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Ethiopia Must Continue to Help Stabilise South Sudan
Ethiopia Must Continue to Help Stabilise South Sudan
Editorial in the Washington Post: Sudan's President Must Resign
Editorial in the Washington Post: Sudan's President Must Resign
Commentary / Africa

Ethiopia Must Continue to Help Stabilise South Sudan

Addis Ababa can win economic and security gains if it perseveres with its impressive commitment to peace efforts in South Sudan. With its new two-year membership on the UN Security Council, Addis Ababa has the opportunity to better connect regionally-led political processes to UN action. 

Ethiopia’s commitment to peace-making in South Sudan has been critical for regional stability. It has much to gain from continuing this engagement, including a secure border and trade with a stable neighbour. But achieving lasting peace after South Sudan’s two-year-long civil war is a long-term undertaking.

Ethiopia has shown strong leadership and a level of direct involvement in peace efforts in Sudan and South Sudan that few countries can match.

The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) peace talks on the conflicts are held in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa led the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, a regional body) peace process on South Sudan and is a guarantor of the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). It deploys peacekeepers to the UN Mission in South Sudan and is the main contributor to the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (on the Sudan-South Sudan border). It is also expected to be the lead contributor to the 4,000-strong UN Regional Protection Force (RPF) based in Juba.

Ethiopia’s two-year membership on the UN Security Council (UNSC) should be an opportunity to better connect regionally-led political processes to UN action.

Implementing the ARCSS and the Regional Force

Following the July 2016 fighting in Juba, ARCSS has been reshaped, and the RPF and national dialogue process created to reinforce its principles. Concerted support is required from Ethiopia, fellow IGAD member states, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC, overseeing ARCSS implementation and reporting to the IGAD heads of state) and the UN to reduce conflict under an inclusive government.

These processes, and the RPF’s role in supporting them, are fluid and interconnected. For example, a successful negotiation between the transitional government and an armed group increases the chances of successful dialogue between communities caught up in the conflict. There is now a window of opportunity to shape and provide capacity-building to efforts to make the new South Sudan transitional government more inclusive.

Given the trust deficit that exists between South Sudan’s government and opposition figures, the UN’s RPF has a role to play in helping create conditions conducive to ARCSS implementation and national dialogue.

Ethiopia’s support for talks between these parties makes it a critical partner in supporting inclusivity in Juba. For this to take place, the RPF must deploy and demonstrate its worth. In addition to JMEC, the RPF provides a direct link to Ethiopia and other IGAD leaders in their oversight of ARCSS and efforts to form a more inclusive government.

On the sidelines of the forthcoming AU summit, Ethiopia and IGAD leaders should consider what can be done to expedite RPF deployment and how it can be better tied to political engagement to support genuine efforts toward greater transitional government inclusivity.

Mutual Security and Prosperity

Ethiopia’s mediation and peacekeeping efforts also support stability at home. During Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s 28 October visit to Juba, he and President Kiir made assurances that they would not support rebels in either country ­– a critical restatement of a mutual understanding between the two countries.

Ethiopia’s border with South Sudan hosts cross-border communities that experience multiple, overlapping communal tensions that can lead to violence. A large Murle raid from South Sudan into the Gambella region last April required the Ethiopian army’s temporary deployment into South Sudan to secure the return of abducted children and to monitor both sides of the border. This took place during a separate period of intercommunal conflict in Gambella, which was exacerbated by the large numbers of refugees in the region.

Supporting South Sudan to reduce political and communal conflicts along their shared border – which requires effective and inclusive governance from Juba – will improve security in Gambella and reduce refugee inflows, which tend to exacerbate intercommunal tensions in the border region.

Violence and displacement are detrimental to the mutually beneficial cross-border trade that was growing fast before South Sudan’s civil war started in 2013. Stability and security can enable development rather than humanitarian crisis in the impoverished border regions and beyond.

Ethiopia should not waiver in its commitment to ensuring a peaceful South Sudan and use the many tools at its disposal – IGAD, ARCSS, JMEC, the RPF and its term since January on the UN Security Council – to support an inclusive and stable government in Juba. Successful peace-making will ensure greater stability in Ethiopia and facilitate sustained trade and economic development – which is to everyone’s benefit.

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans as they march along the street during anti-government protests in Khartoum, Sudan on 25 December 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
Impact Note / Africa

Editorial in the Washington Post: Sudan's President Must Resign

Originally published in The Washington Post

Drawing from analysis in our Sudan briefing, Improving Prospects for a Peaceful Transition in Sudan, the Washington Post Editorial Board argues that, faced with nationwide unrest and unpalatable alternatives, President Bashir should relinquish power.

The anger unfurling on the streets of Sudan sends an unmistakable signal to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has ruled for 30 years. He has presided over alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur, for which he is wanted by the International Criminal Court, as well as massive graft and mismanagement. He should spare his country further misery and exit.

The latest protests began Dec. 19 in the town of Atbara, about 200 miles from the capital, Khartoum. Triggered by a cut in subsidies that caused the price of bread to triple, demonstrations spread to more than two dozen other towns and cities, including Khartoum and Omdurman, the country’s economic center. The protests are increasingly fueled not by any specific constituency but by general fury at living conditions and Mr. Bashir’s regime. Over the past five weeks, security forces have fired into crowds. Amnesty International said 37 people have been killed. The International Crisis Group noted that security forces have not gone as far as they did in 2013 when militias indiscriminately killed almost 200 protesters. But nervous about the uprising, the regime seized print runs of newspapers covering the events, attempted to shut down the Internet and detained journalists.

Sudan’s kleptocracy under Mr. Bashir has led the nation to ruin. Part of the trouble stems from the loss of substantial oil revenue after South Sudan became independent in 2011. But much of the misery is the result of excessive spending on the military and security services. A deeper crisis began last year when the government cut wheat subsidies without helping the hardest-hit poor, while simultaneously devaluing the currency. Inflation has skyrocketed to more than 60 percent. While Mr. Bashir has survived protests before, this time looks worse. He has called the protesters “traitors, mercenaries, agents and heretics” but also has cautioned police not to use “excessive force,” which would inflame the uprising more.

The United States eased sanctions against Sudan in October 2017, saying it had begun addressing concerns about terrorism as well as human rights abuses against civilians in Darfur. Other nations had recently been discussing whether to lift sanctions. But no such action is appropriate now. On Wednesday, the State Department declared that a better U.S. relationship with Sudan requires “meaningful political reform and clear, sustained progress on respect for human rights.” That is a standard other nations, such as those in the Arab League and African Union, should adopt.

As the Crisis Group points out, Mr. Bashir is facing unpalatable alternatives, including pending charges from the ICC that include crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. If he cracks down violently against protesters, Sudan will be further isolated. An internal coup seems unlikely and in any event might result in unhelpful instability. The best alternative for Mr. Bashir is to relinquish power to a new government that could qualify for international aid. The writing is on the wall, and Mr. Bashir should heed it.