freedom from repression, south Sudan will vote in one year on independence, but analysts fear a choice to separate will bring long-simmering problems in the south to the boil.
Tribal divisions, lack of security outside towns, inexperienced government, corruption and signs that the semi-autonomous authority in the south has showing signs of repression have raised fears that an independent south Sudan may not end the problems faced by its people.
â€œThe post-independence period â€” when the common denominator of self-determination is gone â€” could be marked by significant infighting and increased conflict on tribal lines,â€ Zachary Vertin from the International Crisis Group think-tank said.
Sudan watchers fear that without the unifying goal of an independent south to fight for, discontent may grow over the governmentâ€™s poor provision of basic services, corruption and bad behaviour by the southâ€™s ill-trained army.
Delayed and reluctant implementation of the 2005 peace deal between north and south, which promised democratic transformation, power and wealth sharing, elections and the prized referendum, has led many southerners to say they will vote to separate on January 9, 2011.
The former rebel Sudan Peopleâ€™s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which fought the Islamic northern government over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil and which dominates the southâ€™s government, was kept busy ensuring the deal was implemented, leaving unresolved tensions under south Sudanâ€™s surface.
Ethnic disunity was highlighted in 2009 when 2,500 lives were lost in inter-tribal violence. Many of the dead were women and children killed in ruthless, apparently highly organised attacks on large villages.
Southerners have accused Khartoum of arming rival tribal groups â€” as they did during the war but have been unable to provide conclusive proof.
Some believe rivalries among southern politicians and a security vacuum outside urban centres are to blame.
â€œPolitical jockeying is likely to intensify as elections and the referendum approach,â€ Vertin told Reuters.
â€œA high degree of cooperation is necessary if they are to forge a new and viable state.â€
It has been a bloody process to disarm a people bristling with weapons after decades of civil war which has claimed 2 million lives and driven four million from their homes.
â€œMany communities have doubts about the (armyâ€™s) capacity to protect disarmed communities,â€ a report by the independent US Institute of Peace said.
â€œDisarmament efforts have often been perceived as biased and asymmetrical.â€
The massive army, whose salaries the south has struggled to pay, has seen infighting and is accused of human rights abuses.
â€œIn general, it is not a united army, but rather a collection of former militias and ethnic groups, and a constant balancing act is needed to keep them together,â€ a report by the non-governmental Dutch organisation IKV Pax Christi said.
Foreigners, especially tens of thousands of East Africans who form a vital part of the nascent economy, complain of rough treatment with five Kenyans shot last month. Most northern Sudanese have left the south after attacks on their businesses since 2005.
Some political parties have complained of harassment. A splinter group led by former SPLM foreign minister, Lam Akol, are petitioning the constitutional court after saying the south Sudan government has arrested their leaders and shut them down.
Journalists have also sometimes faced harassment they say contravenes press freedoms enshrined in the constitution. Many worry about a proposed media lawâ€™s tough licensing requirements.
â€œCertainly, licensing would be used to control or refuse renewal to independent media outlets that are seen to be either critical of government or posing threats to vested interests,â€ said Hakim Moi of the Association of Media in South Sudan.
Events since start of civil war
Tribal violence looms over South Sudan