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.
Sudan’s window of opportunity threatens to become a missed opportunity if the peace process is not revitalised in the near future. Escalation of fighting around the oil fields, increasing use by the government of helicopter gunships against civilian as well as military targets, and indecision surrounding the nature of wider international engagement all put at risk Sudan’s best chance for peace since the latest phase of civil war began nearly nineteen years ago.
Few countries are more deserving of such attention than Sudan, where the scale of human suffering has been mind numbing, and where the ongoing civil war continues to severely disrupt regional stability and desperately inhibit development.ICG launched a Sudan project in 2001 because we felt the country was at a crossroads,and that now was the time when concentrated attention by the international community could make a decisive difference.