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The Slow Collapse of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement

The Slow Collapse of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for South Sudan; The Government of "National Unity" serves as a fig-leaf for NIF ambitions

By Eric Reeves

September 24, 2005 — Despite the formation of a new Sudanese "Government of National Unity" in Khartoum, there is overwhelming evidence of bad faith on the part of the National Islamic Front (NIF) in creating what is only the semblance of a new political order. Not only does the NIF dominate the Presidency, including its advisory council, but continues to engage in a systematic policy of delaying implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), reneging on benchmark commitments, and engaging in threatening military behavior. Moreover, the NIF has created what is in effect a "shadow government" that will retain all real power. In short, there has been a silent "coup," one in which the fa├žade of shared governance masks the ruthless preservation of power by the NIF. And yet to all this, the international community---expediently wishing to preserve the semblance of a new national government rather than confront the urgent problems posed by NIF bad faith---has given a warm welcome, with only small reservations. Such ignorance, or disingenuousness, only encourages the NIF to believe that it can continue to consolidate its power in a new guise.


Most conspicuously, the National Islamic Front (the ruling faction of the "National Congress Party") has reserved to itself the two key economic ministries, which alone can bring clarity to bookkeeping for Sudan’s huge oil revenues. Though the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) fought for at least one of these ministries (such sharing is clearly contemplated in the CPA language on sovereign ministries), the NIF refused. It thus becomes exceedingly unlikely that Southern Sudan will see anything approaching a fair share of the oil wealth that is spelled out in the wealth-sharing protocol, a cornerstone of the CPA.

The NIF has also worked hard to create "shadow bureaucracies" that will ensure real power, of all kinds, won’t be shared. For example, the new Foreign Minister from the SPLM, Lam Akol, will find that despite his exalted title, he will have little impact on Khartoum’s foreign policy. The previous Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, will retain control over the real administrative and policy resources within the government. Indeed, bringing these resources under control of the shadow foreign ministry has been underway since the signing of the CPA. Moreover, we should recall that it was Lam Akol who, dismayingly for southerners, became part of the NIF regime following the ill-fated "Khartoum Peace Agreement" of 1997---hardly a sign of real concern for the people of his Upper Nile Province.

The Interior Ministry has also been retained by the NIF, ensuring that issues of human rights, press freedoms, political expression, freedom of movement, and a whole series of other key issues directly affecting southerners will reflect only NIF policies. Notably, there has been a recent crackdown on the press in Khartoum by way of a "National Press Council," which demands that journalists be registered or cease to publish (Khartoum Monitor, September 15, 2005).

But it is the failure of the SPLM to have secured either the Finance Ministry or the Ministry for Mining and Energy that marks the most consequential defeat of southern hopes for meaningful representation in the national government. For real political power now flows to the NIF from huge oil revenues, not from any popular support anywhere in Sudan, north or south. And these revenues are staggering. Various wire reports and petroleum analysts indicate that current oil production is in excess of 300,000 barrels per day, growing to perhaps 500,000 barrels per day as production from Eastern Upper Nile comes on line later this year (current production comes almost entirely from Western Upper Nile; Upper Nile Province is all in Southern Sudan). At $60./barrel, the lower range of production translates into almost $7 billion per year in annual gross oil revenues; the upper rate of production would translate into $11 billion per year. Much goes to the NIF’s Asian oil partners (China, Malaysia, India), but the largest portion goes to the NIF itself---with no meaningful transparency.

Reports indicate that to date the incipient Government of South Sudan (GOSS) has received only $60 million of this enormous oil wealth, even as it struggles with the large costs of putting together a wholly new government, redeploying troops under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and responding to the massive and urgent needs of the people of southern Sudan (see below). Even more ominously, there is no indication that the amount the NIF has put in escrow---pending the official formation of the GOSS---is any greater. This is so even as the CPA calls for an equal division of all oil revenues from oil production in southern Sudan---90% of total production. In order to ensure that the GOSS does not receive its negotiated share of oil revenues, the NIF adamantly refused to grant either the Finance Ministry or the Ministry of Mining and Energy to the SPLM in the new Government of National Unity. Without control of the bureaucracies and records in these two key economic ministries, there is no way for the SPLM to untangle the snarl of concession contracts, royalty contracts, construction and maintenances expenses, and other essential elements of the larger oil revenue picture. Southern Sudan will receive only what the NIF chooses to share.

