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Sudan Endgame


The Sudan peace process is in its endgame. One year ago, the parties signed the Machakos Protocol, a provisional “grand bargain” that effectively traded a southern self-determination referendum for Sharia in the North. It is time for a second “grand bargain” on the remaining issues such as the status of the national capital, the presidency and the security arrangements to close the deal. This requires major tradeoffs – or new solutions – to meet the bottom lines of the parties and protect the original Protocol as well as incentives for implementation. Commitments on the U.S.-Sudan bilateral relationship and assurances that the U.S. will remain closely involved in the post-agreement process are the glue without which a deal is unlikely to stick. With them, peace has a chance.

The mediators will put forth a draft framework document in mid-July on which they will seek agreement by mid-August from the government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (hereafter SPLA) to end a civil war that has already lasted more than 20 years. The process, under the auspices of the regional African organisation, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has come closer than any of its predecessors to peace. However, the last steps will be the most difficult, and a misstep could plunge the country back into full scale civil war.

The manner in which the final text is structured, namely whether unity is prioritised to the maximum extent possible and how the issues of the conflict areas outside the South are addressed, will have a critical impact on whether an agreement is sustainable. A minimalist deal can be reached that stops the war for now and puts the South on a fast track to independence. However, such an agreement likely would be systematically undermined by key actors in the ruling party in Khartoum and thus lead to resumption of war. Therefore, all efforts should be directed toward getting a comprehensive pact that promotes the unity of the country but with radically restructured governing arrangements that promote equal rights and equal opportunities for all Sudanese.

Despite the imperative to stress unity, independence for the South must remain a valid and acceptable possible outcome of the referendum, as a fundamental confidence building measure for southerners to give a unified state a chance. In order to avoid future conflict, the parties should also agree on provisions now that would come into effect should the South vote for independence after the interim period. By agreeing to extend modalities on certain issues beyond the six-year interim period – for example, on sharing oil revenue – the referendum would cease to be a zero-sum affair.

A second element that would help insure sustainability of an agreement would be mechanisms for broadening participation in its implementation throughout the interim period beyond the current ruling party and the SPLA. This could best be achieved by free and fair but staggered elections at the local, regional, and national levels, as well as a broadly inclusive constitutional review process. SPLA and government must both recognise that their interests are ultimately served by broadening participation, and therefore make every effort to accommodate other voices. In particular, the devolution of state powers within the federal framework should give marginalised areas in the North a meaningful role in running their affairs.

The parties have each made significant sacrifices, and the international community has put a tremendous amount of effort and resources into support of the process. As the talks reach their final stage, senior political leadership from neighbouring IGAD countries and the international observer countries should elevate their involvement to the highest levels possible. However, the process should not be jeopardised by artificial deadlines. The goal of having a comprehensive agreement by the end of the summer is admirable, but the mediators should be flexible enough to allow the talks to be extended if one or both of the parties are not quite ready to finalise the peace.


To the IGAD Envoys, the IGAD Secretariat and the International Observers:

  1. Focus mediation efforts on developing proposals that will make unity attractive to southern voters in a self-determination referendum six years hence, including:
  1.     On power sharing, prioritise unity by:
    (i)      proposing a small enclave around “administrative Khartoum” – effectively the key government buildings in the capital – where all religions will have equal legal standing;

    (ii)      proposing that southerners receive one-third representation in the civil service, the cabinet, and the Lower House, and 40 per cent representation in the Upper House; and

    (iii)     proposing a presidency that rotates between the government and the SPLA.

  1.     On wealth sharing, prioritise unity by having a single fiscal and monetary policy, with a single central bank and currency, and negotiate the extension of wealth sharing provisions beyond the interim period.
  1.     On security arrangements, prioritise unity by maintaining a separate force under southern command while maximising cooperation and coordination of policies and movements with the national army.
  1.     On the Three Areas, prioritise unity by setting up a joint administration for Abyei between the southern and central governments, until Abyei holds a referendum on whether to join the South or remain in the North, and by granting the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile further measures of autonomy beyond those applicable to other states.
  1. Negotiate extension of certain provisions of the peace agreement beyond the interim period in order to help stabilise the potential fallout of a pro-independence vote in the southern referendum.
  1. Establish a mechanism to monitor and limit arms purchases and manufacturing by both sides so that an arms race does not develop after an agreement is signed.

To the International Observers (the U.S., UK, Norway, Italy, the United Nations and the African Union):

  1. Coordinate the phased lifting of existing punitive measures and provision of financial and political benefits, with the U.S. in particular sequencing improvement of its bilateral relationship with Sudan on conclusion and implementation of a peace agreement.
  1. Inject ministerial and UN Secretary General-level involvement in the process, in order to show support to the parties and help close a peace deal.
  1. Begin immediate planning for a UN Observer Mission to support implementation of the agreement, despite competition for peacekeeping resources from other crises such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia.

To the Heads of State of the IGAD Countries, and High Level Representatives of Other Key Governments:

  1. Become directly involved during the final stages of the peace process in support of the IGAD mediation, in order to send a signal to the parties that the region is firmly behind a peace agreement.
Nairobi/Brussels, 7 July 2003


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