– Preliminary results of the referendum in southern Sudan indicate an overwhelming majority in favor of secession after a surprisingly orderly process. The potential for serious violence in Abyei appears to be the main cloud on the horizon, with Foreign Affairs highlighting a worrisome link with the ongoing conflict in Darfur. A further aspect of the Abyei dispute that has gotten less attention in the mainstream press (but is well reflected in humanitarian reports such as OCHA’s latest bulletin) is the fact that its location not only invites conflict over oil and grazing land, but also constitutes a significant choke point for North to South return movements:
Organized returns have been suspended since 9 January, as a result of a series of security incidents involving returnees from northern to southern Sudan. Small convoys of spontaneous returnees have continued, with some reports of continued harassment and obstruction along the journey in Southern Kordofan and Abyei. Another convoy was reportedly shot at on 17 January in Abyei. Security incidents come despite a 13 January agreement reached between traditional leaders of the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka to cease hostilities and allow safe passage of returnees.
– The institute formerly known as RDI has departed the terse world of beltway bandit-style acronyms and re-fashioned itself as Landesa, in an unusually lyrical reference to the fact that LANd so often determines DEStinies. Its transformation has been accompanied by the founding of a promising blog on land and development issues.
– The initial posts in the Landesa blog include a considered response to a recent New York Times article on the effects of the global land rush in Africa, which itself draws on last September’s World Bank report on the topic.
– Landesa also blogs on the destabilizing effects of feudal land relations in Pakistan. Pakistan’s failure to reform its highly inequitable land relations were a rallying point for the Taliban in their bid to take over the Swat Valley, with the ironic result that the success of the Army’s campaign to retake the area was determined by whether large landholders could be convinced to return and recreate the inequitable conditions that fueled the insurgency.
– And finally, on a non-HLP vein, a wonderfully concise summary by Tihomir Loza in Transitions OnLine of the so-near-and-yet-so-far state of Bosnian ethnic politics.