Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 14 May 2007

Survival of Sudan in question


Are We Searching for Peace in the Right Place? Two Peace Agreements in a Terminal Crisis

By Mehari Taddele Maru

May 12, 2007 — There is a famous parable in the West: while walking in one of the evenings a man saw another man searching for something on the street and he stopped to help and asked him “You seem to have lost something?”, “Yes, I did lose my wallet” answered the other man. “Did you lose your wallet here?” the first man asked. The second man answered, “No I lost it over there, [showing to a dark part of the street] but since there is no lamp there I am searching here where there is light”. It seems that the international community is searching for peace in Darfur where the fighting is going on, but is the light indeed in Darfur or Khartoum? Where should the international community look for peace that has deserted Sudan for so long? In El Geneina or Juba, or Khartoum? This piece tries to answer these questions.

Both conflicts in Darfur and Southern Sudan are a result of the same game: struggle between the centre nation-state and the periphery. The interest to control the periphery is not driven from benign interest to administer and civilize the people of the peripheral land; it is rather fueled by the interest to exploit resource in agreement with transnational companies, the need to control space through forced displacement of populations of the periphery. It is a clash between the instinct of central government of a weak nation state to control and assimilate all people, and people of the peripheral lands to reclaim their destiny. Almost all nation states have been through similar atrocities to build nation state. But this has been done centuries ago and not in the age of human right, not in era of globalization and not in the reign of CNN. Now, more than ever, it is not only inhumane and universal crime to commit such atrocities but also impossible to justify and conceal them. At this era, nation-state building is only possible and permissible on accommodation not assimilation of the diverse and weak people of the periphery. The Southern Sudan crisis was the first test for Sudan as Nation State. Darfur is nothing but additional test to the future of Sudan. Conflicts like Darfur are all around in Africa and elsewhere. They are calls for revision of governance in Africa. Seen from historical prism, these are conflicts that arose because of the interruption of state formation process by colonialism. As many African countries, Sudan is a county patched of different areas with different ethino-cultural communities by British colonial power in 1916. Nation-states faced serious legitimacy crisis due to incompatibility of the very foundation of nation-state building process—i.e., assimilation and adoption of one culture, value and language and self-determination of peoples and human rights.

Currently, there are also two peace agreements, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which was signed in 2005 by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) of May 2006. Under the CPA, Southern Sudan is granted autonomy with a right to self-determination. From now to 2011, there will be three elections including a referendum of self-determination to be held in 2011. The same agreement provided an equal share of the oil revenue between the Government in Khartoum and the Government of Southern Sudan. The CPA encouraged the remaining Darfurians to claim equal autonomy and better governance under the GoS. Even if several factors attribute to the Darfur crisis, the most single important factor is the civil war between the Southerners and Northerners who has dominated the GoS. The Darfur crisis started as a struggle for decentralization and autonomy equal to the one granted to Southern Sudan. In the same fashion, while the immediate cause of the Darfur crisis was the CPA, the root cause was bad governance in Sudan. If the CPA is lost, the Government of Khartoum will gain significantly. The fear is that while the international community is focusing on Darfur, Southern Sudan is heading to disaster. The international community should understand that attending to the cause of Southern Sudan is the key to addressing the crisis in Darfur. It has to exert all its efforts to overhaul governance in Sudan as whole.

Both parties to the CPA (the Southern Sudan Government and the government in Khartoum) are violating CPA. Massive population displacement and transfer are being conducted by both to influence the election in their favor. And at the same time, the GoS aims to secure northern Sudanese support by cleansing the north from any Southern Sudanese. The recent repatriation of refugees from neighboring countries and internally displaced persons from northern parts of Sudan violates the UNHCR guidelines for safe and dignified return of refugees. Repatriation plans lack serious consideration of the security of, and opportunity for, the returnees to Southern Sudan. In effect, both parties to the CPA employ population transfer as a means for political gain in their respective areas of control. Partnership between the government of Southern Sudan and the government in Khartoum is on the brink of collapse. SPLM, like the Darfur rebels, is at the edge of crisis. The status of DPA is clear: now it is certified dead. What is left of it is a beautiful reference documents and what I call the DPA-effect—i.e., exponential fragmentation of the rebel groups. The DPA-effect may contaminate the CPA and led to split in SPLM. These developments could be a recipe for further disaster in the Sudan, unless the international community addresses them. Indeed, the search for peace should start in Khartoum. In my next article, I shall provide an alternative strategy for ending these crises while ensuring the survival of Sudan as a country, all of us Africans, Sudanese, and friends else where, would be proud.

* The writer has served as Legal Expert at African Union Commission. He was also the Director for University Reform at Addis Ababa University. Currently, he is a postgraduate student at Harvard University. He holds M.Sc from University of Oxford and LLB from Addis Ababa University and was a fellow of Ethno-political Conflict Studies at University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at mehari_maru@ksg07.harvard.edu

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