There are other ominous signs, particularly in defining the north/south boundary in the oil regions. Here we should recall that the NIF has adamantly refused to accept the findings of a distinguished international commission assembled to establish the boundaries of Abyei---an Ngok Dinka enclave in Bahr el-Ghazal and one of the most contested issues in the final negotiation of the CPA (Abyei’s proximity to the oil production areas is no accident). Now, the NIF refuses even to allow for the creation of a commission to establish the north/south boundary in the crucial production areas of Upper Nile Province. This is because while the issue is straightforward (the boundary should obviously be that which obtained at the time of Sudan’s independence in 1956, as stipulated in the bedrock Machakos Protocol of July 2002), the NIF is intent on moving the border south, so that more of the oil region is in the north---and less in the south. Current calculations of oil revenues for the south, to the extent they can be discerned, are being made on the basis of the NIF’s highly tendentious definition of this border.

The overall effect of NIF financial bad faith is to leave Southern Sudan without the resources it desperately needs, even as the international community reneges on previous commitments of aid, both to humanitarian and emergency transitional assistance and to development projects (there is virtually no infrastructure of any kind in Southern Sudan).

As Secretary-General Kofi Annan notes in his most recent report on Sudan to the Security Council (September 12, 2005 and thus prior to the final formation of a Government of National Unity), there are "wider implications [to] the Abyei question, which will set a precedent for how differences arising under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are handled" (paragraph 12). NIF President’s Beshir’s peremptory rejection of the careful findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission tells us far too much about the "precedent" being set.


There are many other serious problems with the new Government of National Unity: for example, there is not a single Nuer among the appointments made by Salva Kiir, the First Vice-President in the GNU and the President of the GOSS. Kiir is a Dinka, and Dinka-Nuer tensions have plagued the south throughout the long civil war, especially as oil development began in earnest. This omission was either gross oversight, or inexcusable favoritism on Kiir’s part (six of the new southern members of the national cabinet are from Kiir’s Bahr el-Ghazal).

Just as troubling are some of the political developments in southern governance, in which the SPLM has evidently acquiesced. One particularly telling example is the re-appointment of Dak Dop Bishok as Governor of Upper Nile Province. Those familiar with the ferociously destructive history of Upper Nile, including many humanitarian workers, regard Dak Dop Bishok as little more than one of the region’s many vicious warlords. He deliberately refused to respond to the deadly attacks on the Shilluk people of Upper Nile in early 2004 (attacks encouraged by Khartoum), which in turn generated large-scale displacement and created a significant humanitarian crisis in the region. Dak Dop Bishok is a brutal, thuggish man and has none of the political skills necessary to oversee what will be an extraordinarily difficult transition period in Upper Nile Province. This is the region where war would almost certainly resume if the NIF calculates that such a war can secure even greater oil revenues and incur only manageable criticism from the international community. The appointment of Dak Dop Bishok ensures that a deadly instability, favoring the NIF’s interests, is much more likely to prevail.

A similar cause for concern is reflected in a recent account of Upper Nile militia activity coming from the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) based in Rumbek. Though the CPMT has been largely ineffectual since late spring of 2003, it issued in June 2005 a report that clearly indicates NIF determination to use these militias for its own destabilizing purposes, an extension of its "divide-and-rule" military tactics. The CPMT reported on June 29, 2005 the results of its investigation into an allegation that goes to the heart of NIF ambitions in Upper Nile:

"Allegation: Between March and June 2005, a Government of Sudan militia commander and officer in the Government of Sudan army, Major General Simon Gatwic, transported and distributed large stocks of ammunition to the Lou Nuer communities camping along the Sobat River and grazing lands of the Jonglei region, and incited them to violence and looting against other communities in the region."

