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.
The Sudan peace process is in its endgame. One year ago, the parties signed the Machakos Protocol, a provisional “grand bargain” that effectively traded a southern self-determination referendum for Sharia in the North. It is time for a second “grand bargain” on the remaining issues such as the status of the national capital, the presidency and the security arrangements to close the deal.
The two-party framework in which Sudan’s peace talks are being held is not adequately addressing all the country’s current armed conflicts: especially the long-running rebellions in the “Three Areas” (Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile) in the North, and the more recent outbreak of armed conflict in Darfur in western Sudan.
Sudan’s peace process survived a major challenge in the first weeks of the new year. Indeed, signature by the parties of a strengthened cessation of hostilities agreement on 4 February and a memorandum of understanding codifying points of agreement on outstanding issues of power and wealth sharing two days later indicates that the momentum to end the twenty-year old conflict is strong.
The latest phase of the negotiations in Machakos, Kenya closed on 18 November 2002 with the signing of an important new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on power sharing and an extension of the earlier MOU on cessation of hostilities and unimpeded aid access.
Warring parties and international aid providers in Sudan have an historic opportunity to bring to an end what is perhaps the most extreme and long-running example in the world of using access to humanitarian aid as an instrument of war.
On 1 September 2002, two weeks into the second phase of the peace negotiations in Machakos, Kenya, the Sudanese government suspended its participation in the talks being brokered by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Sudan’s civil war, already one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II, has entered its most destructive phase to date. Oil revenues have allowed the government to purchase increasingly lethal weapons, more effectively pursue population-clearing operations, and expand the use of its greatest comparative advantage, air power.
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