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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Africa > Horn of Africa > Sudan > Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (III): The Limits of Darfur’s Peace Process

Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (III): The Limits of Darfur’s Peace Process

Africa Report N°211 27 Jan 2014

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The violence in Darfur’s decade-old war spiked in 2013, as the mostly Arab militias initially armed by the government to contain the rebellion increasingly escaped Khartoum’s control and fought each other. Recent fighting has displaced nearly half a million additional civilians – in all 3.2 million Darfurians need humanitarian help. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) signed in Qatar in 2011 is largely unimplemented, notably because it was endorsed by factions with limited political and military influence, blocked by the government and suffered fading international support. The main insurgent groups remain active, have formed an alliance that goes beyond the region and increasingly assert a national agenda. If Darfur is to have durable peace, all parties to the country’s multiple conflicts, supported by the international community, need to develop a more coherent means of addressing, in parallel, both local conflicts and nationwide stresses, the latter through a comprehensive national dialogue; eschew piecemeal approaches; embrace inclusive talks; and recommit to Sudan’s unity.

The roots of the conflict, especially unequal relations with the centre, are similar to those of civil wars that other Sudan peripheries have experienced, in particular now independent South Sudan but also South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Successive peace talks and agreements between government and rebels try to address grievances in similar ways, promising greater representation, including for rebels, in government and security forces and better distribution of the national wealth, but implementation is flawed. While causes are recognised as national, solutions are not.

The government signed the DDPD with the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), an umbrella group of rebel splinter factions, but follow-through was only partial, mainly by giving government positions to LJM members and supporters. With the country in economic crisis since South Sudan’s separation, Khartoum’s ability and willingness to fulfil its financial pledges to Darfur have been limited. Security arrangements, particularly disarmament and integration, have stalled over LJM’s highly inflated troop numbers, as well as government reluctance and incapacity to disarm militias that are increasingly beyond its authority and fighting among themselves.

Because the DDPD was rushed to conclusion, it was to be open to renegotiation so the main rebel groups could join, but this was repudiated by the government and joint African Union (AU)-UN mediation, which were not ready for further concessions and sought more support for the agreement by splintering the rebels. The main Darfur groups allied with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The umbrella Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) now carries out joint military operations in Kordofan (closer to Khartoum than Darfur) and demands national transformation. Internationals have largely not taken account of the new reality. Instead of working cohesively on a national approach, many still support piecemeal solutions. The UN and AU threaten Darfur rebels with sanctions for not joining the DDPD, even as they ostensibly agree a comprehensive approach is needed. As its main institutional achievement, the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), expires in less than two years, the DDPD is no longer attractive to the main rebels.

Even though the government is distracted by its economic crisis, and the international community is focused on the civil war in South Sudan, there is present need to resolve the contradiction between the piecemeal and comprehensive approaches to peace in Darfur, to look at what is local and what is national and should be transferred to a more comprehensive process. Since mid-2013, the new joint chief mediator and head of the UN African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, has shown willingness to do so, but he lacks a clear mandate to reply to the rebels’ increasingly national demands.

The AU High-Level Panel led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki described the conflict in 2009 as “Sudan’s crisis in Darfur”, but that approach was abandoned due to expediency and absence of Sudanese government support. The scope and agenda of the Doha process remained unclear. While trying to limit negotiations to local issues, the DDPD included provisions that only made sense if discussed and implemented nationally, such as governance reform, more equitable sharing of power and resources and affirmative action to reduce the socio-economic gap between the centre and peripheries.

Such issues are important to the Darfur rebels who joined the SRF, and they offer opportunity for a peaceful national dialogue, if the rebels are included in it and possibly in a transitional government as well. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP), of course, needs to be part of the process as well; President Omar al-Bashir is a key to how comprehensive and ultimately successful it might be. If they agree to radical reform, the international community can help by offering incentives, provided Bashir and the NCP meet specific, irreversible benchmarks, such as those Crisis Group set out as early as 2009, and verifiably continue the transition process.  This might defer the legal process underway to determine whether Bashir is responsible for atrocity crimes, but would be necessary to end decades of chronic conflict – and perhaps save Sudan’s unity. It would, therefore, be the exceptional situation for which Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was devised.