The results of the investigation? Following numerous consultations, CPMT announced that:

"The allegation that Government of Sudan militia commander Major General Simon Gatwic has been actively arming and inciting Lou Nuer civilians to violence and looting against other communities in the Jonglei region, along the Sobat River and inside Malakal town is substantiated." (CPMT report, June 29, 2005)

But if CPMT had been more actively engaged in monitoring the situation in Upper Nile, it would have been able to issue countless such reports---all reflecting the NIF’s use of militias in Upper Nile’s oil regions as military proxies.

There are yet other deeply ominous military threats to the CPA. NIF deployment of forces out of Juba, clearly called for in the peace agreement, has yet to begin, despite disingenuous claims to the contrary by the NIF military leadership. The security-arrangements protocol calls for a scheduled draw-down of northern forces, from Juba as well as other southern towns. But as of September---nine months after the signing of the CPA in Nairobi---there has been no net reduction of the approximately 48,000 troops in Juba (which is to serve as the capital city of South Sudan) and surrounding towns such as Torit, Lafon, Mongalla. Some troops have been rotated out, but at least as many troops have been rotated back in by the NIF military leadership. If the NIF is not serious about formally negotiated troop withdrawals, it is difficult to believe it is serious about the other key terms of the security-arrangements protocol, the linch-pin of the CPA.

As Secretary-General Kofi Annan notes more generally in his most recent report (September 12, 2005) to the Security Council:

"Following the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 9 January 2005, the [NIF] Sudanese Armed Forces provided some preliminary information on the location of their forces, but the information remains insufficient." (Paragraph 32)

In fact, the information provided by the NIF to the United Nations is radically insufficient, and this poses an extremely serious obstacle to UN peace support operations (see below). Annan’s report continues:

"[The NIF military] have reported the reduction of their force level by 17% in southern Sudan, though this cannot yet be verified, since the movements were not declared and thus not monitored. The parties have been clearly informed that such reductions or movements of troops should be declared beforehand to enable the UN Mission in Sudan to monitor them."

In short, the NIF is in "violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement" (Paragraph 32).

At the same time, activities by Uganda’s maniacal Lord’s Resistance Army have resumed in the area around Yei town, to the west of Juba. It is well known that the NIF has supported the LRA and its brutal leader Joseph Kony (who has regularly been reported in Juba)---this as a means of threatening Ugandan aid for the SPLM. Indeed, there has long been compelling evidence of NIF support for this extraordinarily violent and cruel instrument of human destruction (see detailed account by this writer, "The Khartoum Regime and the Lord’s Resistance Army: Growing evidence of high-level cooperation," August 26, 2003 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=279).

Thus it is particularly ominous that shortly before the formation of the Government of National Unity, the NIF refused to extend the authority of Ugandan military forces to pursue Kony and the LRA in southern Sudan, which has frequently served as desperately need sanctuary. As the New Times (Kigali) reports: "The implication of the Khartoum decision is that the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces can no longer operate within southern Sudan, [Ugandan Defense Minister Amama] Mbabazi explained" (The New Times [Kigali], August 31, 2005). Given the recent successes of the Ugandan armed forces, this "breathing space" (as The New Times puts it) is essential for the survival of the LRA, strongly suggesting that the NIF continues to value it as a militia proxy.

Even the highly expedient and ineffectual Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, is obliged to acknowledge the threat posed by the LRA:

"[The Lord’s Resistance Army] was first armed by Sudan, and Pronk said there were unconfirmed reports [that] factions in Sudan’s military were still sending weapons to the LRA, so ’we are asking questions.’" (Reuters, September 21, 2005)

Given Pronk’s dismal record of confronting the NIF during his tenure, there is no reason to believe that the "questions will be asked" with nearly enough vigor. But in any event, the NIF’s past support of the LRA is beyond question, and the continued value of the LRA for military purposes in southern Sudan is equally indisputable.

Compounding the strains of the military situation in Southern Sudan, and thus threatening the CPA, is the failure of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to deploy in a timely fashion. Nine months after the formal signing of the peace agreement, there are only approximately 2,300 of a planned 10,700 personnel on the ground. Moreover, the deployment has not produced effective surveillance of many of the areas most likely to be flash-points for renewed conflict.

