Sudan: Kickstarting the peace process

News and Press Release
Originally published
International community urged to press for implementation of 2005 peace agreement.

By Katy Glassborow and Dr Jan Coebergh in The Hague, and Ayesha Kajee in Johannesburg (AR No. 111, 4-May-07)

The UN Security Council has been occupied with chewing over Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's April 13 report on the situation in Sudan which focused on the ailing Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA, agreed on in January 2005 between the Government of Sudan in the north, and the Southern Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA.

The CPA ended a long-running war between north and south, but Ban said the status of disputed border regions such as Abyei remains unresolved, which is of increasing concern ahead of the 2009 elections, and a referendum on independence for the south in 2011.

His report suggested that a failure of the CPA would be a "lose-lose scenario" and that the full and irreversible implementation is the "only viable strategy for the Sudan and its peoples".

Ban also highlighted the fact that the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme as well as the demarcation of the January 1, 1956 border, as stipulated in the CPA, remain well behind the CPA schedule.

The CPA established Government of National Unity, GNU. It also founded the Government of Southern Sudan, GoSS, in which, until elections in 2009, the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, SPLA/M - which incorporates the SPLA and its political wing, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, SPLM - appoints 70 per cent of positions in the administration; the northern National Congress Party, NCP, ten per cent; and other southern parties the remaining 20 per cent.

Therefore, the SPLA/M is the key player in the GoSS. However, the NCP, which wields the dominant power in Khartoum, has not shown the political will to fully implement the CPA, whilst the south's SPLA/M is without an effective governance infrastructure to do so.

South Sudan Regional Cooperation Minister Bernaba Marial Benjamin said at a press conference in Nairobi on April 14 that although some progress has been made, there have been militia attacks that have the backing of anti-CPA extremists from sections of the NCP.

He stressed problems over the delineation of north-south borders and the division of oil resources, pointing out that the National Petroleum Commission, NPC, part of the GNU, must be encouraged to be "transparent with oil contracts and the sharing of oil revenues".

Benjamin said southerners needed to see peace dividends, because they are not getting a "fair share of wealth, thus making unity unattractive", and urged the seven-country Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, for East Africa - which hosted CPA negotiations - to address this issue at the next summit.

He stressed that IGAD must work with the international community to support CPA implementation politically and financially, and "encourage our partners to implement all the delayed provisions of the CPA", including the north-south border demarcation.

The people of South Sudan will decide in a 2011 referendum whether the region splits from the north to gain independence, but the region has little infrastructure, few roads and no transport links to the rest of the country, plus no functioning economy.

It has little administrative capability, and the southern government lacks the infrastructural capacity to receive and spend international aid.

Instead, foreign money is pouring into the UN Mission in Sudan, UNMIS, established in 2005 to help implement the CPA.

If funds are channelled into international organisations rather than government institutions, UNMIS could become so important in the south that questions will be raised over the sustainability of an independent southern Sudan if that is the outcome of the 2011 referendum.

Similar wariness extends to NGOs that take on governance roles rather than building capacity for governance among the southern Sudanese.

The World Bank recently announced it will build 100 new schools in various parts of southern Sudan, but it could also be argued that the newly formed GoSS should be supported in this area of capacity building, rather than an outside agency taking the lead.

A 2006 report, Local Peace Processes in Sudan, by the Rift Valley Institute - an independent association focused on supporting research about Sudan - warns against international agencies filling the vacuum left by the absence of rural administration in Sudan and "aid agencies taking on a governance role".

It is certain that the southern Sudan government needs help with development, but Sudan's history shows that this intervention has not always been positive.

In 1989, the UN and several international NGOs launched Operation Lifeline Sudan, a coordinated emergency humanitarian programme. One of its aims was to help the Sudanese government "bring displaced citizens back into the mainstream development process of the country".

But the Rift Valley Institute report shows that the presence of a large displaced population was not an unintended consequence of the war, but part of the government's military strategy to harass the civilian population in areas controlled by rebels.

The migration of southerners has benefited the north by forming a cheap labour pool, and "forced migration became part of the mainstream development process in the Sudan", according to the report.

Following the split in the SPLA/M and the breakdown in IGAD-mediated peace talks during the mid-1990s, the report documents Khartoum's political strategy of creating "peace from within" by forming alliances with rebel southern commanders.

This involved the creation of "peace villages" for the war-displaced, where new forms of agriculture were promoted. In the Nuba Mountains and government-controlled southern towns, such as Wau, these peace villages on the outskirts of the town were, in fact, part of Khartoum's military defences.

The authors argue that economic policies of self-reliance, the expansion of mechanised farming, and the creation of peace villages were all linked to the government's military strategy.

Many of the displaced from southern Sudan are returning with assistance from the international community but they will have to be incorporated into an underdeveloped region.

Leslie Lefkow from Human Rights Watch told IWPR that "the way these wars have been fought have strengthened ethnic rivalries" and that a number of institutions are needed such as "an independent judiciary and police force, which is trained and monitored".

Commentators say that the SPLA needs to be transformed from a guerrilla movement into a peacetime army, to function as a guarantor of the terms of the CPA, a role currently fulfilled by UNMIS.

Eric Reeves, an independent Sudan expert, says that if Sudan's Armed Forces, SAF, seizes areas of southern Sudan, the SPLA must be capable of defending the south.

While UNMIS has a huge 10,000-strong peacekeeping presence in southern Sudan, its mandate is not one that could stop conflict from re-emerging if Khartoum decided to provoke one, so the GoSS needs to have a legitimate military arm in the guise of the SPLA, Reeves argues.

However, SPLA soldiers are often not paid and poorly equipped, which results in poor morale. By contrast, Khartoum has sophisticated weapons, and benefits from roads being built by China in the western and eastern upper Nile region.

Asim Turkawi, a Sudanese working for Anti-Slavery International, says there is a lack of peacetime skills, capacity and experience in the SPLA/M, as it is a movement emerging from a long war, and needs to be supported by neighbouring countries in East Africa, or by African Union troops.

Some SPLA troops and allied militias are still in the north and need to move south under the CPA, in exchange for a retreat by SAF from the south, which UNMIS is tasked to oversee.

The UN Secretary General does report progress on these issues of withdrawal, and establishment of Joint Integrated Units, but many obstacles remain, especially in the border areas.

Despite over 10,000 UN troops in South Sudan, the international community is constrained.

Carol Berger, a journalist and anthropologist who has worked in Sudan since the 1980s, told IWPR that UNMIS provides the "appearance of an international presence", while being very restricted by the Sudanese authorities.

For example, UNMIS staff are monitored and troops are occasionally restricted in their movements in the Abyei border area.

As such, Turkawi told IWPR that the international community's role in peace negotiations must be extended to monitor CPA implementation and put pressure on the NCP to fulfil its obligations.

Baroness Caroline Cox, deputy speaker of Britain's House of Lords, said that Khartoum is "starving the south of all it needs for reconstruction", and that the time has come for robust action such as targeted sanctions to "pressure Khartoum to fulfil its obligations to provide resources for the normalisation of life for the rest of Sudan".

Until Khartoum is galvanised into action, "anything short of direct action by the international community, such as targeted sanctions, is akin to condoning the actions of the regime", concluded Baroness Cox.

Katy Glassborow is an IWPR reporter in The Hague. Dr Jan Coebergh is an independent Hague-based Sudan expert. Ayesha Kajee is the programme head of Democracy and Political Party Systems in Africa at the South African Institute of International Affairs.