Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 6 October 2003

Sudanese minister says "unconventional method" used to achieve peace accord


Al- Sharq al-Awsat, October 3, 2003

In an interview with Salah Awwad of the London-based newspaper Al- Sharq al-Awsat, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma’il said there are viewpoints but not opposition within the government on the security arrangements reached between the government and the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, SPLM. He also said the two sides would refer the issue to the UN Security Council for implementation to achieve a final peace accord. The following is text of the interview published on the newspaper’s web site on 3 October; subheadings inserted editorially

[Awwad] Is the Sudanese government satisfied with the agreement reached with the [opposition] Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM]?

Basic step to comprehensive peace agreement

[Isma’il] Yes, it is satisfied because the agreement is a basic step towards the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement. It has laid the foundation for what was contained in the Machakos Protocol which called for the need to work for making voluntary unity the preferred option for the people of the south. This agreement paves the way for the establishment of joint military units. These units can serve as basis for the future armed forces if we succeed in securing unity through a referendum.

SPLM forces in north

The presence of the movement’s armed forces in the north will enhance confidence between the north and south. The presence of joint forces in the three regions that are called the marginalized regions (Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile Mountains and Ibibi) will facilitate the movement’s dealing with the forces that used to support it and give it the signal that it had not abandoned it. The agreement emphasizes the government’s readiness to cooperate with the movement in this regard in order to reach a solution that is acceptable to all parties so that no certain party will take exclusive possession of things to the exclusion of the other party.

[Awwad] Indications show that this agreement may lead to differences within the Sudanese government.

Sudanese support self-determination

[Isma’il] Differences in viewpoints are possible. When I signed the Machakos protocol, I personally had reservations about it because it called for the right to self-determination which could lead to secession. But when the majority of the Sudanese people and government supported it, I abided by the opinion of the majority. I then began to work for voluntary unity on the basis of this agreement.

There might be different viewpoints, but eventually these viewpoints are settled in favour of the opinion of the majority whether in the state or party institutions. It is now clear that this agreement is welcome and is almost unanimously supported by the state and other institutions and by the opposition political forces and the Sudanese people in general. This gives the agreement a guarantee that it will be one of the elements of national unity in Sudan in the era succeeding the signing of the agreement.

Absence of Bashir’s adviser at peace talks

[Awwad] How do you then explain the absence of Ghazi Salah-al- Din, the president’s adviser for peace affairs, at the agreement signing ceremony?

[Isma’il] Ghazi Salah-al-Din had some observations, but as I have just said, expressing an opinion does not necessarily mean differences. Brother Ghazi had some reservations, but it was clear from his recent statements and the resumption of his activity in the various fields that he has accepted the opinion of the majority about the talks.

We must not forget that brother Dr Ghazi Salah-al-Din is one of the most prominent salvation leaders. He had the confidence of the president of the republic every time he led the negotiations delegation. The president continues to trust Dr Ghazi Salah-al-Din who will have an extremely important role in completing the file and in pursuing the peace process.

[Awwad] His absence was interpreted as some sort of opposition to the agreement.

Ghazi to conclude peace process

[Isma’il] No, his absence did not mean any opposition. On the contrary, the file will be returned to Dr Ghazi to finish what remains to be done and to follow up the implementation of the agreement.

[Awwad] It was also observed that the negotiations were also held on the level of experts and technicians but suddenly this representation was upgraded to the level of senior political officials. How do you explain this change?

Unconventional method

[Isma’il] We noted that the meetings held on the level of experts, particularly the two successive meetings, had failed to make any progress in the peace talks. The document presented in Nakuru led to the suspension of the peace negotiations. These negotiations were resumed after an agreement was reached on dealing with the Nakuru document. But the next meeting failed to make any progress. It was important to find an unconventional method to get out of this dark tunnel, which is the tunnel of the Nakuru document.

Therefore, one of the options presented was upgrading the leadership of the delegation, holding direct dialogue among the Sudanese parties, and keeping mediators away. These mediators would intervene only when a problem occurred. Instead of holding meetings for a few days and for a short period of time, it was decided to hold them for the longest possible time.

Even when the last round of talks ended after 22 days, it ended with signing the security arrangements agreements and the talks resumed a few days later. The Sudanese government was ready to continue meetings without interruption in order to deal with the rest of issues, but the two sides agreed that each side would return to its bases in order to convey to them what was agreed upon before resuming the negotiations.

Three issues remaining

[Awwad] Do you really expect reaching a final and complete agreement in a few days?

[Isma’il] Three issues remain. These are the issue of distributing powers, the issue of distributing wealth, and the issue of the three regions. Lengthy discussions were held on these three issues. What is now required in the light of the agreed security arrangements is to resubmit the three issues to the experts or technical committees. If these succeed in reaching an agreement, we will then have entered the last stage of signing the draft final agreement.

