Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement: Beyond the Crisis
Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement: Beyond the Crisis
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Working with Others to Halt Sudan’s Collapse
Working with Others to Halt Sudan’s Collapse
Briefing 50 / Africa 4 minutes

Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement: Beyond the Crisis

On 11 October 2007, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) announced it was suspending participation in the Government of National Unity because the National Congress Party (NCP) was not implementing key aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the generation-long, primarily North-South conflict.

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I. Overview

On 11 October 2007, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) announced it was suspending participation in the Government of National Unity because the National Congress Party (NCP) was not implementing key aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the generation-long, primarily North-South conflict. After months of high-level meetings, military posturing and increasingly aggressive rhetoric, the parties agreed on a series of measures and drew back from the brink. The SPLM rejoined the government, which includes a reorganised cabinet, on 27 December. The immediate crisis has been defused, but underlying difficulties remain, and the risk of significant new fighting is growing in the Abyei area. Both parties must re-commit to full CPA implementation if peace is to hold, and the international community must re-engage robustly in support of the still shaky peace deal and recognise that CPA implementation would create the best environment for peace in Darfur and beyond.

There is progress on most issues but few guarantees that the new timetables set in December will be implemented. As the parties position themselves for the scheduled 2009 national elections and the 2011 southern independence referendum, they continue to discuss a “partnership” arrangement, but three main factors still threaten the CPA. First and foremost, those who view the peace deal and the elections as a threat to their control have dominated the NCP almost since the July 2005 death of the SPLM leader John Garang. Having sidelined Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who negotiated it with Garang in the hope an electoral partnership with the former insurgents could bring the NCP a democratic victory, the regime has sought to protect its control over the state and the economy and delay elections. The NCP still wants a partnership but one that neutralises the SPLM as a national challenger and defines it as a purely southern-based junior partner.

Secondly, the SPLM remains deeply divided on priorities. The main division is between those who favour a southern-first strategy and concentrate on the 2011 referendum and those who support Garang’s New Sudan vision and want to play a role in national politics, including through open confrontation with the NCP. The latter seek to change the country’s governance and address the grievances of its marginalised regions. The infighting has weakened both CPA implementation and the party’s position vis-à-vis the NCP.

The SPLM has offered the NCP a joint electoral ticket in exchange for full CPA implementation, beginning with Abyei, and for the moment those pushing a national agenda have the upper hand. But the SPLM’s second-ever national convention, planned for May, will be both a critically important opportunity to reconcile its competing visions and establish more transparent decision-making processes and a potentially risky occasion for leaders who face demands from multiple constituencies, including the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Abyei.

Thirdly, the international guarantors and the UN remain dangerously disengaged on the CPA, due in part to preoccupation with Darfur and in part to a lack of consensus on the way forward. During the late 2007 crisis, they appeared mainly concerned about its potential impact on attempts to settle Darfur. Having concluded that it cannot rely on the guarantors, the SPLM has been building up its military capacity, which many members consider its only realistic leverage over the NCP, as well as developing alliances with marginalised movements and rebel factions within Darfur, Kordofan, the East and the far North.

Both parties calculate that a return to war is not in their best present interests, and they have more to gain working together. But there is great distrust, and each side wants cooperation on its own terms. If peace is to hold, they must rededicate themselves to the CPA and broaden its national support. The following actions are urgently needed:

  • The NCP should appoint those who formed the team that successfully negotiated the CPA to lead on this file, as this offers the best chance to revive the win-win scenario that led to its signature. Such a move would be seen as a sign of good faith and re-commitment to the agreement’s implementation.
  • The SPLM should use its National Convention in May to resolve internal differences, adopt a clear strategy on CPA implementation and build transparent decision-making mechanisms.
  • The CPA’s international guarantors and partner countries should convene a conference, within the framework of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) or the IGAD Partners Forum, to develop a coordinated strategy on CPA implementation, including its relationship to Darfur.
  • The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) should be revitalised, with an effective verification mechanism and regular meetings at envoy level. The new AEC chair should encourage its international members to actively support its work and unify their positions on issues discussed in working groups. If it cannot become more effective, key diplomatic missions in Khartoum should create a shadow AEC, free to report without the parties’ constraints.
  • The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) should increase monitoring of flashpoint areas in Abyei and along the North-South border and negotiate with the parties to create demilitarised zones into which UNMIS forces could deploy and monitor movements of troops to help prevent local flare-ups from escalating. Regular access for UNMIS north of Abyei town has been blocked consistently by the NCP, a violation of the UNMIS mandate that needs to be remedied. The Secretary-General should require monthly reports from UNMIS for the Security Council focusing on implementation of key CPA benchmarks such as Abyei, redeployment of armed forces, the census, election preparations, fiscal management and transparency of oil revenues. The AEC’s findings and recommendations should also be delivered to the Security Council via this monthly reporting.
  • The international community should work closely with the national unity government on contingency planning concerning the census (particularly in Darfur) and lagging preparations for the 2009 elections.

Above all, international policies must no longer be bifurcated between the CPA and Darfur. Sudan’s multiple conflicts are outgrowths of a common set of national problems and need to be treated as such.

Nairobi/Brussels, 13 March 2008

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