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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 209 / Africa

Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East

Unless the marginalisation of Sudan’s East is addressed, renewed war and further fragmentation of the country is a growing possibility.

Executive Summary

The situation in Sudan’s forgotten East – without deadly conflict since the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) – stands in contrast to the fighting besetting the country’s other peripheries. But this peace is increasingly fragile. Seven years after the ESPA’s signing, the conflict’s root causes remain and in some respects are more acute, due to the failure to implement many of the agreement’s core provisions. Mirroring elsewhere in the country, with no sign of genuine efforts by Khartoum to address the situation, conflict could erupt in the East again and lead to further national fragmentation. All ESPA stakeholders urgently need to reconvene and address the deteriorating situation; the leading signatories need publicly to concede that the promises of the original agreement have not met expectations and reach a consensus on remedial measures.

The ESPA’s failure is another example of Khartoum’s piecemeal approach to resolving conflicts and the divide-and-rule default politics of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). Post-2006, attention and resources rapidly shifted to Darfur and now Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The failure to implement the ESPA, together with NCP machinations, has hopelessly divided – mostly along tribal lines – the Eastern Front (EF), the alliance of armed groups that signed the agreement.

At the same time, continued exploitation of the region’s resources by a centre that shares little is fuelling a secessionist agenda even among the eastern branches of the NCP. Various eastern factions now call for toppling the regime and joining the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an alliance of essentially southern and Darfur-based rebel groups. Renewed armed conflict is more likely, especially given the spreading war in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.

Meanwhile, the government is allowing local tribal militias to arm, as communal relations deteriorate. Residents worry that eastern Sudan will become the next Darfur, with conflicts developing between local actors over claims to land and resources, some backed by the state. The trafficking of arms and people attests to a creeping criminalisation of local state structures. Finally, the unpredictable relationship between Sudan and Eritrea and the growing Israeli-Iranian competition around the Red Sea could lead to national, regional and other international actors using aggrieved eastern factions as their military proxies.

Ultimately, the East’s grievances are due to elites’ decades-long failure to achieve national consensus on how the country should be governed and to build an inclusive and peaceful state. As Sudan prepares to write a new constitution, a truly comprehensive national mechanism – as Crisis Group has recommended in its last three Sudan reports: Sudan: Major Reform or More War; Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan; and Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (II): War in Blue Nile – is needed that addresses the core questions of its identity, governance, wealth and power sharing.

Nairobi/Brussels, 26 November 2013

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