Sudan's Multifaceted Crisis
Sudan's Multifaceted Crisis
Working with Others to Halt Sudan’s Collapse
Working with Others to Halt Sudan’s Collapse
Speech / Africa 6 minutes

Sudan's Multifaceted Crisis

Presentation on Sudan to the Canadian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, David Mozersky, Horn of Africa Project Director, International Crisis Group, 11 April 2008.

The ongoing crisis in the Sudan represents one of the greatest challenges to the Horn of Africa region and the international community today. Despite significant high-level international attention and engagement over the past several years, we are still far from a sustainable peace in a country that still hosts multiple active or simmering conflict areas, and plays a role in regional conflicts in Chad, Central African Republic, and northern Uganda, among others. Progress is possible, but will require a significantly more coordinated and consistent approach from the international community, and possibly a radical change in the way we have approached policymaking in Sudan. We have done a commendable job of averting catastrophe and helping to keep people alive through humanitarian support in Darfur and elsewhere, and through support to the various peacekeeping operations in Sudan, but this alone is not enough – this is treating the symptoms of the problem, while leaving the causes of Sudan’s multiple wars in tact.

Sudan today has an active war in the western provinces of Darfur; a fragile peace agreement – the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA - in south and central Sudan which has seen increased military clashes over the past three months in the contested area of Abyei; a weak and largely unimplemented peace agreement in Eastern Sudan; and new potential conflicts in the central region of Kordofan; and in the far North, where local communities unhappy with the construction of the Merowe and Kajbar dams  are threatening to take up arms against the government. This pattern of civil war – more than 50 years old, in the case of southern Sudan; yet new to equally underdeveloped regions like Kordofan and the far North – stems from a common set of problems relating to poor governance, centralized and opaque decision making at the centre, and the control of resources and power by a small ruling elite at the expense of the broader population.

We must understand that the current regime in Sudan is benefiting in today’s status quo, despite the international outrage over Darfur – a conflict which the regime has, and continues to fuel. The ruling National Congress Party is selling its oil on the open market, has had consistent protection in the UN Security Council from China, Russia, and others, and views the political reforms that address the core governance problems in Sudan as a threat to its survival. Despite having committed to many of these reforms in the 2005 CPA, and enshrining them in the Interim National Constitution – it has resisted the codification of these reforms through new legislatrion. Thus tackling the deeper causes of conflict in Sudan requires not only addressing technical issues like establishing a functioning and inclusive federal state, or complex issues in Darfur related to traditional land tenure systems and grazing rights, but doing so in a context where the ruling National Congress Party will resist progress each step of the way if it determines it somehow threatens its political survival.

Darfur remains the most urgent and tragic crisis in Sudan, yet despite the past four years of international attention and engagement, the outlook for the civilian population and an end to the conflict remains negative. Civilians continue to face a myriad of threats on a daily basis. The National Congress Party remains the main driver of conflict in Darfur, but the situation is further hampered by significant rebel divisions, a proliferation of armed groups, and an escalated proxy war between Sudan and Chad. UNAMID is slowly deploying, held up by government obstruction, UN bureaucracy and tepid support from troop contributing countries. What is far more worrying, however, is that the political process is completely frozen, with little urgency seen anywhere in the international arena. Yet without progress on the political track, the peacekeeping mission – even if fully equipped and deployed – can at best provide increased civilian protection for static populations in IDP camps and increased humanitarian access. But these are symptoms of the larger problems. A resumption of peace talks in Darfur will probably require a significant amount of time to carry out preparatory work focusing on rebel unification and broadening of participation to give the talks even a minimal chance to succeed. But this is not happening and is not being prioritized, the joint AU/UN mediation team is stuck, and therefore we see attention shifting once again to the peacekeeping force at the expense of the more difficult, but ultimately more important, political process.

The 2005 CPA is the bedrock upon which peace and national reform can be based – its provisions include a significant governmental reform agenda, as well as a democratization process that is supposed to lead to elections in 2009 – yet the pattern of implementation more than three years into the agreement is one of systematic undermining of the national level provisions by the ruling NCP, and uneven implementation by the southern-based SPLM. In October ‘07, the SPLM suspended its participation in government due to these NCP violations, and the parties came close to returning to war on several occasions in November and December. Though the suspension was resolved peacefully between the parties, without external intervention, and the SPLM returned to government in late December, the fundamental challenges remain: the NCP’s ruling clique view full implementation as a threat to its survival, while the SPLM is challenged by internal divisions and capacity issues. The most volatile issue, the contested area of Abyei, remains unresolved, and has seen a series of deadly clashes in the surrounding areas since late December. This is not a recipe for sustainable peace, but instead carries a high likelihood of an eventual collapse of the peace agreement and return to war, unless something changes. A collapse of the CPA would have devastating consequences for all of Sudan. It would also torpedo any peacemaking efforts in Darfur, and would have negative ramifications on all of Sudan’s 9 neighbouring countries.

So what must change to improve the chances for sustainable peace in Sudan? I believe the answer, or at least part of the answer, rests with approach of the international community. Three things must happen for a more effective international response: First, there must be a consistent, coordinated message from the international community to the Sudanese government and other actors. This requires a common international strategy towards Sudan, but this is currently lacking, and poses a significant challenge in context where the UN Security Council is sharply divided. Second, such a strategy must be comprehensive, and address Sudan as one country with multiple conflicts stemming from a common set of causes – we must understand the inter-linkages between Darfur, the CPA, and the greater region, and adapt our policies accordingly. For the past three years, most international actors have viewed Darfur and the CPA as two separate conflicts, developed two separate sets of policies, and in trying to balance these agendas, have ultimately ended up undermining both. For example, the CPA holds the seeds to begin to address some of these structural issues, but these are not sexy, do not make headlines, and have too often been ignored. Finally, we must build leverage with the parties – in some cases, this just means backing up the threats already made in existing UNSC resolutions – and use it to push the parties down the path that will lead towards peace.  This does not mean regime change, but we must be more effective at holding the parties to their commitments in the CPA and in Darfur. By doing so, we support the political transition and reform agenda already embedded in the CPA. By creating political and economic costs for non-compliance, the international community can make a peaceful transition the best political option available to the parties, and greatly reduce the risk of renewed conflict, or be prepared to better manage renewed hostilities.

Canada has an important role to play. In addition to the crucial support that Canada is providing in Darfur on the humanitarian side and through support to UNAMID, as well as in southern Sudan and the transitional areas, Canada is a consensus builder in the international arena. The Sudan file needs leadership and vision in developing a comprehensive strategy and an international consensus around that strategy if we are to make progress on consolidating peace in Sudan.

Thank you for your attention.

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