On July 22, The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration issued its ruling in the historic arbitration between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which represents the tribes of southern Sudan.
At issue was the boundary of the oil-rich Abyei region, which the SPLM argued was traditionally the homeland of a Dinka tribe aligned with the South, rather than the government in Khartoum. But the arbitration had a far more important purpose than setting the boundary, said the SPLM’s lead counsel at the arbitration, Gary Born of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. It helped to bring — and hopefully maintain — peace in Sudan.
Born, who specializes in high-stakes, high-profile public policy arbitrations, told the Am Law Litigation Daily that the abitrators’ ruling “gave the South most of what it wanted.” The decision affirms the right of the Ngok Dinka tribe to land in the Abyei area, though the boundary drawn by the arbitration panel does not include an oil field the SPLM wanted. (Voice of America reported that one southern Sudan leader called the ruling “a disappointment,” though another of the SPLM’s U.S. lawyers, Paul Williams of the Public International Law and Policy Group, said the arbitrators “gave 80 percent of what the government of southern Sudan was advocating for.”)
Both the Sudanese government and the SPLM released statements affirming their commitment to abide by the arbitration ruling. The SPLM’s statement pledges cooperation with the Sudanese government “to prevent violence, enhance security, and consolidate peace in Abyei,” the statement says. “Both parties agree that the return to war is not an option.”
The decision by the SPLM and the Sudanese government to submit to arbitration brought a halt to a long and bloody civil war. (One of the most arresting books the Litigation Daily has read this year is “What Is The What,” Dave Eggers’ unbelievably poignant account of a young refugee of that war.) The arbitration was considered so important that the Permanent Court of Arbitration broadcast the proceedings on the Internet. Videos are posted at the court’s Web site.
Born worked with Wilmer partner Wendy Miles on the case, as well as Williams and Vanessa Jimenez of Public International. The Sudanese government had James Crawford of London’s Matrix Chambers; Nabil Elaraby of Cairo’s Zaki Hashem & Partners; Alain Pellet of the University of Paris Ouest; and Rodman Bundy and Loretta Malintoppi of Eversheds.