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Weaknesses of IGAD mediation in Sudan peace process

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Sudan Igad Peace Process: An Evaluation

By John Young, PhD

Executive Summary

Sudan has suffered war for most of its existence as an independent state and many hoped the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 9 January 2005 would not only end the long-running southern civil war, but provide the momentum and serve as a model for resolving other conflicts in the country. While the jury is still out on whether the CPA will survive until the 2011 referendum on southern self-determination, it has not served as the stimulus to end the war and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Nor to date has the CPA advanced any reconciliation between the people of north and south Sudan, provided hope that its commitment to ‘make unity attractive’ is being fulfilled, or is ushering in a democratic transformation of the country. There is a widespread acceptance that the CPA and the broader peace process it fostered is at best stalling, or at worst is collapsing. Indeed, on 13 April 2007 at a meeting in Nairobi the IGAD Council of Ministers concluded the implementation of the CPA was ‘lagging behind schedule’ and urged an extraordinary meeting of the IGAD Heads of State be held to consider the problem (IGAD, 13 April 2007).

IGAD’s engagement in the Sudan peace process began on 7 September 1993 when it established a Standing Committee on Peace to assist negotiations and end Sudan’s civil war. A Declaration of Principles (DoP) was proposed and quickly accepted by the SPLM/A as a basis for negotiations, but was not endorsed by the Government of Sudan (GoS) until 1998. By this time the peace process was floundering and in an effort to re-activate it the mandate was renewed by the IGAD Sub-Ministerial Committee on the Conflict in Sudan (IGAD, Nairobi, 23 July 1999). This Committee established a ‘Secretariat for the IGAD Peace Process on the Sudan’ based in Nairobi with the mandate ‘to carry out continuous and sustained mediation efforts with a view to arriving at a peaceful resolution of the conflict’. This phase of the peace process led by Special Envoy Ambassador Daniel Mboya also floundered and the next and final phase – which is the subject of this evaluation - began under Special Envoy Lt. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo in May 2002. On 20 July 2002 the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed the Machakos Protocol as a framework for the conduct of the negotiations and after two and one half years of negotiations endorsed the CPA.

The Sudan mediation under Special Envoy Sumbeiywo was widely appreciated for its effective management of the process and financial accountability, particularly when measured against earlier weaknesses of the IGAD mediation. The mediation was also applauded for its impartiality, success in maintaining the integrity of the process, the generally positive role of the advisors, resource people and ambassador envoys from the region, achieving good relations with the donors, and the steady production of protocols that culminated in the CPA, and these will be duly noted and commented on as lessons to be learned. The mediation also linked together the parties to the conflict, IGAD as the regional organisation, and elements in the international community in an innovative structure. However, the Sudan peace process is in a state of crisis which is not simply due to failures in the implementation of the agreement, but is a result of its narrow approach and short-sighted vision. By assuming a limited definition of peace, focusing solely on the north-south dimension of the conflict, refusing to involve other political parties and civil society, treating the media as a threat to the process, and leaving the fate of the process to SPLM/A leader Dr. John Garang and First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, it was successful in reaching an agreement based on an acceptance of the lowest common denominators of the parties. But this approach largely precluded the realisation of its own stated objectives, which included a sustainable peace, Sudan’s democratic transformation, and making unity attractive.

The weaknesses of the IGAD mediation include:

