Sudan: Stability eludes Darfur border region, 21 Nov 2008
SIGNIFICANCE: A pattern of separate but sometimes overlapping conflicts will continue in 2009, despite the stabilising and containing influence of international peace-keeping and civilian protection missions. The respective governments and border regions will also be subject to economic pressures.
ANALYSIS: During 2008, the conflicts in Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) remained largely separate, reflecting their distinct underlying political causes. However, continuing cross-border dynamics -- such as the movement of rebels and material support for them -- have limited the scope for improved relations between the three countries.
Conflict and insecurity will persist in the border region, but pose a limited threat to the capitals.
The impact of the various military missions UNAMID, EUFOR and MINURCAT will remain limited by the shortcomings of political agreements and negotiations.
The ICC charges against Bashir and other individuals are unlikely to jeopardise Darfur peace prospects or the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Political dynamics. Despite the attacks on Khartoum and N'Djamena during 2008, and the possibility of such attacks in the future, the balance of power in Sudan, Chad and the CAR still lies with the respective governments:
Sudan. Although general elections are due to be held by July 2009, according to Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), they are likely to be delayed until November or even later. This is due to delays during 2008 with the census and formation of a National Election Commission, and the impracticality of holding elections during the rainy season, which runs from roughly May to October and makes parts of Sudan difficult to access by land. Although observers will be alarmed, a delay to the elections is not fundamentally problematic. More significant is how the elections are conducted - and whether the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) secures a continuation of the power-sharing status quo with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Chad. President Idriss Deby will continue to try to buy off and pre-empt armed opposition. However, the lack of more systematic efforts to address wealth-sharing (in particular oil revenues) and security issues, such as a permanent ceasefire, will undermine the credibility of his efforts. As a consequence, defections may occur and security in eastern Chad may deteriorate.
CAR. President Francois Bozize will continue with efforts to implement the 'global peace accord' agreed in Gabon in June 2008 between the government and the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) and the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). However, outbreaks of fighting will continue to occur -- in late 2008, for example, rebels attacked government targets in the north-east, near the Sudanese border, and in the north-west. As in Chad, CAR rebel groups will remain fractious but more tractable than the core Darfur rebel groups.
Peace and justice. The key to improvements in security in the region is progress in dialogue and reconciliation between governments and rebel groups, and the implementation of agreements. Debate about the impact of the International Criminal Court (ICC) charges against Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will most likely continue, especially if an arrest warrant is issued. However, contrary to some claims (not only by the Sudanese government), the charges against Bashir do not directly threaten Darfur peace prospects or the CPA.
Peace-making. Efforts will continue to be made to encourage the implementation of existing agreements or the negotiation of new agreements. An effective settlement for Darfur will require negotiation with the mainstreams of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) of Abdul Wahid Mohammed al-Nur. As always, the success of ceasefires will depend primarily on whether effective monitoring mechanisms are set up -- for Darfur these have repeatedly been lacking. The success of mediation will depend partly on coordination between individual UN and African Union (AU) mediators, and regional actors and mediators such as the Arab League, Egypt, Gabon, Libya and Qatar.
Following the failure of the internationally mediated 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, the EU and United States are reluctant to try and take direct mediation roles.
Peace-keeping. The 10,000-strong UN Mission in Sudan which supports the CPA will remain the most successful peace-keeping mission in the region. In contrast, the UN-AU joint mission for Darfur (UNAMID) will remain severely under-manned and under-equipped, as countries decline to contribute troops and police to UNAMID until there is an effective peace agreement for it to support. The EU stabilisation force (EUFOR) is due to leave Chad in March 2009 but may have its mandate extended, while waiting for agreement on a UN mission to replace it (which might involve re-hatting EUFOR). The UN mission in the CAR and Chad (MINURCAT) will continue to train Chadian police to protect displaced civilians and refugees.
ICC. Despite criticism of his actions, the ICC prosecutor will have been encouraged during the second half of 2008 by the fact that far from leading to chaos, his charges against Bashir helped to prod the Sudanese government to launch a domestic initiative to resolve the Darfur conflict. The ICC prosecutor will also have been encouraged by the arrest in May 2008 of the former Congolese rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba for crimes allegedly committed in the CAR in 2002-03.
Economy. Revenues from oil in Sudan and Chad and minerals in the CAR give the incumbent governments resources which help them to avoid concerted institutional and governance reform. However, economic pressures will increase during 2009, unless there is a significant improvement in oil prospects:
Growth. Real GDP growth is set to slow in the region, under the effect of lower oil prices and the world economic downturn. Budgets for 2009 have been scaled back, but deficits are still likely to increase, despite efforts to improve non-oil growth and revenues.
Oil. Production at existing sites in Sudan and Chad will continue, but concern is growing about output sustainability. Output from Blocks 1, 2 and 4 in Sudan, for example, has fallen by about 13% from its 2007 peak. New exploration is being carried out but has been impeded by insecurity and politics.
Outlook. It is unlikely that there will be great changes in the security and fortunes of the Darfur, Chad, CAR border region during 2009. However, the presence of UNAMID, EUFOR and MINURCAT should prevent major deteriorations in security and consolidate some localised improvements:
Peace agreements. During 2009, the Sudanese government will have more to gain from continuing its peace efforts for Darfur (even if they are not effective), and allowing the continuation of UNAMID, than from terminating them. Furthermore, although Sudanese officials may continue to warn about threats to the CPA, and crises may recur, the NCP will still have more interest in maintaining the CPA than in abrogating it. The interests of the governments of Deby and Bozize also lie in officially maintaining the agreements that they have signed and keeping EUFOR and MINURCAT.
Security. Levels of conflict in Darfur will fluctuate until there is an effective political settlement. Another cross-country attack on N'Djamena is possible, as is an increase in fighting around Bangui, but a further cross-country attack on Khartoum is less likely. However, banditry will remain widespread, with humanitarian organisations and the logistical sides of peace-keeping missions providing easy targets.
CONCLUSION: The presence of UNAMID, EUFOR and MINURCAT and the interests of the CAR, Chadian and Sudanese governments will contain insecurity and fighting in the region. However, progress on resolving the underlying causes of conflict will be slow.