Sudan: Towards an Incomplete Peace
Sudan: Towards an Incomplete Peace
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Report 73 / Africa

Sudan: Towards an Incomplete Peace

With the signing on 25 September 2003 of a framework agreement on security arrangements, the Sudanese government and the insurgent Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA) are closer to peace than at any time in the past twenty years.

Executive Summary

With the signing on 25 September 2003 of a framework agreement on security arrangements, the Sudanese government and the insurgent Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA) are closer to peace than at any time in the past twenty years. However, considerable hurdles remain before any final deal is signed, and a separate, intensifying war in the west already threatens to undermine it. As the parties press forward with the last phases of negotiation, the international community’s engagement should intensify in support of the final deal, in preparation for helping with implementation if successful, and in ensuring coordination between the main peace process and the conflict in the west.

While immense progress has been made on the main conflict, that between the government and the SPLA, the situation in the western province of Darfur is rapidly deteriorating, and yet another war threatens in the east. Even a comprehensive government-SPLA agreement is potentially jeopardised by an inability to agree on terms for three contested areas: the Nuba Mountains, Abyei, and Southern Blue Nile, all in the centre of the country, close to the historic north-south boundary. Most disturbing are increasing reports of major human rights violations in the west, where some 600,000 persons have been displaced in what resembles the government’s strategy in the oilfields over the last four years.

ICG has argued since these negotiations began in 2002 that Sudan’s war is national, not simply between north and south. Therefore, efforts must be focused on the political dynamics in other parts of the country that will continue to fuel instability even if the core conflict in the south is resolved. If there is a peace agreement between the government and the SPLA, but the situation in Darfur and the east is not addressed, the potential for continued instability and conflict remains high, and the peace agreement itself may be undermined. Indeed, resolution of the larger conflict in the south threatens to exacerbate the other conflicts since it would purport to codify arrangements for power and wealth-sharing for the whole country.

Nevertheless, the progress toward addressing the fundamental grievances of southerners has been historic. It has been driven by three factors. First, the negotiations are at the highest levels ever. Vice President Ali Osman Taha and SPLA Chairman John Garang had never met before but they are now leading the peace process, with dozens of hours of face-to-face talks. Secondly, the parties, not the mediators, are for the first time leading the process, setting the agenda and driving the compromises. Thirdly, the international community has remained united behind the regional process led since 1994 by IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development). No alternative has been allowed.

Movement towards peace is having a profound impact on political alignments throughout Sudan. In the past, the government systematically pursued a strategy of weakening the largest parties, including those with a northern power base, some of which have developed their own armed wings. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest of the northern parties in an opposition umbrella grouping, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). However, part of the SPLA’s current negotiating strength derives from its success in forging alliances with northern opposition elements – another illustration that Sudan’s fundamental problem concerns far wider questions of politics and governance than a straight north-south division.

The final deal now depends on the internal politics of both sides, and the degree to which they are prepared to be flexible in the service of the national interest. If the process were to collapse now, it would be the responsibility of specific individuals and ensure that an even more intensive war would resume. This is thus a time for deeper international engagement such as the recent visit to the negotiations by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Normalisation of relations, debt relief, and significant reconstruction aid should be clearly offered in the event of peace; isolation, even potential war crimes prosecutions, should greet a party responsible for collapsing the talks.

The international community has given major support to the peace process for years, through direct assistance to IGAD and in other ways. It needs now to push the parties to broaden participation in the IGAD process and formally link it with the Darfur negotiations in neighbouring Chad, to ensure that an end to the conflict in the south does not become the catalyst for a new bloody chapter in the west. Enhanced international contributions will also be needed to protect the most important elements of a government-SPLA agreement: security arrangements, power and wealth-sharing mechanisms, elections, and the referendum at the end of the interim period on whether the south is to stay within Sudan.

Nairobi/Brussels, 11 December 2003

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