It is now all but a forgone conclusion that Southern Sudan will be new independent state. In essence, the Sudan as we know it will be no more. At the conclusion of the voting, countries around the world will be clamoring to recognize the new state. The immediate recognition of Southern Sudan (or whatever name the country will adopt) is of significance in establishing both de jure and de facto legitimacy.
It is particularly important that African countries and their constituent regional organizations be among the first to recognize the new state of Southern Sudan; and the United States should also be among the first to recognize the new country. This will certainly send strong signals to those who may seek to undermine the new state that it has powerful friends on its side.
But recognizing Southern Sudan without simultaneously recognizing the other Sudan is wrong. The old Sudan will be gone—its boundaries will have changed and so will the constitution of its population. In essence, two countries will be created by the referendum. “Northern” Sudan will indeed also be a new country. No matter what we think of the regime in Khartoum, the international community must recognize and congratulate Northern as well as Southern Sudan.
Temptations to simply recognize Southern Sudan and ignore the other new state in the north could create the impression that one is more important than the other. With deep tensions existing already, such actions by the international community would only intensify the friction between the north and south. As such, nations around the world must recognize these two new states jointly. Recognition also provides a great opportunity for Khartoum to mend relations and create a new axis of understanding and tolerance with its new neighbor in the south and other nations.