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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Sudan, a farewell to arms?

By Peter Moszynski, Middle East International magazine

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 10, 2004 — The conclusion of the final protocols of Sudan’s frame-work peace accord marks a significant breakthrough, but much remains to be done to translate this into a workable settlement. Convincing all the different stakeholders that their interests are truly represented will remain an uphill struggle until the crisis in Darfur is resolved, yet there is no agreed strategy on how to extend the road-map for peace in the South across the entire country.

Signature finally took place on the evening of 26 May, after another nine hours of the last-minute delays that have character-ized Sudan’s long road to peace. Diplomats and dignitaries, journal-ists and mediators and supporters of both sides had jostled for position since early morning to witness the clearing of what was supposed to be the final hurdle of two years of complex negotiations, patiently supervised by the regional body IGAD and assisted by Britain, the United States, Norway and other concerned parties, collectively known as the Friends of IGAD.

Comprehensive peace?

Amid widespread jubilation, John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, proclaimed: “We have reached the crest of the last hill in our tortuous ascent to the heights of peace. There are no more hills ahead of us.” The agreement laid down “the pillars of inviolate and enduring peace”, he claimed.

Three protocols outline the formation of a decentralized government of national unity, and the devolution of power in the contested areas. The first, on power-sharing, specifies that Garang will be first vice president in a new government of national unity in Khartoum and also president of an autonomous government of Southern Sudan. Shari’a law will continue to be enforced in the capital, although with limited applicability to non-Muslims. Elections are to be held in three years.

The second protocol says that Abyei – the southernmost district of West Kordofan, along the border with Northern Bahr al-Ghazal (the traditional North-South divide) but populated largely by Dinka – will be administered by the national unity presidency for the interim period and then allowed to hold a referendum on secession at the same time as the South.

The third protocol outlines administrations for the ethnically diverse Blue Nile state on the Ethiopian border and the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan. Power is to be shared on a 55/45 basis between government and SPLA. The SPLA had been holding out for a 50/50 share and this concession is unlikely to go down well among the people of these areas who, denied the option of self-determination, complain they have been used merely as bargaining chips and warn that, if the government attempts to use its inbuilt majorities to impose Shari’a, the fighting will resume.

These three protocols, together with the Machakos Protocol of 20 July 2002, the Framework Agreement on Security Arrangements of 25 September 2003, and the Wealth Sharing Agreement of 7 January 2004, should form the basis for a comprehensive peace agreement.

“It is a paradigm shift of historical proportions. Things will not and cannot be the same in Sudan,” claimed Garang, calling for reconciliation “so that we can finally say a farewell to arms in Southern Sudan and take up the instruments of reconstruction”.

His opposite number (and soon to be predecessor, if everything goes to plan), Vice President Ali Uthman Taha, said: “This is a day for Sudan, for peace, development and stability. It is our duty to put life into the protocols signed today. With the same degree of determination, sincerity and patience, we are resolved to put those words into action.”

Government negotiator Sayed al-Khatib said it was probably “the most detailed peace agreement negotiated in history”. The US State Department called the protocols “more than just high-minded principles, a detailed blueprint for resolving Africa’s longest-running civil war”.

The Khartoum newspaper al-Rayy al-Am nominated Taha and Garang for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying: “We irrigated our land with blood more than with water and we excelled in war and in killing more than in agriculture and work. We built a school and then destroyed a hundred of them, we opened a hospital and destroyed ten of them.”

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged “the two parties to sustain their commitment and persevere in reaching agreement on the remaining issues, especially the cease-fire arrangements, the modalities of implementation and international guarantees for a future comprehensive peace agreement”.

“Deal between two dictators”?

Such an agreement should be finalized within three months, although the numerous delays at every stage so far suggest there could be some slippage in the timetable as the two sides struggle to grapple with the realities of implementation and somehow persuade both their supporters and the numerous groups that feel excluded that this process is in their own best interests.

The mediators described the deal as a “win-win situation”, but this implies that there are only two sides to the conflict. The reality is more complex and neither of the main players has a track record of democracy and pluralism. The lack of civil society involvement in the peace process has led to claims that “this is just a deal between two dictators”.

People need to feel confident that promises will be kept. There is little trust after so many years of war and so many failed peace deals. It was not for nothing that the former vice president, Abel Allier, entitled his history of the 1972-1983 peace process Too Many Agreements Dishonoured.

Garang says the most important tasks are reconciliation and development. In a country where over half the population is illiterate, with only one out of 50 children finishing primary education, and where one woman in nine dies in childbirth, he said: “Our duty is first and foremost to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that our people’s vital and basic needs are satisfied… That is the only way to consolidate peace.”

Final talks should begin in Nairobi on 22 June, hopefully finishing by the end of July. Details of a comprehensive cease-fire will be agreed before discussing implementation of the accords. The Machakos Protocol calls for a six-month “pre-interim period” to inaugurate the institutions for a six-year interim period, after which a referendum will be held in the South.

Too many parties excluded

Whether a final agreement will also include Darfur remains to be seen – Khartoum resolutely refuses any linkage with the Southern peace deal – but it will be difficult to make a comprehensive settlement that fails to include western Sudan or the Northern opposition.

Norwegian Development Minister Hilde Johnson warned that many groups across Sudan felt excluded from the peace process, warning: “It is a precondition for lasting peace that the peace process includes all people including civil society, political parties and other political forces. Sudan is a complex country and its complexity should be taken into account.” A British statement called for “an all-inclusive political process throughout Sudan” for a “successful transition to peace and stability”.

