Struggling with multiple civil wars, crises of leadership, and upcoming elections, the leaders of South Sudan face many challenges in achieving a peaceful democratic transition. On April 1, 2009, the Wilson Center Africa program hosted Secretary-General of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Pagan Amum Okiech and the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Government of National Unity H.E. Deng Alor Kuo to elucidate Sudan's prospects for a lasting and sustainable peace. Moderated by Africa Program Consultant Steve McDonald, the panelists spoke about the progress of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the recent ICC indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the ongoing conflict in Darfur, and the CPA-mandated 2010 referendum for South Sudan's independence.
After Sudan attained independence, the country was led by a series of totalitarian and dictatorial regimes, stymieing the evolution of the state and leading to a self-destructive crisis that killed five million people in the last five decades. Today, a peaceful transition to democracy remains hindered by the multiple and coinciding civil wars in the South Sudan, East Sudan, West Sudan, and Darfur. According to SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amum Okiech, to achieve long-lasting peace the country must negotiate an agreement to end the war in Darfur, carry out necessary legal reforms for free and fair elections, create a peaceful and stable democratic system, and engage the international community to support Sudan's transition to democracy.
Attaining peace in Sudan requires an effective implementation of every component of the CPA, said Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Deng Alor Kuo. Agreed upon by warring parties to end a 21-year civil war, the CPA, which was signed in 2005 by the Government of Sudan and the SPLM, includes provisions to share power at all levels of government, integrate military units, resolve border disputes, distribute oil revenues, and hold a referendum to determine the issue of secession in the South. According to Kuo, more than 75 percent of the agreement has been implemented. The oil-rich Abyei district, which is claimed by both the North and the South, was assessed by experts from the Abyei Boundary Commission but the National Congress has refused to accept their recommendations, despite provisions in the CPA which give the commission authority to demarcate boundaries in this area. Consequently, both parties agreed to take the case to the International Arbitration Court (IAC) which will hopefully issue a verdict by July. However, Kuo believes the National Congress Party (NCP) may reject the court's ruling. He added that mediating border disputes in other areas of the country also depends on the cooperation of the NCP.
Sudan has also struggled with integrating the military in accordance with the CPA, said Kuo. The Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA, military branch of the SPLM), should be integrated and deployed in parts of South Sudan and oil-rich areas in North Sudan, said Kuo; however, the armies are deployed separately because the NCP refuses to fully integrate the forces.
Although the CPA specifies a nation-wide election in July 2009, Kuo anticipates a possible delay in the election schedule. SPLM representatives in parliament will push forth several electoral laws which provide for freedom of speech, freedom of press, and other liberties critical to a democratic transition. The National Electoral Commission will declare the date of elections when it releases its report in April.
Kuo also discussed different political reactions to the ICC's recent indictment of President al-Bashir for war crimes. The NCP's position on Bashir's indictment is at odds with the SPLM's position, and feels the ICC has indicted the president to target the NCP overall, said Kuo. The NCP recommends two possible policies: first, to call upon the UN Security Council to rescind their case against Bashir; and second, to ask that the ICC withdraw their indictment against the president. Although the SPLM would prefer international bodies to exercise one of these options, the party does not consider these policies pragmatic, said Kuo. Instead, the SPLM shares the position of the Arab League and the African Union, requesting that the ICC defer its indictment for one year to allow the peace talks in Darfur to continue. Some parties argue against including an ICC-indicted leader in the peace talks, and have manipulated the ICC ruling to undermine the peace process, said Kuo.
The parliament's efficacy is hampered by a lack of communication between the NCP and the SPLM, said Kuo. Neither Kuo nor the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs were consulted about the expulsion of international aid groups, and learned of the decision from the media. "In the National Congress, you cannot make such a big decision without consulting or informing your partners," argued Kuo. Currently the SPLM is arguing for a reversal of the ban of aid groups considering the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur*. Meanwhile the Sudanese government has also appealed to the Arab and Islamic world for further humanitarian assistance. The National Congress has formed a Crisis Management Committee which discusses the issue of aid group expulsions as well as other urgent topical issues like the ICC indictment and the upcoming elections.
*Update: The Sudanese Government has recently rescinded their categorical ban on foreign aid groups, and has allowed the return of at least four of them.
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