Much of this is a function of poor planning and conception by the UN Department of Peacekeeping (see analysis by this writer, "The International Failure to Confront Khartoum," March 17, 2005, at
http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=494&page=1). Many countries have either reneged or dragged their feet in deployment. But even more consequential is NIF obstruction of the deployment of an effective peace support operation. This obstruction takes many forms, for the NIF has had all too much practice in frustrating international efforts to bring peace to Sudan and alleviate the suffering of its marginalized peoples. Some of the most fundamental issues are noted, if in peculiarly understated fashion, in the recent report of Secretary-General to the Security Council, especially on the critical "status-of-forces agreement," central to any effective peacekeeping:

"[Unresolved issues] include the key issues of full and unrestricted movement for the UN Mission in Sudan, which is imperative for the fulfillment of the its mandate and was previously agreed between the parties in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement." (Paragraph 23)

The current restriction of movement by UN peacekeeping forces is almost entirely the responsibility of the NIF military apparatus and its militia proxies in southern Sudan. Annan also notes:

"In addition, the Government [of Sudan] has been reluctant to accept some major operational requirements of the Mission, which are in accordance with the established practices and principles of peacekeeping, in particular with respect to the self-registration of UN Mission in Sudan vehicles. The Government [of Sudan] has also objected to the status of locally recruited staff of the UN Mission in Sudan, and to the relevant privileges and immunities provided under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations of 1946, from which the Government now wishes to deviate. This delay is a matter of serious concern as it negatively affects the deployment of the Mission and the implementation of its mandate." (Paragraph 24)

The report also notes that the "Government [of Sudan] delayed providing land for military camps" (Paragraph 27).

Though Annan refers to the "Government" of Sudan, he is in fact speaking about various powers within the National Islamic Front (NIF), certainly not the new Government of National Unity as a whole. The NIF is seeking to prevent an effective peace-support mission from deploying to southern Sudan, and the motives are clearly to make it more difficult for peace to take hold. This is one reason that only 2,300 of a planned 10,700 personnel have been deployed in the nine months since the signing of the peace agreement (Report of the Secretary-General, Paragraph 26). Such obstructionism calls into serious question NIF commitment to the CPA and its various protocols on wealth- and power-sharing, security, and geographic delineations.

There is finally no other explanation for obstruction of the UN peace support operation.


Even as it obstructs UN peace-support operations in southern Sudan, the NIF has engaged in a series of unilateral actions that amount to an assault on humanitarian relief throughout Sudan (including Darfur), but will have a particularly devastating impact on the South. These actions include new visa regulations as well as regulations of humanitarian organizations operating in Sudan; both sets of regulations were promulgated unilaterally by the NIF before completion of the new Government of National Unity.

The visa requirements now impose on anyone entering Sudan, including Southern Sudan, the obligation to obtain a visa from Khartoum, where an application can be held hostage indefinitely by the NIF bureaucracy. This will have a severe impact on those humanitarian organizations that have been serving the people of Southern Sudan from Kenya, and to a lesser degree from Uganda. Whereas formerly humanitarian organizations needed only a pass from the humanitarian wing of the SPLM, they will now need to obtain from Khartoum visas for all expatriate workers. Moreover, the US embassy in Khartoum will no longer grant "country clearance" to US government employees seeking access to Sudan unless they also have a Khartoum-issued visa. We may be sure that the human costs of this deliberate and entirely predictable bureaucratic obstruction will be enormous unless there is a reversal of policy.

