US must engage more in peace process, says think-tank

8 July (IRIN)

The US must make a clear commitment to its relationship with Sudan and to remaining closely involved in a
post-agreement phase involving the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), says leading think-tank, International Crisis Group (ICG).

A report entitled "Sudan Endgame" says that commitments to the US-Sudan bilateral relationship are "the glue without which a deal is unlikely to stick".

All international observers must coordinate the phased lifting of punitive measures against Sudan and the provision of financial and political benefits for the country, says ICG. But the US, in particular, must make the conclusion and implementation of a peace agreement a precondition to improved relations.

The latest stage of peace talks between the government and the SPLM/A rebel group, began in Nakuru, Kenya, on Sunday. A draft framework agreement is expected to be produced by the end of the talks, on which the Kenyan mediators will seek agreement by mid-August.

The mediators to the talks, led by Lazarus Sumbeiywo, must focus on developing proposals to make unity attractive to southern voters, but with racially restructured governing arrangements that promote equal rights and
opportunities, says ICG. "A minimalist deal can be reached that stops the war for now and puts the South on a fast tack to independence. However, such an agreement likely would be systematically undermined by key actors
in the ruling party in Khartoum and thus lead to the resumption of war."

Other recommendations before the mediators are a proposal for an enclave around areas of Khartoum where all religions will have equal standing; that southerners receive one-third representation in the civil service, the cabinet, and the Lower House, and 40 percent in the Upper House; a rotating presidency between the government and the SPLM/A; and a single fiscal and monetary policy.

On the three disputed areas, ICG says that unity should be prioritised by setting up a joint administration between the southern and central governments for Abyei, until a referendum is held, and measures of autonomy granted to both Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains.

ICG cautions against imposing "artificial deadlines" on the parties at the talks, saying that the mediators should be flexible enough to allow an extension of time if one or both parties are not ready to finalise an agreement.