Sudan's Dual Crises: Refocusing on IGAD
Sudan's Dual Crises: Refocusing on IGAD
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
A Long War Looming in Sudan
A Long War Looming in Sudan
Briefing 19 / Africa 3 minutes

Sudan's Dual Crises: Refocusing on IGAD

As the Darfur crisis understandably preoccupies the international community, inadequate attention is being paid to ending Sudan’s 21-year old civil war between the Khartoum government and the mainly southern insurgency led by the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army).

I. Overview

As the Darfur crisis understandably preoccupies the international community, inadequate attention is being paid to ending Sudan's 21-year old civil war between the Khartoum government and the mainly southern insurgency led by the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army). The peace process mediated by the regional organisation IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), looked close to finality in June 2004 but is now at risk. The draft agreement negotiated at Naivasha contains provisions that can assist a political solution in Darfur. The two sets of issues are closely related and need to be dealt with equally and urgently. However, unless current dynamics change, and the UN Security Council puts more pressure upon Khartoum to conclude the IGAD agreement, war could soon resume across the country.

If the government chooses to delay conclusion of the peace agreement when the IGAD negotiations resume on 7 October, the six protocols already signed but not yet in force may well begin to unravel -- under pressure from regime hardliners and intellectuals in the North who argue that too many concessions were made to the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army), and from elements within the SPLA who never trusted the regime to keep its word and believe it has been weakened by Darfur. If this happens, new fronts in a war that has already cost two million lives are likely to emerge in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and the east.

If the government chooses cooperation, peace in Sudan could be secured before the end of the year. Wrapping up the IGAD (Naivasha) agreement would lay the groundwork for further understandings with the umbrella opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and, more importantly, provide models for a Darfur resolution and begin the process towards democratisation and national elections.

However, indications are the regime is leaning toward further intransigence. The signals it is sending on IGAD are mixed at best, suggesting it is stalling in an effort to persuade the international community to relax its Darfur demands. Khartoum also has obstructed the deployment of a sizeable African Union (AU) force with a specific mandate to protect civilians in Darfur, while its effort to link disarmament of Janjaweed militia to the cantonment of the Darfur rebels helped stymie recent AU-mediated talks. While Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, adopted a conciliatory approach before the Security Council on 29 September 2004, pledging cooperation with an AU force, there remains much ambiguity about what that will mean in practice.

Khartoum appears to calculate that commercial and sovereignty considerations will ensure that most countries and international institutions will apply no more than rhetorical pressure. It encourages the perception that if serious pressure is applied, it would be counter-productive, giving advantages to putative "hardliners" or even causing the regime to crack, leaving a failed state in its wake. These tactics have served the regime well since it seized power in 1989.

The lesson of those fifteen years, however, is that when the government has been the target of serious pressure with a specific objective, it has modified its behaviour. It is a pragmatic regime that will do what it has to in order to survive, including choosing cooperation rather than attempting to impose unilateral solutions.

The international community should act on a number of fronts to achieve a comprehensive solution to Sudan's multiple and interconnected problems, one that deals equally with the IGAD peace process and Darfur. The Security Council should give itself further leverage on Darfur by moving quickly to deploy the first elements of the International Commission of Inquiry it established by its resolution of 18 September 2004. If there is not concrete progress on its Darfur demands by the end of October, especially the AU protection force, the Council should impose an arms embargo on the Sudanese government, an assets freeze on companies owned by the ruling party that do business abroad, and a travel ban on senior Sudanese officials.

Diplomatic pressure must simultaneously be escalated to produce a swift conclusion on the IGAD (Naivasha) process. The Security Council needs to state clearly that if the parties do not make progress when they resume the IGAD negotiations on 7 October and fail to conclude a final agreement by the end of the year, it will assess responsibility and take appropriate decisions. Other issues must also be addressed, particularly the complications presented by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the brutal Ugandan insurgency whose depredations have often been supported by Khartoum in pursuit of its war aims in the South.

Ultimately, the regime must understand that meaningful penalties can only be avoided or removed if it acts quickly and constructively on both the IGAD agreement and Darfur. It should not be allowed to pick and choose which issues, or parts of issues, it wishes to move on, playing these off against others. This is the moment for it to decide its path -- and firmness in New York and key capitals is necessary to inform its choice.

Nairobi/Brussels, 5 October 2004

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