We will then reach agreement on the arrangements to be made to implement this agreement and the regional and international guarantees.

No need for foreign forces

[Awwad] Does the agreement call for the deployment of international forces to monitor the implementation of this agreement?

[Isma’il] I do not think we need international forces. We need observers and these need an international umbrella. They could be from the neighbouring or regional states or be a mixture of regional states and the Africans, Arabs, and Europeans. But the number of observers will be limited. Their job would be overseeing the implementation of the cease-fire and security agreements. This does not mean they will be international forces or peace-keeping forces in large numbers.

UN’s role

[Awwad] Who will decide the dispatch of these international observers? Will you seek the help of the United Nations and the Security Council in this regard?

[Isma’il]: I met with the UN secretary general and we discussed the issue of the Security Council’s role in the peace process in Sudan. In the past we used to reject any role by the Security Council, but we now feel a need for a role by the Security Council.

[Awwad] What specific role is needed?

[Isma’il] The agreement includes three aspects. The first is the security and military aspect. This requires military observers to monitor the implementation of the cease-fire. The second is the political aspect. This means following up the implementation of the political aspects of the agreement. This will be entrusted to a joint committee, backed by regional and international quarters.

IMF and World Bank

The last aspect is economic and it deals with the implementation of the economic agreements. This may be supervised by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in order to oversee the implementation of the economic aspect.

There is also the humanitarian aspect that deals with the transfer and distribution of humanitarian aid to the various parties. This is certainly supervised by the United Nations.

In the final analysis there are four files that require follow- up and implementation. The United Nations will be the side that supervises the implementation of all these issues.

Formation of two parliaments

[Awwad] When will the transitional government be formed? Is there a timetable for its formation?

[Isma’il] As soon as the agreement is signed in its final form, a six-month period will commence before a six-year transitional period starts. During the six months, several activities related to the implementation of the agreement will be carried out. These include the formation of a government and the start of the return of refugees and evacuees, in addition to the formation of the joint parliament. The agreement says that instead of one parliament as is the case now, there will be two parliaments consisting of an upper and a lower house.

The vice-president will also assume his powers and consultations will be held to form the government. All these issues will be accomplished during the first six months. These tasks include the formation of a government, the re-formation of joint institutions in the north and south, the reorganization of forces and the clarification of the details of the cease-fire agreement.

Inclusion of political forces in government

[Awwad] Will the National Alliance participate in a coalition government?

[Isma’il] The proposed idea is that this government should include the largest number of political forces. If we succeed in persuading all political forces to participate in this government, this will be the best option. If we do not succeed, we will invite the largest number of political forces to participate to be able to achieve the principle of national unity which is the primary guarantee for stability and development and for the implementation of the peace agreement.

Status of the capital

[Awwad] How will the status of the capital, Khartoum, be after the agreement?

[Isma’il] The status of the capital was settled in the Machakos protocol agreement. I think the atmosphere that prevailed [in the meeting] at Naivasha between the vice-president’s groups and the Movement’s leader will help resolve this issue which, I think, was settled in the Machakos agreement and will not pose another problem.

Joint police force in capital

[Awwad] How will the situation of the capital be from the security point of view?

[Isma’il] There will be joint movement and government forces in the capital. These forces will not interfere in security measures unless asked to do so. There are police forces in the capital and these will maintain security and stability there. They will have their own police forces.

Shariah application

[Awwad] What about the application of the Islamic sharia [law] in the capital?

[Isma’il] The other side did not reject the application of the Islamic Shariah to the Muslims, but asked that it is not applied to non-Muslims. We have no differences over this issue. We believe they are entitled to demand that the Shariah law not be applied to non- Muslims. We will see how we can do this.

Relations with USA

[Awwad] President Al-Bashir thinks the agreement will improve relations with Washington and lead to lifting of the sanctions and removing the name of Sudan from the list of terrorism. What is the source of this optimism?

[Isma’il] The president based these statements on information conveyed to him from the US side. I met Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington in May. He emphasized to me that once the peace agreement is signed, all the sanctions imposed on Sudan by the United States will be lifted. This applies to the economic sanctions and the inclusion of Sudan’s name in the list of terrorism. Relations will improve and diplomatic representation between the two countries will be upgraded to the level of ambassadors.

When the US president’s envoy to Sudan, Senator Danforth, visited Khartoum, he confirmed to the president that the US will implement six points after the signing of the peace agreement. These include removing the name of Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, lifting the economic sanctions, cooperating with Sudan and upgrading the diplomatic representation between the two countries.

Before my arrival in New York, we received a letter from US President George Bush, through National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to President Al-Bashir. The letter said that upon the directives of President Bush, the United States will lift the sanctions once the peace agreement has been signed.

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