The peace process continues despite setbacks
According to the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, there has been a series of attacks on civilians by the government of Sudan and allied militia in the oil regions of western Upper Nile since the New Year. Crops and cattle have been looted, civilian men and boys abducted for military purposes, and women and children taken to government-controlled towns, such as Mankien, Mayom and Bentiu. Militia attacks on both sides have also been reported, particularly along the Bentiu-Adok oil road.
The connection between the renewed fighting and access to the oil fields is undeniable. Oil continues to be both a motivation for war and the key to peace.
For the people of western Upper Nile, the peace process is yet to bear fruit. Faced with another serious drought, lack of drinking water and minimal primary health care, people were already in a desperate situation. Now, civilian attacks and further conflict have interrupted food supplies and caused further displacement.
Despite these major set-backs the peace process is progressing. Recognising the devastating impact of ceasefire violations in western Upper Nile the parties have agreed to strengthen the Memorandum of Understanding on the Cessation of Hostilities agreed on 18 November 2002, by signing up to a series of measures designed to prevent further violations. A new Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT) has been set up with free access to investigate violations. Their findings will be reported to the Memorandum of Understanding Committee and made public. The agreement also states that any locations taken by the opposing force in violation of the previous agreement since 17 October will be restored to the party with previous control, work on the Bentiu-Adok oil road will be suspended and media wars and propaganda will cease.
In response to the humanitarian situation, in a separate communiqué, the parties have agreed to take all necessary steps to enable people to return to their villages and are appealing to the international community to help and to address the humanitarian crisis in drought-stricken areas.
Some progress has been made on wealth and power-sharing issues. For example, agreement has been reached on currency arrangements and on the establishment of a petroleum commission. However, there are many outstanding issues that need to be resolved in order to achieve lasting peace. Negotiation over wealth and power sharing and the issue of the three contested areas (Nuba, Abyei, Southern Bile Nile) are likely to be key topics when the talks re-open in March.
Christian Aid's advocacy work on Sudan
Christian Aid's advocacy work on Sudan is currently focusing on four main areas. Firstly, we are working with partners to identify and debate how local government and civil society could operate in a peaceful Sudan. In Europe, we are lobbying decision makers to influence the 'critical dialogue' between the EU and the Sudanese government and to encourage a process that puts pressure on the government of Sudan to reduce human rights abuses and commit themselves to just and lasting peace.
Christian Aid is also monitoring progress on peace agreements, speaking out on behalf of civilians where ceasefire violations occur and helping civil society groups in both north and south Sudan to become more involved in the peace process. The importance of the latter was made clear recently when members of the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP) group (a network of Women's Civil Society groups) were prevented by government security agents from leaving Khartoum airport, thereby preventing their participation in a peace workshop. The government of Sudan, through the Embassy in Nairobi, the SPLM/A and the Inter Governmental Authority on Development Secretariat, were invited to the workshop, and it was a key opportunity for women from both north and south to present their views. Christian Aid is raising this issue with decision-makers in Europe and the UK, in an attempt to improve civil society access to the peace process in the future.
Christian Aid continues to raise concerns relating to the peace process in Sudan through advocacy in the UK, Europe and through the Christian Aid field office in Nairobi, Kenya. A joint agency report The key to peace: unlocking the human potential of Sudan was produced in May 2002.
The report, produced by six aid and development agencies (including Christian Aid) describes the appalling human cost of Sudan's conflict. It calls for urgent and sustained action by the warring parties and the international community to bring about an immediate end to the suffering.