A View of Sudan from Africa
Monthly Briefing 09-03
The Peace Process
After negotiations between Dr John Garang and the First Vice President, Ali Osman Taha, in Naivasha, Kenya, the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) have signed an agreement on one of the most contentious issues, security arrangements during the Interim Period. This marks an important step forward in the peace process and is an indication that a peace deal will be reached in the coming months, although probably not before the end of the year. Dr John told supporters in Rumbek, "The road to peace is irreversible." It is significant that two such senior figures entered the negotiations, as many have felt that the two delegations were unable to make decisions without referring back to their leaders. Talks are expected to resume in October.
It would be churlish indeed not to recognise the achievement of the parties and the mediators in finding an acceptable compromise on the thorny issue of security arrangements. There is no doubt that this is a positive development. However there is still need for caution, as pitfalls abound at various levels. Dr John Garang himself, while calling the agreement "a major step to peace," cautioned that there were still "many issues" to be resolved.
Firstly, the agreement itself must be analysed. The parties had held diametrically opposed positions, with GoS demanding a single integrated army while SPLM/A demanded two separate armies. The compromise allows both. There will be two separate armies in north and south during the Interim Period, made up of the current Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLA respectively. However there will also be "Joint/Integrated Units" (JIU) made up of equal numbers of SAF and SPLA, which will serve as a symbol of unity and sovereignty during the Interim Period, and as the nucleus of a future armed force if the result of the self-determination exercise at the end of the Interim Period should be unity. Apart from the JIU, SAF will withdraw from south of the 1956 colonial boundaries and SPLA will withdraw from the Nuba Mountains, the Funj Region (also known as southern Blue Nile) and the eastern front. The JIU will have 24,000 troops in southern Sudan, 6,000 in the Nuba Mountains, 6,000 in the Funj Region and 3,000 in Khartoum, with the parties still to discuss deployment of JIU on the eastern front. Two and a half years is allowed for redeployment of forces, with international monitoring and assistance. A "Joint Defence Board" will be established "under the Presidency" (it is to be hoped that this refers to the collegiate presidency envisaged in the Nakuru draft document, and not to the person of the northern president) to coordinate the two separate armed forces and to command the JIU.
The parties agreed to reduce the size of the forces on both sides, "at a suitable time following the completion of the comprehensive ceasefire arrangements", a ceasefire which will be internationally monitored. "No armed group allied to either party shall be allowed to operate outside the two forces," and there is provision for demobilised southerners to be absorbed into institutions of the Government of Southern Sudan, including the army, civil service, police, prisons and wildlife services.
Broadly this agreement is a good compromise for both the parties. GoS gets its symbol of unity, is allowed to maintain some forces in the south as part of the JIU, and gets the SPLA out of northern Sudan as an independent entity. SPLA keeps itself basically intact, and gets rid of independent GoS forces from the south, thus maintaining its military leverage to help guarantee that GoS will not renege on the agreement. However there are also significant losers. Even though there will still be SPLA forces present as part of the JIU, the people of the Nuba Mountains and the Funj Region have suffered yet another blow to their hopes of being connected with the south rather than the north in a final peace deal. A second group of losers are the non-SPLM/A southern factions. There is no place for them in this agreement, except to disband and be absorbed by the SPLM/A, into the police, prisons and wildlife services - echoes of 1972. A third group are the northern armed opposition forces within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). They have very little military capacity of their own so the withdrawal of SPLA forces from the eastern front leaves them with little leverage in their own conflict with the ruling regime.
Once again we are reminded that the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) talks are between only two of the warring parties in Sudan. What is good for those two parties is not necessarily good for all the parties, factions and people of Sudan. Already some opposition parties in Khartoum have given the deal a lukewarm welcome, predicting it will fail in the long-term because it lacks widespread support. Again, IGAD addresses only one of the conflicts within Sudan (the "southern problem"), but does not address the issues of the people of east or west Sudan, nor does it address the fundamental problem of most northern Sudanese, who live under an oppressive military dictatorship which enforces a particular interpretation of Islam not shared by the majority of Sudanese Muslims. Unless a way is found of addressing all these issues, whether inside or outside IGAD, there will be nosustainable peace in Sudan.
Secondly, an agreement is in itself worthless unless it is implemented. Southerners are deeply suspicious of any northern government as a result of their bitter experience of agreements dishonoured since 1947. International involvement in the redeployment of forces and monitoring of the ceasefire is very welcome, but international forces must be deployed more quickly, with greater resources and with greater effectiveness than the current international monitoring bodies, whose performance has been disappointing.
Thirdly, an agreement on security issues does not automatically mean that the peace process as a whole will be successful. There remain significant obstacles. Power-sharing, wealth-sharing and the status of the marginalised areas are still contentious issues. While the security agreement does give hope that the parties will be able to reach compromises in these other areas, each compromise which is acceptable to the two negotiating parties will raise a new set of problems and may not be acceptable to other parties, factions and communities within Sudan.
All of the above validates the ongoing concerns about transparency and inclusivity which have often been expressed by Sudanese civil society. Unless ownership of the process is broadened, the two warring parties may make a deal which suits them but which does not necessarily answer the needs of significant sections of the population of Sudan and will not be sustainable. Human rights and democracy must also be concretely addressed. "Any lasting peace agreement in Sudan must provide meaningful guarantees for the protection of the human rights of all segments of Sudanese society including their rights to participate in post-conflict political processes," according to Human Rights Watch.
Some argue that it is unrealistic to expect everything all at once. They envisage a two-stage process whereby first a deal is reached to stop the war, then other considerations (inclusivity, ownership, human rights, democracy, justice, the root causes of the war, etc) are addressed in the new climate of peace. But the two-stage approach can only work if the first step, which stops the war, is open-ended enough to lead to the second step. The mere absence of war does not constitute peace if institutional violence continues.