As well as the numerous political and civil groups eager to be included in the talks, there are some 30 militias and assorted armed groups operating around Sudan and they are likely to present formidable challenges. One of the former pro-government militias, the Southern Sudan Defence Force led by Riek Gai, said it would “reject all attempts to dissolve or disarm” it. “We are not party to any peace agreement being negotiated by the SPLA and the government and therefore we will not recognize it,” he insisted.

Bishop Mazzolari of Rumbek said the deal was “a decisive step forward but on mined and insidious terrain”. He claims it is imposed by outsiders, based on the familiar tactics of divide and rule: “The peace does not resolve the real causes of war. I do not understand why the international community pressed for a prompt signing of an accord that does not in any way resolve the situation in Darfur.” He went on: “The long war between North and South not only fomented hatred towards the regime in Khartoum but also among the tribes; in my diocese 21 conflicts are currently under way among the Dinka, who do not accept the new nominations of political and civil administrators imposed by the rebels.” The bishop told MEI there were some 96,000 SPLA combatants currently active who would need to be disarmed.


The modalities of military and technical implementation will almost certainly be more complicated than first realized, especially as the delays in the talks have meant that the rains have already started and overland movement will be severely curtailed until the dry season in October.

There is now some experience learnt from the various international monitoring missions already deployed – the Joint Military Commission in the Nuba Mountains, the US-backed Civil Protection Monitoring Team, and IGAD’s own Verifcation and Monitoring Team – although their effectiveness to date has been somewhat curtailed by the same obstruction, bureaucracy and security meddling that has disrupted humanitarian operations in general, and because their reports of violations have been routinely ignored. A new European-supported African Union monitoring mission was approved for Darfur in late May but has not yet deployed.
Monitoring and peace-keeping will be a major task, as will quartering forces and establishing the Joint Integrated Units that are to be formed between the different armies. A JIU of 24,000 troops, half government, half SPLA, will be based in the South, with 6,000-strong units in both the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, a 3,000-man unit in Khartoum and a battalion for Abyei. All other Sudanese army troops will leave the South and SPLA units will leave the North. All other armed forces are to be disbanded.

This will require international agreement, supervision and funding, all of which will take time. The US’ United Nations representative, Stuart Holliday, said a draft resolution welcoming the accord would soon be introduced in the Security Council. “The monitoring mission would be in the thousands and be fairly significant because of the size of the country.” There would be a resolution in the “next month or so”, authorizing an assessment mission. Four-to-six weeks after that, “we would be ready to go for a comprehensive peace-keeping resolution”. Although gathering the assets would be difficult because “there’s a very real demand on peace-keeping forces”, Holliday said the UN “feels confident it will have the troops”.

Although such a timetable implies a mission would not be ready before September or October, it would be unfeasible to deploy a mission of any size before then as much of the country remains virtually inaccessible until the end of the rains – and some of the most heavily contested areas are in the most difficult terrain.

This inaccessibility has allowed the numerous bands of warlords, militias and bandits to operate with relative impunity, and those armed, allied with or sponsored by the government some degree of plausible deniability. All of them need to be brought into the peace process if the South is to regain stability.

Road access remains critical. Sudan has the world’s largest internally displaced population and huge numbers of refugees in neighbouring countries and they need to be able to return and rebuild their lives. An emergency road building programme has been initiated, accompanied by a wide-ranging mine-clearance programme, although rains are now severely hampering progress.

The situation on Sudan’s borders remains highly unstable. In addition to Darfur on the border with Chad there are numerous other conflicts across the country that have cross-border dimensions. Fighting continues in Upper Nile adjacent to the Ethiopian frontier and there is no settlement to the conflict in the Red Sea Hills, adjacent to Eritrea. The problems in these two areas date back to a controversial land exchange between Sudan and Ethiopia in 1947, when Kassala (part of Eritrea) was exchanged for Gambella in Upper Nile.

Border implications

A simmering border crisis between Sudan’s eastern neighbours constantly threatens a return to full-scale warfare. As Khartoum is allied to Addis Ababa and the rebels to Asmara, a breakdown of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea could have a serious impact on its own peace process.

The deal should help Uganda. Baker Ochola, chairman of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, trying to end 17 years of fighting by Joseph Kony’s Khartoum-sponsored Lords Resistance Army (LRA), commented: “The house in Sudan was on fire and the fire has been put out. Ours is still on fire. The fire can only be put out by emulating what has happened in Southern Sudan.”

Ugandan army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza said his country would benefit if the SPLA gained jurisdiction across Southern Sudan because the LRA would no longer be able get assistance and shelter from Khartoum-held territory along the border. “This ping pong of Khartoum saying Kony is in our territory and SPLA saying he is in government territory will not continue.”

Everyone is clamouring for an end to war, but peace requires more than the agreement of just two parties. John Garang claims the deal fulfils his vision of a new Sudan, although most Southerners would say they were fighting for independence. Ali Uthman Taha says it guarantees the success of the National Salvation Revolution, although most Northerners yearn for regime change. Creating an opportunity for other civil, political and military forces to become involved in the process is vital for its success, but if the crisis in Darfur is not resolved and the deep-rooted causes of conflict throughout Sudan fail to be addressed, the aspirations for peace are unlikely to be met.