2009 make or break for peace in Sudan - UN Special Representative

New Yorks, United Nations
06 February 2009
Written by The New Sudan Vision  

“Without any exaggeration, 2009 could be a make or break year for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and for the prospect of peace in Sudan,” the Head of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) told the Security Council this morning.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said the Comprehensive Peace Agreement -- signed in 2005 by the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) -- was central and fragile. “That is the challenge facing Sudan and the international community and, with respect, the Security Council today.” The Agreement had reached a critical juncture with little over two years of the interim period remaining and the environment for those final two years was likely to be difficult and complex. Critical challenges towards implementation included border demarcation, finalizing the redeployment of forces, census results, elections and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. The provision of a peace dividend would be key, as would be stabilizing the security situation through the promotion of reconciliation and confidence?building measures.

He said making unity attractive to the people of South Sudan, where a referendum on the issue was scheduled for 2011, should remain the focus of the parties and the international community. For a peaceful referendum, an agreement on wealth and oil revenue sharing for the post?referendum period would be a prerequisite. Those challenges had to be met in a limited time and in a situation marked by deepening political uncertainty and insufficient mutual trust. Uncertainty in the Sudan had been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in Darfur and the awaited International Criminal Court decision on a possible indictment of President Al-Bashir. As a result, the Agreement was vulnerable.

A National Elections Commission had been established, but the Government would need to fund its operations adequately and in a timely manner and the national legislature would need to provide an appropriate legal framework to ensure free and fair elections, he said. The scale of assistance -- including training, logistical and technical support -- would determine the staffing and funding requirements of the electoral division of UNMIS. According to the Agreement, elections were scheduled to take place by July, but the enormous amount of work to be done called the feasibility of that date into question.

He said the overall security situation -- especially in Darfur -- delays in legislating an agreed legal framework, possible differences over the census results, delays in border demarcation and the impact of an International Criminal Court decision could affect the timing of the elections. Also, without border demarcation, the elections would be impeded, the referendum would not be possible and redeployment would not be completed.

The situation in Abyei, after the brief flare?up of 12 December 2008, remained calm, but tense. An Administration had been established, but it was still without funds. The redeployment of Sudanese Armed Forces and southern military police forces out of the Abyei area was almost complete. The Joint Integrated Units had almost completed their deployment, but they still struggled to be truly joint and integrated, and remained desperately short of vital communications and transport equipment. The Joint Integrated Police Units had yet to deploy out of Abyei town. Access for UNMIS to areas north of the Abyei road map area had been denied. That blinded the Mission with respect to movements of armed forces and impeded its ability to monitor the ceasefire arrangements. He hoped those and other restrictions on UNMIS would be lifted by the authorities in both the North and South.

Southern Kordofan had shown some positive developments, with local authorities reporting that the security situation and inter-tribal relations within the state had improved. The abundance of arms, however, together with local dissatisfaction with the lack of a peace dividend and fluid tribal and political affiliations made the area prone to conflict. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and the provision of a palpable peace dividend were essential inputs to stabilizing the security situation.

Mr. Qazi went on to say that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was set to begin in earnest on 10 February with a pilot project in the Blue Nile area, followed by the launch of the operation in Southern Kordofan. As capabilities increased and funding became available, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration operations would spread throughout the country. That process was strongly supported by both the Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan, and once it developed momentum, he said it could encourage redeployment and proportional downsizing of forces in accordance with the Agreement.

Continuing, he said that more than 50,000 ex-combatants had been pre-registered. Should the process falter, their expectations would be disappointed and their reactions could further complicate the security situation. The Governments of North and South had allocated a total of $45 million to the disarmament process, but the estimated overall costs were above $430 million for reintegration and $200 million for demobilization.

Moreover, demobilization could not possibly go forward without funding for the reintegration process, which was dependent on donor contributions. He appreciated the leadership shown in that area by Japan, which had contributed some $17 million, and he noted that a round-table conference was set for Juba on 12 February, and there, a firm commitment by donors of an estimated $80 million was expected.

On other matters, he said that United Nations efforts were increasingly focused on the transition from humanitarian assistance to early recovery and development. However, despite the international community’s 2009 Sudan Work Plan, projected Government of Southern Sudan budget cuts and other factors had increased the need for humanitarian assistance in the South. In addition to public salary cuts, that Government had shelved plans to take over basic services currently provided by international non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies. That external support currently amounted to some 80 per cent of the South’s safety net, including health care and clean water. “To maintain this level of support, continued financial assistance by the international community is indispensable,” he said.

The Sudan was a vast, complex country, whose people, since independence, had suffered two civil wars between the North and South, a civil war in the east, and an ongoing and possibly intensifying conflict in the west, including Darfur. “The humanitarian cost of the strife in Sudan has been enormous. Memories are bitter. Mutual trust and confidence are lacking, at least in the required degree,” he said, adding that the political and institutional infrastructure was still a work in progress and that the country had two Governments and two armies.

“Neither a vote for unity nor separation in the referendum can bring an end to the conflict and suffering unless the essential blocks of peace are in place,” he continued, stressing that if unity was to be made attractive, the meaning of that term would need to be elaborated and agreed upon in terms of constitutional arrangements. All of that would require a much improved ability and willingness of the parties to gain each other’s trust and work together for mutual gain. “This will be a daunting task, but given the alternatives, it is an absolutely necessary one,” he said.

