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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
Sudan’s Interest in South Sudanese Peace
Sudan’s Interest in South Sudanese Peace
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

Op-Ed / Africa

Sudan’s Interest in South Sudanese Peace

Originally published in Sudan Tribune

Sudan and South Sudan’s relationship is of vital importance to resolving conflicts in both countries. Khartoum, and other countries in the region, clearly benefit from a stable South Sudan.

Once-fraught relations between the two countries have improved in recent years, helped by substantive discussions over shared interests, including oil exports, support for armed groups, and border security. Khartoum should now use its influence in Juba to seek better regional cooperation and a peaceful resolution of internal and cross-border conflicts.

Once-fraught relations between the two countries have improved in recent years

A more sophisticated Sudanese approach that ensures southern armed groups are part of a more inclusive, and thereby stable, government in Juba, is in Khartoum’s own best interests. A constructive Khartoum-Juba relationship is likely to be significant, for instance, in the U.S. government’s mid-2017 assessment of its recent decision to ease sanctions on Sudan.

Do not support South Sudanese armed groups

There is currently fighting in several parts of South Sudan, a disaster for those in the affected areas. But violence is not on the scale of the 2013-15 civil war, and is unlikely to escalate dramatically, partly thanks to Khartoum’s refusal to support rebel groups.

When the former First Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar, arrived in Khartoum after fleeing fighting in Juba in July 2016, the Sudanese government severely restricted his capacity to re-start his rebellion. He then left for South Africa, and was subsequently denied re-entry to Sudan in November 2016; he was eventually obliged to return to South Africa.

Khartoum should continue resisting requests from South Sudanese opposition leaders to arm or provide other forms of support to rebel fighters

Khartoum’s actions are central to determining whether South Sudan moves towards sustainable peace or falls back into a complex and multi-layered conflict. Ending armed rebellion in South Sudan is the primary responsibility of South Sudan’s transitional government who must reach out to armed groups to make peace. Yet violence in South Sudan is most deadly and protracted when warring parties receive support from neighbouring states.

Khartoum should continue resisting requests from South Sudanese opposition leaders to arm or provide other forms of support to rebel fighters.

Political rather than military support

Sudan can go further by using its influence with Juba to implement relevant parts of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), to which Sudan was a signatory and guarantor in August 2015. Sudan should also work with other Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, a regional body) member states – notably Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya – to support Juba’s commitment to conduct a national dialogue with opposition political parties and armed groups.

Sudan’s visible engagement with these processes is critical to overcoming the trust deficit between Juba and armed groups.

As well as supporting peace in South Sudan, Khartoum should accept that there is no military solution to its own domestic conflicts in in the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states) and Darfur. These conflicts have cost billions of dollars and Sudan should seek a sustainable political resolution, supported by regional actors, including Uganda.

For recently improved relations between Khartoum, Juba and Kampala to translate into real regional harmony, Sudan should honour its commitment to a Cessation of Hostilities in both Darfur and the Two Areas and reconvene negotiations on humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

To help peace take hold in frontier areas, Sudan should also consider innovative approaches to border security that are based on the complex realities of armed groups and ethnic communities in both countries. Leaders are drawing from examples such as the 2010 agreement between Chad and Sudan which halted support for one another’s rebels.

Without such measures, improved relations with Juba will not be sufficient to resolve Sudan’s own internal conflicts, which have domestic drivers, require their own political solution, and are not simply the expression of a Sudanese proxy war with South Sudan.

The benefits of better relations with Juba

Overall, Sudan can benefit from improved relations with Juba in three ways.

First, by agreeing that it will not support South Sudanese rebel groups, it can continue to demand that Juba, in turn, deny support to Sudanese rebels in the Two Areas and Darfur.

Secondly, improved relations will bring much needed economic benefits. December’s three-year oil deal profits both sides and improves the terms of South Sudan’s transit fee regime. Production is also re-starting in Unity state which will increase exports. The new index-linked arrangement means that fees will reflect global oil prices, rather than simply being a fixed rate which, at a time of low prices and conflict-suppressed production, contributed to South Sudan’s economic challenges.

Diplomacy, not destabilisation, is Sudan’s winning strategy in South Sudan

Khartoum should understand that the oil agreement, together with support for security arrangements in South Sudan’s Unity state that favour stability, ties both countries more closely in a regime of economic interdependence - to their mutual benefit. This makes it less likely that conflict will break out again along the shared border.

Third, the conflict in South Sudan is a major preoccupation for the international community. Continuing to play a constructive role in its resolution and preventing further escalation, coupled with renewed efforts to resolve its own internal conflicts peacefully, will help Khartoum lock in its improving relations with the U.S. and the European Union. This will increase the chances for complete sanctions removal and debt relief.

Diplomacy, not destabilisation, is Sudan’s winning strategy in South Sudan.