Whilst his fellow members of the clergy worry about the day-to-day niceties of ecclesiastical life, such as the prospect of female or gay bishops in the Church of England, Archbishop Rowan Williams is distracting himself with smaller issues in far off places.  Sharing a platform with the Episcopal Archbishop of Southern Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, he worried that Sudan was “sleepwalking towards disaster”.

The two Archbishops clearly share an understanding of both the problem and the potential ramifications.  But they are perhaps too diplomatic when it comes to the international community.  It is welcome that Hilary Clinton now expects a “full court press” on Sudan.  But the sad truth is that the international community have proved remarkably ineffective during the life of the Comprehensive peace Agreement.  It is almost as though the world could only handle one crisis at a time in Sudan, and Darfur – terrible tragedy that it continues to be – proved sexier than the boring old CPA.

But at one level, if North and South manage to part reasonably amicably, so what?  Whilst the nation state is of great importance to many of the people within it, the truth is that in an increasingly globalised world, state boundaries are not the be all and end all of national identity, stability or wealth.  If Southern Sudan votes for independence, then so be it.  But the key question is not so much, what will become of an independent South, but what will become of the Horn of Africa?  To date the Horn of Africa has achieved a surprising level of stability thanks to being a single regional security complex.  Although this has left the region unstable and insecure, it has meant that guessing the implications of each development has been within the bounds of possibility on the basis that in the Horn of Africa every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  If Juba secedes, the relative comfort of being able to think of the Horn of Africa as a single – diverse and awkward – entity will be gone.  We will almost certainly have two regional security complexes to contend with.  The centrifugal tensions of these two dynamics will make managing the security of the whole area increasingly difficult.  Politically, the risk exists that the region will split broadly north/south – like Sudan; and enlarge to the west and south.  East Africa will probably embrace Juba and seek to integrate it into their economies and infrastructure.  The North of Sudan will inevitably gravitate northwards, favouring alliances that look and feel more Sahelian than anything else.

This might all seem like natural evolution – the plate tectonics of nationhood.  But the dangers of accidental conflict sparked in the former Horn of Africa will have even more far reaching and damaging consequences.  And it is all so unnecessary – had someone set out to make unity attractive to the South, perhaps Sudan would not be likely to form a new fissure in the Great African (Political) Rift Valley.

Memo to the Archbishop: Call it what it is – we are sleepwalking towards more and wider conflict in the region.  And these conflicts will be much harder to set aside as being “issues about which we know little and care less”.