So too with the new, highly threatening regulations of humanitarian organizations promulgated by NIF Presidential decree in August. Among the stipulations of these regulations:

[1] "No voluntary organization is allowed to practise any work or activity in its own name if is not registered according to the provisions of this act." (Paragraph 5, "Decree for Regulating Voluntary Humanitarian Work," Khartoum, August 4, 2005)

[2] All financial assets and capital, of all agencies operating in Sudan, including UN agencies, are to be regarded as "public property";

[3] No civil society organization will be permitted to received funds from any foreign person or agencies without explicit permission from the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs (Paragraph 36);

[4] "The General Registrar of Voluntary Organizations may cancel the registration of any federal national civil society organization or foreign voluntary organization if [that organization violates] the provisions of this act or its regulations." (Paragraph 10)

Since the document gives considerable evidence of hasty composition, and is dangerously vague at key junctures (some important humanitarian organizations are already seriously confused by the language and time-frame of the document), it looms as a deep threat to humanitarian operations throughout Sudan. Revealingly, there was no consultation with the SPLM prior to NIF President Beshir’s promulgation of these regulations, by decree, even as Southern Sudan will be most deeply affected by them.

This could not come at a worse time for the people of Southern Sudan, in particular those living in Bahr el-Ghazal and Upper Nile. Food insecurity is mounting and humanitarian assistance is critically short:

"Malnutrition levels in southern Sudan have passed the emergency mark, according to a report from the international aid organization Action Against Hunger [Action contre Faim/ACF] on Monday, which said the North African country once again faced starvation amid donor fatigue and an emergency-saturated media." (ISN Security Watch, September 20, 2005)

"’What we basically have is a large number of refugees and Internally Displaced People who are returning home to nothing. What we are trying to do is to try and get more aid to these regions where one out five children could die from malnutrition,’ ACF spokeswoman Cathy Skoula in New York told ISN Security Watch on Monday."

The most dispiriting comments come later in the ISN Security Watch dispatch:

"The overall rate of Global Acute Malnutrition rate is 20.7 per cent, above the 15 per cent emergency threshold and equaling the rates of malnutrition currently observed in Niger. However, the report also shows that in certain areas of the Upper Nile and Bahr-el-Ghazal regions, the malnutrition rates have doubled and even tripled, reaching up to 39 and 64 per cent."

"’The mortality rate in under-fives in some areas, especially in the Upper Nile region is critical,’ Skoula warned. ’The nutritional situation in southern Sudan is dire by any standards. Rates show a prevalence of malnutrition comparable to what we have in Niger or in Darfur. But it seems that nobody cares, or maybe worse, that everybody has gotten used to it.’" (ISN Security Watch, September 20, 2005)

"But it seems that nobody cares, or maybe worse, that everybody has gotten used to it."

This is what the NIF counts on, and the reason it so brazenly and cruelly promulgates restrictive regulations that directly affect organizations such as Action contre Faim. Instead of devoting a substantial portion of its billions of dollars in oil revenues to feeding Sudan’s citizen, the NIF instead continues its policies of humanitarian obstruction, even as it has the temerity to blame other countries for Sudan’s food crisis. Speaking of Eastern Sudan, where the US Agency for International Development (among others) has long pointed out the acute food needs of the Beja and other peoples of this region, NIF Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has fantastically declared:

"’In the eastern part of Sudan, we are telling them (donors) that people don’t have food and don’t have medicine,’ [Ismail] said. ’Unfortunately they will come after there is loss of life, after the people have left their homes and become displaced and refugees, then the international community will come.’" (Associated Press, September 15, 2005)

The NIF view as announced by Ismail is that despite the NIF’s deliberate and well-chronicled obstruction of humanitarian aid, throughout Sudan, it is the rest of the world that is failing the people of Eastern Sudan. Despite the billions of dollars of dollars in annual oil revenues---much of which has been devoted to profligate military expenditures---the NIF holds the international community responsible for the suffering of marginalized peoples in Sudan (including the many hundreds of thousands of southerners who are living in utter squalor and deprivation in the very environs of Khartoum itself). The agricultural sector remains under-capitalized by the NIF (as even the feckless International Monetary Fund is obliged to acknowledge), and yet all too predictable food shortages are, according to Ismail, no responsibility of Khartoum.

The obscenity of NIF fiscal policies is entirely consistent with its genocidal ambitions, whether in the Nuba Mountains, the oil regions of Southern Sudan, or Darfur.


