Sudan is facing the most crucial challenge of its history with the referendum on unity in the South planned for January 2011. In this paper, the two authors attempt to assess the nature of the challenge, and explore possible scenarios and options for dealing with the decision and its aftermath. The central argument is that there is a need for a radical restructuring of the Sudanese state to enable and promote a sense of belonging and nationhood which could safeguard unity and avoid a recurrence of conflict. Taking its cue from the emerging consensus among the main actors to safeguard unity within a loose federal/confederal framework, the paper argues that devising a flexible and inclusive system of governance capable of accommodating Sudan's diversity is the key to meeting this challenge. In the short term, there is a need to adopt a more realistic and pragmatic approach based on accommodating the interests of key political players. The international community also needs to be more proactive and engaged that at present.

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