By Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol
June 19, 2012 — In principle, negotiated agreements are the best and the most effective deals compare to other mechanisms of conflict resolution. This widely concept known theoretically, scientifically and practically has never worked in the case of the two Sudans.
Justice Abel Alier a southerner, who held many senior positions in the government of Sudan under the leadership of the former President Jaafer Nimiri, wrote a book; Southern Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonoured. Many people thought the issue of dishonouring agreements will be confined to the sectarian parties that negotiated and obtained Sudan’s independence in 1956, and the President Nimiri of the May regime, but its extension to include majority of Northern Sudanese elites who assumed power in Khartoum, is what make people worry and made it impossible to negotiated agreements to be concluded with the Sudan. The book (Too Many Agreements Dishonoured) was published early in 1990s before other many agreements, later inked by the Khartoum with the Nasir faction under Khartoum Peace Agreement and Pashoda Peace Agreement, in 1997. The two agreements were negotiated and signed by Dr. Riek Machar the current vice president of the Republic of South Sudan and Dr. Lam Akol the leader of the minority party in South Sudan Legislative Assembly, the SPLM-DC respectively.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) negotiated and signed by the Khartoum government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/ Army SPLM/A in Kenya in 2005 was not immune from the realm of dishonouring agreements by the Khartoum.
In the history of mankind, a human being is supposed to learn from previous mistakes and put forward mechanisms on how people should learn and benefit from past experiences, and this makes human being a different animal from the rest of the living animals. This genesis theory has never been the case for the two Sudans! The CPA, an international mediated and sponsored agreement suffers from the same problem of dishonouring its protocols in the watch of the world leaders whom the agreement was signed under their mediation and witnesses.
For example, the Abyei Protocol was intentionally brought down, and the parties engaged themselves in an attempt to renegotiate the issue again, as if nothing was agreed and signed before.
The fighting broke out in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions because the Deputy Chairperson of the National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum negotiated and signed the agreement with the leaders of the SPLM/N in Addis Ababa in June 2011, and the deal was turned down by his own party.
The issues which are seemed to be threatening peace and security along the borders of the two countries were negotiated, and the parties agreed on their resolutions. However, because it is culturally projected in the minds and attitudes of the leaders, they attempted to dishonour implementation of the CPA, despite its reality that had never existed in the history of modern nation-state; the legalization and existence of three distinctive armies with different doctrines in one country.
The intervention of United Nation Security Council (UNSC) in the conflict was justified by the principle of maintenance of international peace and security because the outbreak of the war between the two States over Panthou (Higlig) was a real threat to the worldwide peace and security. The step from the international institution to intervene in the affairs of the member states was received with mix feeling, especially in Khartoum. The condemnation of South Sudan by UN for its occupation of Panthou (Higlig) was praised by the Government in Khartoum, meanwhile the expression that the claims over all disputed areas should be addressed peacefully by the parties, was not welcomed.
It was not a secret, in any occasion in the Sudan during withdrawal of the SPLA troops from Panthou, the leaders of the NCP use to beat their chests and they say “we ceased them out, Higlig is ours and the evidence we possessed can prove this fact”. Nowadays, when South Sudan decides to go for arbitration their language dramatically changed with a very shameful justification that “we are not for arbitration because the Western Countries cannot support the interest of the Sudan”, forgetting their assertion during the war in Panthou that the area was given to them by the same court of arbitration in The Hague.
If somebody analyze the row made by the Khartoum politicians over Panthou’s battle, he/she will conclude that the Sudan will be the first to rush for the international arbitration because of nature of the language its leaders applied in mobilize=ing the Jihadist (Holy) war in South Sudan. They even went as far as inviting Muslim leaders from EL Azar EL Sharif to come to Panthou as a way of seeking sympathy and support from the Muslims and the Arab world.
There is no way for the parties to get away with the military solution to their issues. One method of resolving this long conflict peacefully must be fixed among others.
In the lieu of the international pressure that the warring parties must stop fighting on the borders and return to the negotiating table each party must understand and receive this message with the open minds and put in place its strategies to win the game.
The borders of Unity State with South Kordofan had been an active area for humanitarian assistance, which were on ground to assist the refugees displaced by insecurity from their homeland. Hence, it becomes apparent to the international community to impose tranquility along the borders of the warring countries and ceases the same opportunity to pressurize the disputing member states to reach a peaceful settlement over their disputed issues, including the issue of the SPLM/N which caused humanitarian crises and suffering to people of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.
Categorically, the UNSC Resolution No. 2046 under article 41 of the Chapter Seven is believed to be ineffective at least for the case of the Sudan and the Republic South Sudan, and cannot pressurize these two countries to negotiate their issues with the aim of concluding peace deal. This is because the two countries have nothing to fear of.
The Sudan has been under economic sanctions of Western Countries since last two decades and has nothing to fear the economic sanctions any more. The Republic of South Sudan, on the other hand, as a young nation has nothing to deliver except crude oil which its leadership unilaterally decided to close it down expressing disappointment on how the Khartoum government was looting the products that passes through its territory to the international markets.
Therefore, any sanction under Article 41 of Chapter Seven that may not include the use of force may not pressurize the parties to negotiate in a good faith. It could be assumed that the UNSC was not willing to use force from the start but gives chance to the parties to reach a peace deal voluntarily.
However, with current situation that there is no step taken forward it necessitates to UNSC to review its position and takes a further step which may involve the use of force under Article 42 of Chapter Seven.
As an alternative measure, if this option is not attainable under current financial conditions of UN, then the arbitration as suggested by the Republic of South Sudan should be the best option to a negotiated agreement to avoid further military confrontations along the borders. However, the big challenge which remains is who will force the government in Khartoum to accept the international resolutions and comply with them? The fact that the CPA suffers dishonouring from the hands of leadership of the NCP is a clear message that there would not be the way forward whatsoever the decision by the international body.
I was personally in the opinion that the Sudan with its all rows made after capturing of Panthou (Higlig) would be the first to call for arbitration, since it is basically confidence about its ownership to the area, which it claimed to be fallen within its territory of 1/1/1956 North-South Sudan boundaries. Surprisingly, it has been observed that the country is not even interested in the arbitration with all its claims that the Republic of South Sudan has been expanding northward undermining the boundaries inherited from the colonial administration on 1/1/ 1956, but as well threatening for going back to war if South Sudan does not abandon its map!
Despite the weaknesses of arbitration, the UNSC should consider the request made by the President of South Sudan Ge. Salva Kiir Mayerdit to resolve the dispute over the borders through international arbitration. This could not suggest Khartoum will honour its term but constitutes a trial method that could be learnt in the field of conflict resolution both theoretically and practically in the future.
In addition, pressing on this alternative mechanism of conflict resolution may also pressurize the Sudan to go back to the negotiating table with aim of reaching a peaceful negotiated settlement. It is obvious that parties accept mediated negotiations if arbitration is threatening their interests. However, this should be done with an eye on the military interventions to impose international peace and security in the region especially when come to the issue of international border conflicts. Other issues of mutual interests like oil, citizenship and border trade are exclusively left to be determined by the parties if they believed on their viability. The UNSC should not leave the issue of the borders as an unopened-ended scenario but must get mechanism to address it.
Dr. Dhieu Mathok is the author of Politics of Ethnic Discrimination in Sudan: A Justification for the Secession of South Sudan, and collaborate lecturer in the Center for Peace and Development Studies, University of Juba, South Sudan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org