Security in Darfur, both for civilians and humanitarian workers, continues to deteriorate badly. A recent dispatch from the UN Integrated Regional Information Network ("Darfur risks descending into anarchy," September 14, 2005) gives the blunt view of a number of observers:

"Darfur risks sliding into a perpetual state of lawlessness even as the Sudanese government and the main rebel groups in the war-torn region discuss the possibility of peacefully resolving the conflict there, observers have warned. Banditry and continuous attacks by armed groups on humanitarian workers, Arab nomads and villages in Darfur have increased significantly over the past weeks and threaten to destabilise the fragile ceasefire in the volatile western Sudanese region."

In fact, military confrontations between the NIF military and the Darfur insurgents are clearly on the rise as well, an ominous shift from the relative absence of large-scale military confrontations in recent months. The African Union monitoring force appears ever weaker and less capable, and has failed to reach personnel levels on the ground proposed months ago. This failure includes (according to well-placed sources) the reneging by South Africa on its commitment to deploy more than 700 military police. The AU has failed, and the fact remains unacknowledged by international actors only because to speak openly of AU inadequacy forces the question: "What will the world do to stop ongoing genocidal destruction in Darfur?"

There are many causes for the increase in violence beyond AU incapacity. Many observers on the ground note that the chain of command of the largest insurgency group (the Sudan Liberation Army/SLA) continues to disintegrate. The decision by SLA forces under Secretary-General Minni Arcua Minawi to attack the fortified town of Shearia (South Darfur), even as peace talks were commencing in Abuja (Nigeria), represents an extremely serious development, and perhaps a permanent split between Minawi (a Zaghawa) and SLA Chairman Abdel Wahi al-Nur (a Fur). Moreover, a splinter group, the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), has refused to have any part of the Abuja talks (the NMRD, with significant though undetermined military assets in Darfur, has been skillfully divided from the other two insurgency groups by the NIF).

The peace talks for Darfur in Abuja, with only one faction of the deeply divided SLA represented, must also confront the charges and counter-charges of large-scale military violence, especially in North Darfur and South Darfur states (see, for example, UN IRIN dispatch at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/ffcf0382c0b31c7aca1faddd9d2204b7.htm). The chances for meaningful diplomatic progress seem vanishingly small, especially since the Janjaweed again seem to have been given a much freer hand by the NIF.

It has become meaningless to attempt to sort out responsibility for military instigation and response at this point: the AU has proved itself woefully inadequate to the task, even in the particular instances where it does manage to investigate (the history and complexity of fighting around Malam, near Nyala, seems entirely to have escaped AU investigators, for example). The task at hand is clearly to provide the robust intervening force that can protect innocent civilians and humanitarian workers; secure humanitarian corridors (which are increasingly severed by insecurity); provide protection for camps for displaced persons; and begin the process of overseeing voluntary returns by those who so desperately wish to resume agriculturally productive lives.

But such a force is contemplated by no one other than the International Crisis Group (see "The AU’s Mission in Darfur: Bridging the Gaps," July 6, 2005; at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3547), and the consequences for humanitarian operations and civilians throughout Darfur are all too clear. The most recent UN Darfur Humanitarian Profile (No. 17, reflecting conditions as of August 1, 2005) reports, for example, that 37% of the needy population in South Darfur is "inaccessible," almost entirely a function of insecurity.

Even more terrifying is the statistic recently released by the UN’s World Food Program, which currently estimates that 3.5 million Darfuris are in need of food aid. As of September 13, only 4% of the current month’s targeted beneficiaries had been reached. These are people who have exhausted their food reserves, are weakened by months of inadequate food supplies, and who because of insecurity created by the NIF’s Janjaweed militia proxies have no opportunity to use their superb foraging and survival skills.


Sudan cannot function as country, and the new "Government of National Unity" cannot serve as a means of democratizing power, so long as the NIF is engaged in genocide in Darfur and is deliberately aborting essential features of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Southern Sudan. Either the international community chooses to confront this fundamental and inescapable conclusion, or it will be choosing to abandon Sudan---yet again.

- Eric Reeves
- Smith College
- Northampton, MA 01063
- Tel: 413-585-3326
- Email: ereeves@smith.edu
- Website: www.sudanreeves.org