In that context, he also noted that the impact of an International Criminal Court decision on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Darfur situation would need to be discussed. The purpose of the Agreement was to build and keep peace and security in the Sudan, without which, no justice would be possible for the people. To that end, it was incumbent on the Sudanese parties and leadership, as well as the international community, to remain focused on ensuring full implementation of the Agreement. In its deliberations on this issue, the Security Council might also wish to consider potential threats to the ongoing functioning of UNMIS and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the security of its personnel.

While UNMIS had received assurances of protection and cooperation from Sudanese authorities at the highest levels, those assurances had been qualified by warnings about public outrage, he said. There had also been public threats and incitements to violence. The United Nations had made the necessary contingency plans and had kept the Sudanese authorities informed. Political and security circumstances permitting, the United Nations was committed to continuing its work in accordance with the mandate entrusted to it by the Council.

“The Comprehensive Peace Agreement remains fundamental to peace in Sudan,” he said in conclusion, adding that the remainder of the interim period would require determination and joint efforts by all concerned. The Sudan’s parties and leaders, and the international community, would be judged by the people of that country on whether or not they delivered peace to them. In that regard, he appealed to the donor community to continue its invaluable support to the people of the Sudan at such a critical juncture. “There is little time in which there is much to do,” he said.

The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 10:25 a.m.


When the Council met, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Sudan (document S/2009/61), which provides an assessment of the overall situation in the country since the Secretary-General’ report of 20 October (document S/2008/662), as well as an update on the activities of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan until January.

UNMIS was established by resolution 1590 of 24 March 2005, among other things to help in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which was signed by the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on 9 January of that year after a 21?year conflict. The Agreement established a ceasefire and provided for power?sharing, wealth sharing, security arrangements (including the establishment of Joint Integrated Units of Army and Police) and modalities for elections (including a census). At the end of the six year interim period -- 2011 -- the Agreement calls for an internationally monitored referendum for the people of South Sudan to confirm the unity of the Sudan, by voting to adopt the system of Government established under the Agreement, or to vote for secession.

In his report, the Secretary-General states that the overall security situation in the UNMIS area of operations, while relatively stable, remained fragile and unpredictable with continuing armed clashes, banditry, tribal conflicts and rebel activity. Civilian disarmament remained uneven across Southern Sudan, partly out of fear of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) activities.

As the interim period is coming to an end in two years, preparations for a peaceful 2011 referendum, border demarcation, census results, elections and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration remain key outstanding issues. The Joint Integrated Units, currently at 85 per cent of their mandated strength of 39,639 troops, continue to face substantial problems with logistics, finances, chain of command and full integration, while many units lack equipment and weaponry. A National Elections Commission had been sworn in and both partners to the Agreement have publicly announced their commitment to conduct elections before the deadline of 9 July.

According to the Ministry of Finance and National Economy, the Sudan earned total oil revenues of $348 million for November 2008, of which the Government of National Unity received $171 million and the Government of Southern Sudan $151 million. Between January and November 2008, the Government had transferred $2.5 billion to the Government of Southern Sudan. The recent decline in oil prices will undoubtedly cut sharply into governmental budgets, particularly in the south.

The report goes on to describe the status of implementation of other peace process in the Sudan as well as the activities of UNMIS regarding conflict management and reconciliation, military deployment, police, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, return and integration, recovery and development, human rights, electoral assistance, child protection, protection of civilians, public information, mine action, conduct and discipline, gender, HIV/AIDS, staff security, coordination with other peacekeeping missions and finances.

The Secretary-General observes that, with little over two years of the interim period remaining, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has reached a critical juncture, where any action or inaction on its provisions will have a profound impact on the future of the conflict. While progress with its implementation needs to be recognized, daunting challenges still lie ahead. Key benchmarks, including census results, elections, border demarcation, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and preparations for referendums now need to be achieved within a tight time frame with very little flexibility for further delays. The parties’ strong political will, determination and decisive action will be required to consolidate achievements made since 2005, complete the interim period securely and prepare for a peaceful referendum, as well as post?referendum stability.

Because the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are yet to present a convincing case for unity to the people of Southern Sudan, the Secretary-General calls upon the parties to use the remaining two years to explore all options available to make unity attractive, including through the generation of a visible peace dividend, which, as of now, falls short in many areas. The abundance of small arms, local dissatisfaction, a lack of economic prospects and tribal tensions can form a dangerous constellation. Providing security throughout the Sudan is a complex undertaking, yet the key precondition for the well?being of the people and economic development. Momentum in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration needs to be maintained.

The Secretary-General urges the National Elections Commission to begin its work as quickly as possible, and adds that the release of the census results will be another key step. He intends to send a needs assessment mission soon to discuss the details of UNMIS electoral support. He also urges the parties to expedite the demarcation of the North-South border through the Ad Hoc Technical Border Committee, which has delayed the release of its report, warning that such delays will affect elections preparations and implementation of other key benchmarks.

The Secretary-General notes that, in anticipation of a possible action by the International Criminal Court against President Al-Bashir, the National Assembly has taken steps to amend the Criminal Code so as to allow prosecution of crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction in national courts. The Court’s actions have a major impact on Sudanese political dynamics and have diverted much attention, at a time when outstanding issues related to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement require the parties’ cooperation. The Secretary-General is concerned about remarks by some Government officials that the Government may redefine its relationship with UNMIS should an arrest warrant be issued against its President. He calls upon the Government to fulfil its obligations to ensure the safety of United Nations staff and of nationals of Member States in the Sudan. He also expected both parties to remain fully committed to all aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as that Agreement remains fundamental to the interest of both parties and to the people of the Sudan.


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