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Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement: Beyond the Crisis
Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement: Beyond the Crisis
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Ethiopia Must Continue to Help Stabilise South Sudan
Ethiopia Must Continue to Help Stabilise South Sudan
Briefing 50 / Africa

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

Commentary / Africa

Ethiopia Must Continue to Help Stabilise South Sudan

Addis Ababa can win economic and security gains if it perseveres with its impressive commitment to peace efforts in South Sudan. With its new two-year membership on the UN Security Council, Addis Ababa has the opportunity to better connect regionally-led political processes to UN action. 

Ethiopia’s commitment to peace-making in South Sudan has been critical for regional stability. It has much to gain from continuing this engagement, including a secure border and trade with a stable neighbour. But achieving lasting peace after South Sudan’s two-year-long civil war is a long-term undertaking.

Ethiopia has shown strong leadership and a level of direct involvement in peace efforts in Sudan and South Sudan that few countries can match.

The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) peace talks on the conflicts are held in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa led the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, a regional body) peace process on South Sudan and is a guarantor of the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). It deploys peacekeepers to the UN Mission in South Sudan and is the main contributor to the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (on the Sudan-South Sudan border). It is also expected to be the lead contributor to the 4,000-strong UN Regional Protection Force (RPF) based in Juba.

Ethiopia’s two-year membership on the UN Security Council (UNSC) should be an opportunity to better connect regionally-led political processes to UN action.

Implementing the ARCSS and the Regional Force

Following the July 2016 fighting in Juba, ARCSS has been reshaped, and the RPF and national dialogue process created to reinforce its principles. Concerted support is required from Ethiopia, fellow IGAD member states, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC, overseeing ARCSS implementation and reporting to the IGAD heads of state) and the UN to reduce conflict under an inclusive government.

These processes, and the RPF’s role in supporting them, are fluid and interconnected. For example, a successful negotiation between the transitional government and an armed group increases the chances of successful dialogue between communities caught up in the conflict. There is now a window of opportunity to shape and provide capacity-building to efforts to make the new South Sudan transitional government more inclusive.

Given the trust deficit that exists between South Sudan’s government and opposition figures, the UN’s RPF has a role to play in helping create conditions conducive to ARCSS implementation and national dialogue.

Ethiopia’s support for talks between these parties makes it a critical partner in supporting inclusivity in Juba. For this to take place, the RPF must deploy and demonstrate its worth. In addition to JMEC, the RPF provides a direct link to Ethiopia and other IGAD leaders in their oversight of ARCSS and efforts to form a more inclusive government.

On the sidelines of the forthcoming AU summit, Ethiopia and IGAD leaders should consider what can be done to expedite RPF deployment and how it can be better tied to political engagement to support genuine efforts toward greater transitional government inclusivity.

Mutual Security and Prosperity

Ethiopia’s mediation and peacekeeping efforts also support stability at home. During Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s 28 October visit to Juba, he and President Kiir made assurances that they would not support rebels in either country ­– a critical restatement of a mutual understanding between the two countries.

Ethiopia’s border with South Sudan hosts cross-border communities that experience multiple, overlapping communal tensions that can lead to violence. A large Murle raid from South Sudan into the Gambella region last April required the Ethiopian army’s temporary deployment into South Sudan to secure the return of abducted children and to monitor both sides of the border. This took place during a separate period of intercommunal conflict in Gambella, which was exacerbated by the large numbers of refugees in the region.

Supporting South Sudan to reduce political and communal conflicts along their shared border – which requires effective and inclusive governance from Juba – will improve security in Gambella and reduce refugee inflows, which tend to exacerbate intercommunal tensions in the border region.

Violence and displacement are detrimental to the mutually beneficial cross-border trade that was growing fast before South Sudan’s civil war started in 2013. Stability and security can enable development rather than humanitarian crisis in the impoverished border regions and beyond.

Ethiopia should not waiver in its commitment to ensuring a peaceful South Sudan and use the many tools at its disposal – IGAD, ARCSS, JMEC, the RPF and its term since January on the UN Security Council – to support an inclusive and stable government in Juba. Successful peace-making will ensure greater stability in Ethiopia and facilitate sustained trade and economic development – which is to everyone’s benefit.