- Lack of inclusivity of interested parties in southern Sudan, notably civil society and other political parties, and at the national level for a peace process that claimed to be comprehensive. The result is an agreement that is effectively a bilateral arrangement between the SPLM and the NCP for which most people in Sudan feel no sense of ownership.
- The peace process never developed trust and understanding between the parties, and in its absence and the failure to commit to wide-ranging reconciliation, the mediation followed Western practice and emphasised legal requirements and time-tables. But the great number of bodies and commissions formed to regulate, monitor, and adjudicate disputes have not managed to overcome the lack of trust between the SPLM and the GoS, and as a result the implementation of the agreement is far behind schedule.
- The elitist approach of the mediation was also manifest in its distain for the media. Instead of viewing the media as a partner in the peace process, a valued critic, and a crucial instrument with which to engage the Sudanese public and provide a measure of accountability, it was treated as an enemy and a threat.
- The lack of inclusivity of the peace process means that the Sudanese people can only pass judgement on the CPA through national elections, but the elections have been delayed and the difficulties in demarcating the north-south border and ending the conflict in Darfur may result in a further postponement. In addition, the development of a democratic culture conducive for the holding of fair elections has not been permitted to emerge in either north or south Sudan where security regimes dominate. Lastly, the National Assembly has passed legislation that prohibits parties participating in the national election unless they endorse the CPA, thus precluding a negative assessment of the agreement.
- The narrow focus of the mediation and the emphasis on reaching an agreement meant its implications were not fully appreciated. Thus the agreement to dissolve OAGs threatened to unleash a war between the SPLA and the South Sudan Defence Force, while the power sharing arrangement which gave the SPLM and the NCP the lion’s share of state power undermined efforts to reach a settlement in Darfur and have encouraged secessionist sentiments in the country.
- While international engagement in the peace process is necessary, the mediation failed to appreciate that this engagement posed a threat to the sovereignty of Sudan and the IGAD region. The conclusion of the US and its allies that their security and the ‘war on terror’ necessitates heightened military and diplomatic involvement in the Horn raises fears that the region could again – as it was during the Cold War – become a focus of competition and conflict for external interests.
- Although never stated, the mediation was carried out on the basis of a narrow model which focused on ending the violence (many respondents referred to it as an extended cease-fire), instead of laying the basis for a sustainable and comprehensive peace in the south and the country at large.

The lessons to be learned from the weaknesses of the Naivasha process include the need for a strong commitment to democratic change as the cement upon which any peace agreement should be built, and that in turn necessitates a comprehensive conception of peace. It requires a much wider involvement in the process, robust reconciliation, and respect for the media. This approach also recognises that endemic conflict, such as that suffered in Sudan, is the result of deep seated problems which necessitate structural change. The lessons to be learned also include the need for the mediation to weigh the effect of its endeavours on other conflicts. Although the Sudan peace process needed the financing, expertise, and legitimacy provided by the international community, the injection of external foreign policy concerns into the process posed a threat to national and regional sovereignty which IGAD needs to be aware of and respond appropriately. Lastly, the experience of the Naivasha peace process makes clear that peace processes do not end with the signing of a peace agreement, but must continue into the post-conflict period.

These lessons form the basis of an alternative approach which will be longer, more complex, stress process and principles over legalise and agreements, and offer no promises of success. But the record of failure of mediation of conflicts in the Horn of Africa makes clear that a different approach must be considered.

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Sudan Igad Peace Process: An Evaluation
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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 28 January 2008 16:50, by Gatwech

    John Young,

    Thank you for pointing out the weaknesses of the CPA. Of course, these were detected long before the CPA was concluded in Naivasha. However, late John Garang, given his dictatorial nature, could not see the value of inclusiveness and democratic values.

    Having said that, it is also our culture in Sudan or Southern Sudan in particular not to criticise so much a deceased person. But as time goes by, many writers may be tempted to let the world know about what had gone wrong since the SPLM/A was formed or the conspiracies between late Garang and Ali Osman Taha during the negotiations in Naivasha.

    But your research should not scary people who may want to steal history or claim the efforts of others as theirs. The most beautiful protocols in the CPA were just references from other peace documents signed in the past in Sudan. Go a head with your research.

    repondre message

    • 28 January 2008 18:19, by Ayuen Buol mum

      Sir, Your Khartoum peace Agreement was a garbage in which NIF want something out of it.
      Self-determination is not something new in south history, the Addis-Ababa Agreement is the same with what Dr Riek try to make and even the CPA is the same with the 1972 agreement.
      The only different with this agreement is sole south Army conventional like regular army in the world. Did Dr Riek removing the Northern armies from the south as late Dr Garang did? if not, than don’t try to give a vice massege on crafts ideas that can not help us.

      repondre message

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