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South Sudan: No Sanctions without a Strategy
South Sudan: No Sanctions without a Strategy
Sudan’s Interest in South Sudanese Peace
Sudan’s Interest in South Sudanese Peace
Statement / Africa

South Sudan: No Sanctions without a Strategy

As South Sudan’s civil war continues unabated and multiple peace processes and initiatives create little tangible progress, members of the UN Security Council are seeking to adopt sanctions against six generals, three each from the government and the opposition sides. This would in effect punish past wrongdoing and risk compromising ongoing peace efforts. It would also undermine the renewed impetus for a coordinated international approach to peacemaking in South Sudan. That process remains under the auspices of the regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which has recently been augmented by a wider grouping, known as “IGAD-PLUS”. Imposing sanctions on these generals at this time would also turn individuals and communities in South Sudan who currently favour a peace agreement against the international community. The Security Council should hold off on this sanctions package and reframe its South Sudan sanctions strategy.

None of the six named generals are responsible for the failure to reach a viable agreement. They are not key political decision makers and do not play major roles in shaping positions at the Addis Ababa negotiations. Most favour a negotiated settlement and their support will be crucial for successful implementation of any peace agreement that is achieved.

The failure of the IGAD-sponsored talks to date has created frustration, but IGAD-PLUS, launched in South Africa earlier this month, seeks to coordinate a more effective and broadly-supported international strategy by bringing in additional important players, including the African Union (AU), the U.S., UK, European Union, Norway and China, among others. IGAD-PLUS can only succeed with coordinated and effective support from its members and the Council. While IGAD, the AU and UN agree that the road to peace undoubtedly requires a combination of pressure and incentives, these proposed sanctions would likely weaken, not reinforce a more strategic approach. A unity of approach is required, not uncoordinated, independent actions that may produce long-term negative consequences for peace prospects.

Sanctions as a means of pressure should:

  • be imposed only when clearly supporting a revitalised peace process;
  • make clear to those targeted what they would need to do to avoid the sanction or have it removed; and
  • provide clear timeframes and benchmarks for such action to be taken.

The sanctions that are being considered meet none of these tests. In seeking to demonstrate the credibility of the Council’s threats, the Council risks achieving the reverse with ill-timed and ill-conceived sanctions. They will not build greater support for an improved peace process, which is the present imperative, and should not be pursued.

Addis/Brussels

Op-Ed / Africa

Sudan’s Interest in South Sudanese Peace

Originally published in Sudan Tribune

Sudan and South Sudan’s relationship is of vital importance to resolving conflicts in both countries. Khartoum, and other countries in the region, clearly benefit from a stable South Sudan.

Once-fraught relations between the two countries have improved in recent years, helped by substantive discussions over shared interests, including oil exports, support for armed groups, and border security. Khartoum should now use its influence in Juba to seek better regional cooperation and a peaceful resolution of internal and cross-border conflicts.

Once-fraught relations between the two countries have improved in recent years

A more sophisticated Sudanese approach that ensures southern armed groups are part of a more inclusive, and thereby stable, government in Juba, is in Khartoum’s own best interests. A constructive Khartoum-Juba relationship is likely to be significant, for instance, in the U.S. government’s mid-2017 assessment of its recent decision to ease sanctions on Sudan.

Do not support South Sudanese armed groups

There is currently fighting in several parts of South Sudan, a disaster for those in the affected areas. But violence is not on the scale of the 2013-15 civil war, and is unlikely to escalate dramatically, partly thanks to Khartoum’s refusal to support rebel groups.

When the former First Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar, arrived in Khartoum after fleeing fighting in Juba in July 2016, the Sudanese government severely restricted his capacity to re-start his rebellion. He then left for South Africa, and was subsequently denied re-entry to Sudan in November 2016; he was eventually obliged to return to South Africa.

Khartoum should continue resisting requests from South Sudanese opposition leaders to arm or provide other forms of support to rebel fighters

Khartoum’s actions are central to determining whether South Sudan moves towards sustainable peace or falls back into a complex and multi-layered conflict. Ending armed rebellion in South Sudan is the primary responsibility of South Sudan’s transitional government who must reach out to armed groups to make peace. Yet violence in South Sudan is most deadly and protracted when warring parties receive support from neighbouring states.

Khartoum should continue resisting requests from South Sudanese opposition leaders to arm or provide other forms of support to rebel fighters.

Political rather than military support

Sudan can go further by using its influence with Juba to implement relevant parts of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), to which Sudan was a signatory and guarantor in August 2015. Sudan should also work with other Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, a regional body) member states – notably Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya – to support Juba’s commitment to conduct a national dialogue with opposition political parties and armed groups.

Sudan’s visible engagement with these processes is critical to overcoming the trust deficit between Juba and armed groups.

As well as supporting peace in South Sudan, Khartoum should accept that there is no military solution to its own domestic conflicts in in the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states) and Darfur. These conflicts have cost billions of dollars and Sudan should seek a sustainable political resolution, supported by regional actors, including Uganda.

For recently improved relations between Khartoum, Juba and Kampala to translate into real regional harmony, Sudan should honour its commitment to a Cessation of Hostilities in both Darfur and the Two Areas and reconvene negotiations on humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

To help peace take hold in frontier areas, Sudan should also consider innovative approaches to border security that are based on the complex realities of armed groups and ethnic communities in both countries. Leaders are drawing from examples such as the 2010 agreement between Chad and Sudan which halted support for one another’s rebels.

Without such measures, improved relations with Juba will not be sufficient to resolve Sudan’s own internal conflicts, which have domestic drivers, require their own political solution, and are not simply the expression of a Sudanese proxy war with South Sudan.

The benefits of better relations with Juba

Overall, Sudan can benefit from improved relations with Juba in three ways.

First, by agreeing that it will not support South Sudanese rebel groups, it can continue to demand that Juba, in turn, deny support to Sudanese rebels in the Two Areas and Darfur.

Secondly, improved relations will bring much needed economic benefits. December’s three-year oil deal profits both sides and improves the terms of South Sudan’s transit fee regime. Production is also re-starting in Unity state which will increase exports. The new index-linked arrangement means that fees will reflect global oil prices, rather than simply being a fixed rate which, at a time of low prices and conflict-suppressed production, contributed to South Sudan’s economic challenges.

Diplomacy, not destabilisation, is Sudan’s winning strategy in South Sudan

Khartoum should understand that the oil agreement, together with support for security arrangements in South Sudan’s Unity state that favour stability, ties both countries more closely in a regime of economic interdependence - to their mutual benefit. This makes it less likely that conflict will break out again along the shared border.

Third, the conflict in South Sudan is a major preoccupation for the international community. Continuing to play a constructive role in its resolution and preventing further escalation, coupled with renewed efforts to resolve its own internal conflicts peacefully, will help Khartoum lock in its improving relations with the U.S. and the European Union. This will increase the chances for complete sanctions removal and debt relief.

Diplomacy, not destabilisation, is Sudan’s winning strategy in South Sudan.