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Sudan's U.S. Terror Delisting: Too Little, Too Late?
Sudan's U.S. Terror Delisting: Too Little, Too Late?
Report 134 / Africa

Darfur’s New Security Reality

The Darfur conflict has changed radically in the past year and not for the better. While there are many fewer deaths than during the high period of fighting in 2003-2004, it has mutated, the parties have splintered, and the confrontations have multiplied.

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Executive Summary

The Darfur conflict has changed radically in the past year and not for the better. While there are many fewer deaths than during the high period of fighting in 2003-2004, it has mutated, the parties have splintered, and the confrontations have multiplied. Violence is again increasing, access for humanitarian agencies is decreasing, international peacekeeping is not yet effective and a political settlement remains far off. The strategy the African Union (AU)/UN mediation has been following cannot cope with this new reality and needs to be revised. After a highly publicised opening ceremony in Sirte, Libya, on 27 October 2007, the new peace talks have been put on hold. The mediation should use this opportunity to reformulate the process, broadening participation and addressing all the conflict’s root causes.

The May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is a failure, too limited in scope and signatories. Those who signed – the government and a few rebel factions – have hurt the peace process. The ruling party in Khartoum, the National Congress Party (NCP), is pursuing destructive policies in Darfur, while at the same time resisting key provisions in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South war, thus triggering a crisis in that process. They are meant to ensure its survival in 2009 elections, not end the conflict, and they are jeopardising Sudan’s peacemaking architecture. The NCP wants Darfur in chaos to limit the room for an opposition to emerge, while resettling key allies on cleared land and defying Security Council resolutions by integrating its Janjaweed irregulars into official security structures instead of disarming them.

Rebel DPA signatories, particularly the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Minni Minawi (SLA/MM), have been responsible for attacks on civilians, humanitarians, the AU mission (AMIS) and some of the violence in the internally displaced person (IDP) camps. Their leaders have been given government jobs and land and, as ardent supporters of the status quo and without a clearly defined role in the new negotiations, are potential spoilers. Rebel movements that did not sign have further splintered and only just begun tentative steps toward reunifying their ranks. Many have boycotted the talks and increased military action. As they divide along tribal lines, their messages become more fragmented and less representative of constituencies they claim to speak for.

The IDP camps are increasingly violent, with residents manipulated by all sides while Khartoum also tries to force them to return to unsafe areas. Inter-Arab dissension has added new volatility to the situation on the ground. Some tribes are trying to solidify land claims before the UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur (UNAMID) arrives. This has led to fighting with other Arab tribes, which have realised the NCP is not a reliable guarantor of their long-term interests and have started to take protection into their own hands. There is now a high risk of an Arab insurgency, as well as potential for alliances with the predominantly non-Arab rebel groups. A spillover of the conflict into Kordofan has also started.

The new realities emphasise the necessity of broadening participation in the peace talks to include the full range of actors and constituencies involved in the conflict, including its primary victims, such as women, but also Arab tribes. Incorporating broader and more representative voices can help remedy the uneven weight the process now gives the NCP and rebel factions. Core issues that drive the conflict, among them land tenure and use, including grazing rights, and the role and reform of local government and administrative structures, were not addressed in the DPA but left to the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation process that was supposed to follow the negotiations. They need to be on the agenda of the new negotiations if an eventual agreement is to gain the wide support the DPA has lacked.

UNAMID is unlikely to be fully operational until well into 2008, so it is important to complete the delivery of promised aid packages to AMIS quickly so that it can resume more active peacekeeping. When it is on the ground, UNAMID must build upon lessons learned from its predecessor, including to be more pro-active in protecting civilians and responding to ceasefire violations. Its leadership should also engage actively in the peace talks so as to ensure coherence between what is agreed and its capabilities. The international community must give it more support than it did AMIS, including strong responses, with sanctions as necessary, to further non-compliance by any party, as well as to actions that obstruct the peace process or violate international humanitarian law.

Nairobi/Brussels, 26 November 2007

Podcast / Africa

Sudan's U.S. Terror Delisting: Too Little, Too Late?

Sudan's transition is in deep trouble, and Crisis Group’s Sudan expert Jonas Horner explains why on this week’s episode of The Horn. President Trump’s recent promise to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism may not be enough to mitigate the spiralling economic crisis.

Almost eighteen months after a popular revolution ousted President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s transition remains on shaky ground. While the Juba peace agreement signed in August and President Trump’s recent announcement that Sudan will be removed from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list are welcome developments, the economic crisis and societal frustrations persist in the absence of substantial support from the international community. 

On his return from Khartoum, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Sudan, Jonas Horner, joins Alan to explain how this lack of buy-in endangers these initial signs of progress, why the way political alignments are currently shifting in the capital is cause for concern, what post-Bashir Sudan looks like on the ground and where it may be headed.

For more information, explore Crisis Group's Sudan page.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Contributors

Senior Analyst, South Sudan
alanboswell
Deputy Project Director, Horn of Africa & Senior Analyst, Sudan