This report continues a series analysing Sudan’s spreading conflicts. Many of the recommendations in its two 2013 predecessors, as well as an earlier 2012 report that likewise argued for broad national dialogue and reforms, are similarly relevant for solving Darfur’s chronic conflict, the dynamics of which are more than local.

RECOMMENDATIONS 

To address the Darfur conflict’s local dimensions, including increasing communal violence

To the government of Sudan:

1.  Accelerate efforts and honour financial commitments to implement Doha Document (DDPD) provisions that have mostly local dimensions, including on reconstruction, development and building institutions.

2.  Fulfil promises rapidly to integrate troops of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and other peace signatories into regular forces.

3.  Control and disarm paramilitary forces and militias progressively, via a mix of incentives, such as participation in local peace and reconciliation processes, as well as national dialogue; and coercion, including arrest and prosecution of those responsible for crimes.

4.  Initiate and support inter-tribal dialogue and establish durable local peace and reconciliation mechanisms involving traditional and militia leaders, while leaving mediation to respected, tribally and politically neutral Sudanese, including from outside Darfur, and limiting the government’s role to facilitating, supporting and guaranteeing agreements.

5.  Allow international humanitarian entities – UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – full access to both government- and rebel-controlled areas of Darfur.

To the government of Sudan, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) factions:

6.  Negotiate a humanitarian cessation of hostilities in Darfur to facilitate humanitarian operations and negotiations, including at the national level.

To JEM and SLA factions:

7.  Stop attacks against development projects and rebel groups that have signed the DDPD and promptly release JEM-Bashar prisoners.

To initiate a meaningful national dialogue and transition

To the government of Sudan:

8.  Review the DDPD; transfer provisions with Sudan-wide dimensions to national-level negotiations and constitutional reform; and start these at once.

To the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF):

9.  Engage promptly in parallel negotiations – on Darfur between the government and Darfur non-signatory rebels, with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) as observer; and on South Kordofan and Blue Nile between the government and the SPLM-N, with Darfur movements as observers – with the aim of:

a) reaching identical or similar humanitarian cessations of hostilities, including humanitarian access to rebel areas and joint monitoring mechanisms involving government, SRF and international representatives;

b) obtaining if possible identical or similar framework agreements paving the way to national dialogue; and

c) merging the two local processes into the national one.

10.  Agree with unarmed opposition forces and civil society groups on an arrangement to govern Sudan for a limited period and flesh out a roadmap for a durable peace process, perhaps taking the DDPD and other internationally-backed Sudan peace deals as bases for discussion of a national transition that includes:

a) debate and agreement on a system of governance that can end the centre-peripheries conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as address growing grievances in the East and North; and

b) drafting of a permanent constitution.

To the SRF:

11.  Develop a detailed position on the DDPD that takes account of JEM’s suggested revisions to the document.

12.  Develop and articulate a detailed political platform and vision that can form the framework for a political transition.

13.  Create a joint office to coordinate humanitarian activity in rebel-held areas.

To assist in ending conflict and building sustainable peace and reform and to strengthen the impartiality of UNAMID on the ground

To the UN Security Council:

14.  Encourage UNAMID to focus on its core mandate of protecting civilians and guard against the perception of its mediation role leading to an appearance of bias between negotiating parties; and instruct it not to engage in separate negotiations on Darfur that would complicate other international efforts to obtain a national peace process.

To the UN Security Council, AU Peace and Security Council, Council of the League of Arab States, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Qatar, Ethiopia, Chad and other international actors:

15.  Demand and work for a comprehensive solution to Sudan’s multiple crises.

16.  Create an AU-led, permanent structure to coordinate international efforts for comprehensive peace in Sudan and South Sudan.

17.  Offer President al-Bashir, as well as NCP elites, incentives to create a transitional government and firmly and irreversibly place Sudan on a transitional path, including:

a) assistance to stabilise the economy, such as normalisation of relations, lifting of sanctions, expediting Highly Indebted Poor Country (HPIC) status and other debt relief measures, on condition that transition roadmap benchmarks are met and progress is made in negotiations with South Sudan on post-separation issues; and

b) if concrete moves toward a credible transition process are undertaken, and should it emerge as a genuine obstacle to its peaceful conclusion, a Security Council request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to defer prosecution of Bashir for one year under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, with no obligation to renew such deferrals if he reneges on his transition commitments.

Nairobi/Brussels, 27 January 2014
 
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