Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Fletcher conference addresses future of Sudan

BY BRIAN LOEB, The Tufts Daily

Medford, MA, March 15, 2004 — “Our relationship has no trust — it is fear, fear, fear, year after year,” Stephen Wondu said last night of the relationship between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudanese government.

Wondu, the SPLM’s representative to the U.S., spoke at the panel entitled “The Triumph of African-Led Negotiations? Brokering Peace in Sudan.”

The panel was part of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s two-day conference on “Sudan at the Crossroads: Transforming Generations of Civil War into Peace and Development.”

The conference resumes today, with a keynote speech by Acting U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles Snyder.

During the evening panel, Sudanese Ambassador to the U.S. Khiddir Ahmed, Senior Coordinator of the Sudan Team for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fridtjov Thorkildsen, and Wondu debated the likelihood of a peaceful solution to the civil war in the near future.

Since gaining independence from British and Egyptian control in 1955, Sudan has been plagued by civil war between the predominantly Muslim North and the predominantly non-Muslim South. The 1972 Addis Ababa Accord provided a decade of relative calm, but violence resumed in 1983.

The Sudanese government in Khartoum and the SPLM have been in negotiations for the past two years to resolve the conflict.

Ahmed said the Sudanese government is “open to any solution short of self-determination” for the South. He said the majority of the decisions have been made at the current negotiations, and that “it will be unjustifiable to squander this chance at peace for only one or two issues.”

Wondu, however, was skeptical of this claim. “I would like to be wrong,” he said, “but the government may have come to the conclusion that the best way to avoid the successes of the past two years is to comport a situation and return the country to war.”

Thorkildsen discussed Norway’s role in the negotiations as a member of the troika — along with the U.S. and the U.K. — that is working with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to develop a comprehensive peace deal.

When asked during the question and answer what the will of the international community would be if the peace process fails, Thorkildsen said “it is important to give the parties the time they need — too much external pressure is counterproductive.”

Yesterday’s first panel, titled “God, Oil, and Country: Sudan’s Long Road to Peace,” covered the history of the modern Sudanese state and the civil war.

Dr. Osama Abdelgadier, a professor at Framingham State College and one of the panelists, attempted to clear up several generalizations about the conflict. “Some people reduce the war in Sudan to a religious conflict,” he said. “We have many conflicts.”

Abdelgadier said no comprehensive peace process would be possible without an understanding of the many cultural, religious, and ethnic divisions within the country.

In addition, he said, policy-makers must recognize the diversity within both the North and the South of Sudan, and they must demand the participation of “different political, cultural, and regional identities in the peace-making process.”

John Prendergast, a Special Advisor to the President at the International Crisis Group, cautioned against making predictions about Sudan’s future based on the current negotiations.

“Before, you could always see the track ahead,” he said, likening Sudan to a rollercoaster. “Now, for the first time, the track has simply disappeared.”

He said the motives of the SPLM are relatively clear. “It’s in their strategic interest to gain what they want to gain through the peace table,” he said.

The Sudanese government’s plans, on the other hand, are more “opaque,” he said.

Prendergast listed several benefits the government can reap by stalling on the peace process, including continuing to profit from oil sales. “The government can remain in this situation until the cost calculus changes,” he said.

Prendergast cautioned that ongoing violence in the Darfur region of Sudan could undermine the current peace talks. “We are on the brink of another deadly civil war in Sudan,” he said. “It is a threat to international peace and security.”

He said the Darfur situation requires separate negotiations, something the Sudanese government has refused, and increased outside involvement. “Just when this pressure was needed, the international community went soft,” he said.

The U.S., however, has improved its public diplomacy and willingness to use threats to force action.

One of today’s panels, “Promoting Democratic Governance,” is at the center of controversy on account of one of the scheduled panelists, Dr. David Hoile.

The American Anti-Slavery Group is organizing a rally prior to the panel to accuse Hoile of supporting slavery through agents of the Sudanese government and previously supporting policies of the Apartheid government in South Africa.