Dialogue or Destruction? Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan Escalates
Dialogue or Destruction? Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan Escalates
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Special Episode: Sudan at War
Special Episode: Sudan at War
Report / Africa 2 minutes

Dialogue or Destruction? Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan Escalates

Sudan’s civil war, already one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II, has entered its most destructive phase to date. Oil revenues have allowed the government to purchase increasingly lethal weapons, more effectively pursue population-clearing operations, and expand the use of its greatest comparative advantage, air power.

Executive Summary

Sudan’s civil war, already one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II, has entered its most destructive phase to date. Oil revenues have allowed the government to purchase increasingly lethal weapons, more effectively pursue population-clearing operations, and expand the use of its greatest comparative advantage, air power. The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has greater manpower to deploy on multiple fronts, has also acquired more sophisticated arms, and is engaging government forces in more intense conventional battles.

Given the state of its currently exploitable oil reserves and anticipated developments on international markets, the government must open new fields to production if it is at least to maintain current revenues. This requires pushing further south into the insurgents’ stronghold. The major dry season offensive the government launched deeper into the oil fields and on two other fronts in January 2002 gained little territory and began to peter out as the rains started in late May. Though the SPLA withstood this assault, the test is now whether it can mount an effective counter offensive. If it cannot, the prospect is that its capacity to defend against the government’s next dry season campaign, which will undoubtedly be backed by more and better weapons, will begin to erode.

Parallel to the combat escalation, what may be the decisive phase of the long running peace initiative pursued by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is beginning. Its chairman, Kenya’s outgoing President Moi, wants to make a major push during the last half-year of his term. The U.S., UK and Norway have become observers in the process, working closely with the Kenyan Special Envoy, Lieutenant-General Lazarus Sumbeiywo.

Many issues divide the Sudanese parties, not the least of which are religion and the distribution of power. But self-determination for the South stands above the others for its potential to be the ultimate spoiler of the peace process. The commitment of those in the South – the core of the national insurgency – to achieving a referendum that offers them a choice of independence continues to grow. It is matched only by the government’s opposition to any referendum that would include an option for the breakup of the country as an option.

With battle lines and negotiating positions so clearly drawn, the efforts to energise the IGAD peace process have so far been useful, but not sufficient. The window of opportunity for peace in Sudan is beginning to close. A much more robust effort must be undertaken both by the IGAD states and, in their support, by the international community if peace is to be made. In the first instance, this requires quick construction of a considerably more detailed peace strategy, including the organisation and deployment of serious leverage. Absent this, the Sudanese people will be condemned to increasing death and destruction, and a wide swathe of Africa will remain subject to the destabilising consequences.

Nairobi/Brussels, 27 June 2002

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