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Assessing Prospects for Peace in Sudan: Perspectives from Three Recent Trips to the Region

December 06, 2006 // 1:00pm2:30pm
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Assessing Prospects for Peace in Sudan: Perspectives from Three Recent Trips to the Region

A discussion with:

Carla Koppell, Director of The Initiative for Inclusive Security

Dave Peterson, Director of the Africa Program at the National Endowment for Democracy

and Sarah Martin, Advocate at Refugees International

On December 6, 2006, the Africa Program hosted a panel of three experts to assess Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which brought an end to 21 years of war between the Sudanese government and Southern rebels. Carla Koppell, Director of the Initiative for Inclusive Security, Dave Peterson, Africa Director at the National Endowment for Democracy and Sarah Martin, Senior Advocate at Refugees International, shared their observations and concerns about the implementation of the peace accords, as well as the positive lessons to draw from the Sudanese experience. The panel was moderated by Princeton Lyman, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Carla Koppell opened up the discussion by emphasizing the critical role of women in Sudan and confirmed that when women are included in peace negotiations, they significantly contribute to making peace sustainable. She presented the results of three consultations conducted by the Initiative for Inclusive Security in Sudan that brought together women leaders from different parts of Sudan to talk about their involvement in rebuilding the country. The first consultation convened a diverse group of fifty women leaders from the governments of National Unity and Southern Sudan as well as members of civil society to brainstorm on the opportunities to increase women's participation in the implementation of the CPA. The second meeting gathered fifteen women leaders from Darfur and focused on the means to increase women's participation in the Darfur peace process. The last consultation aimed at setting up a women's caucus within the Sudanese parliament. Koppell praised the ability of these diverse groups of women to come together, put aside their differences and work collectively to identify critical objectives to increase their participation in Sudanese society. In conclusion, she reiterated that women should be used as a foundation upon which to create sustainable peace.

Dave Peterson began by discussing the boom of the Sudanese economy. Indeed, the oil revenues and several Chinese and Malaysian investments are beginning to produce an impact on the South with Juba as a new "gold rush town". Unfortunately, the downside of this economic prosperity is the spread of corruption and a lack of accountability regarding the oil revenues similar to what is seen in Nigeria and Angola. Because of these failures, there is a need to support good governance training for civil servants. Switching to the topic of the Sudanese political environment, Peterson highlighted the signs of disunity among the "Government of National Unity" set up by the CPA. He insisted that the unity government must become a working reality and the Sudanese population needs to perceive that. A solution will be for Salva Kiir, the Vice President, and President Beshir to start making more public appearances together. Indeed, he said that both sides have much to gain from the CPA as its success will be essential for Southern self-determination to occur in a peaceful way. Furthermore, Peterson argued that despite horrific violence in Darfur, the CPA remains a huge achievement in which the United States and the Sudanese government have invested a great deal of effort. It therefore cannot be allowed to die. Should that occur, the consequence could be a major civil war more violent than the previous north-south war or the humanitarian crisis in Darfur which could have profound implications not only for Sudan but for the entire international community.

Regarding the election process laid out by the CPA which includes a provision for elections in less than two years, Peterson presented a framework of conditions that need to be satisfied for successful elections to become a reality. He started by identifying five potential blocs of contestants:

• The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) which is campaigning as the guarantor of the CPA and the provider of economic prosperity and good governance;
• The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) which is the NCP government partner and which still enjoys the overwhelming support of Southerners despite concerns over the slow implementation of the CPA and charges of corruption;
• The third and the fourth blocs are the two traditional parties: the Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which still retain a significant level of power although they lack resources and have spilt into many factions;
• The fifth bloc includes other southern and northern parties such as the Sudanese Communist Party.

Peterson argued that even though there are many strong contending parties, none of these parties has the power to win the elections outright. For this reason, there is an imperative need for political coalition building which could be a moderating force in Sudanese political development. One possible coalition could be for the SPLM and southern parties to join with the progressive northern groups. If they jointly back the SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum, then they stand a chance to win the presidential elections. This will be the best chance to hold Sudan together. In any case, a government coalition has to be formed and it will be essential that the SPLM be included in such a coalition. Otherwise, any hope of a united Sudan will probably be lost.

On the impacts of the implementation of the CPA on Darfur, Peterson said that almost none of the Sudanese political parties have paid much attention to the conflict. He continued by saying that there is a need for a national conference to address the issue and that only a greater engagement in the Sudanese political process, including the CPA and DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement), can lead to a sustainable resolution of the conflict.

Sarah Martin focused her attention on the refugee situation in South Sudan. She reminded the audience that Sudan has one of the largest displaced populations in the world: 500,000 refugees and over 4 million IDP (Internally Displaced People). The situation in South Sudan is being disrupted by the war in neighboring Uganda. Indeed, the almost 20 years of the Ugandan government's unsuccessful military action against the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) in northern Uganda impacts the sustainability of the Sudanese peace process as the LRA attacks on civilians in South Sudan continue from time-to-time despite the current ceasefire. It is structured as a gorilla organization with combatants moving in small groups and attacking mostly civilian targets. Due to its abduction and utilization of children as soldiers, it makes it particularly difficult for professional military soldiers to combat the LRA. For these reasons, LRA's commanders are wanted by the International Criminal Court. Martin advocated a stronger mandate for UN Peacekeepers in Sudan which will allow them to go after the LRA.

She said she shares the widespread concern of many people that Khartoum does not want to see greater security implemented in South Sudan. The reason: a peaceful South Sudan will tend to rely more economically on Uganda instead of the North and will be more independent. Therefore, by disrupting the process, Khartoum will make sure that the government of South Sudan will remain dependent on the North.

She concluded her remarks by giving some recommendations: the international community must support the Ugandan peace talks in Juba. Indeed, despite their fragility, the negotiations represent the best opportunity for a resolution to the conflict which will not only benefit Ugandans but also the people of South Sudan. Also, she urged the United States, a strong ally of Uganda, to continue supporting the peace talks by exerting pressure on the Ugandan government to stay engaged in the peace process.

During the question and answer session, questions were asked on why Darfur is not a high priority in Sudan as elsewhere in the world. Other questions pertained to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund which is managed by the World Bank, the Chinese influence in Sudan, and the individuals and organizations arming the LRA.

Drafted by Roseline Fodouop Tekeu, Program Assistant, Africa Program
 

  

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