The church in Sudan has played a leading role in civil society activism, and has borne its fair share of victimisation from GoS and misunderstandings with SPLM/A. Pope John Paul II has now created Sudan's first ever Cardinal, Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako of the Archdiocese of Khartoum. Only days earlier it was announced that Dr Haruun Ruun, Executive Secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches, has been awarded his second prestigious international peace prize, the Raoul Wallenberg Award. These expressions of the global community's solidarity with the voiceless people of Sudan to whom the church gives voice - and hope - are important morale-boosters.
Southern Sudanese youth met in Karen, Kenya, in August. They criticised elderly southern Sudanese politicians and blamed the current south-south conflict on "old fashioned politicians who divide the people along ethnic lines", but were positive about the SPLM/A representatives at the peace talks. They discussed the "House of Nationalities". This envisages a form of parliament representing the different ethnic communities of southern Sudan, with the aim of preserving diversity and unity within the south. The concept has been floated for a couple of years but has not yet found its way into mainstream discussions of the political future of southern Sudan.
A 45-day ceasefire agreement which allows for "free and unimpeded" humanitarian access was signed between GoS and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) in Darfur at the beginning of September, but there have been repeated reports of attacks by GoS and its allied militia since then. Meanwhile the governor of West Darfur State, Major General Suleiman Abdallah, admitted that a GoS warplane killed 26 civilians in August after it mistakenly identified them as rebel forces. Another 32 people were wounded in the attack.
UNHCR reports that up to 65,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to Chad to escape fighting in Darfur. Sudanese militia are reportedly launching raids across the border into Chad.
Uganda has repeated allegations that GoS is still supporting the Lord's Resistance Army, despite denials from Khartoum. The Ugandan army has said it is recruiting Karamajong warriors as a militia force to fight the LRA. This represents a dangerous escalation of the conflict. A Catholic priest was among 25 people killed in an LRA ambush on the road between Soroti and Namasale.
The last of a group of more than 24,000 Sudanese refugees who were displaced from Achol-Pii refugee settlement in August 2002 following a series of attacks by the LRA have now been relocated to two new sites in Uganda's West Nile region. The relocation was initially marred by violence.
GoS minister of external relations, Dr Mustafa Uthman Isma'il, said in Cairo that it was possible to restore relations with Eritrea only if Eritrea ceased interfering in the internal affairs of Sudan and supporting and arming opposition groups. Meanwhile Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has accused Sudan of embracing "terrorist groups".
Plans to relocate 24,500 Sudanese refugees from Fugnido in Gambella Region, western Ethiopia, where ethnic clashes killed some 100 people a few months ago, have been abandoned following serious flooding at the new site at Odier. However, an alternative site is being sought and the relocation should be done by the end of the year, according to UNHCR.
Despite the current cessation of hostilities, the UN Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) still rated around 40 locations "red no go" during September.
Average rates of malnutrition in southern Sudan have been steadily worsening since 2001, according to UNICEF.
Only 34% of the UN's proposed US$ 262.9 million 2003 emergency appealhas so far been funded. "There is no time for complacency," said Kofi Annan in his latest report to the UN General Assembly on humanitarian assistance to Sudan. "The humanitarian imperative to save lives and reduce human suffering cannot await the completion of the peace process." The UN has prepared a new US$ 142.3 million package of quick-start programmes to bolster confidence and provide tangible peace dividends if peace comes. The Quick Start Peace Impact Programme has been developed in consultation with both parties and has been presented to donors, but has been criticised for its lack of engagement with other Sudanese stakeholders.
The international community's focus on terrorism has led donors to lavish aid on countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, while neglecting the plight of civilians caught up in less strategic conflicts such as Sudan, Liberia and Burundi, according to a report by Oxfam.
Human rights abuses have continued unabated in GoS-controlled areas of Sudan, with the closure of newspapers, harassment and intimidation of churches, arbitrary arrest, and torture.
At the end of September GoS security services arrested retired senior police officer and deputy leader of the Beja Congress, General Osman Ahmed Fegerai, on undeclared charges and removed him to a secret location, according to the group's political coordinator Salih Mohamed Hassaballah.
The US Embassy in Khartoum criticised GoS for failing to lift press restrictions despite pledges to do so, drawing attention to the continued closure and suspension of several papers, including the Khartoum Monitor and Alwan. At the end of September Al-Sahafa was suspended for allegedly promoting alcohol (in an Ethiopian Airlines advertisement carried by the paper) while Al-Azminah was suspended for publishing a report on the Popular Defence Forces.
According to UNICEF, Health Minister Ahmed Osman Bilal has committed GoS to eradicating female genital mutilation (FGM) at all levels. Sudan has the highest prevalence of FGM in the world, predominantly in northern Sudan. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, said FGM was "a clear indicator of Sudanese society's broad condoning of gender inequality, violence against women and children, and the violation of women's reproductive and health rights, as well as children's rights".
The US "War on Terrorism"
In August Sudanese officials released sketchy details of a terrorism case. A Sudanese court said it had convicted a Syrian of holding classes in Sudan to train Saudis and Palestinians to carry out attacks against US forces in Iraq, and had convicted two Sudanese of helping the Syrian and of providing information to help others plan attacks on government and Jewish targets in Eritrea.
Following the security agreement within the IGAD framework, GoS Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail announced that the USA had agreed to lift its sanctions on Sudan and remove the country from its list of nations sponsoring terrorism. The time-frame was not mentioned.
Uganda has offered the old Entebbe Airport to be used as a regional military base for the USA, according to Ugandan security sources.
Sudan Focal Point - Africa
1st October 2003