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  Five Minutes to Midnight in Sudan’s Peace Process

Nairobi/Brussels, 8 August 2003: The round of negotiations that opens on 10 August likely is make or break for peace in Sudan. After fourteen months of the process sponsored by the East African organisation IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development), the combatants must make hard choices in the coming weeks. As importantly, however, the countries facilitating the process need to make clear the benefits of peace and the penalties of more war, notably the U.S., which has caused confusion by inconsistent statements. If this best chance for peace in twenty years is missed, the arms build-up on both sides suggests the war will become more deadly and destructive than ever.

In early July, the mediators presented a draft framework document that proposes solutions for the remaining issues and forms part of a larger set of proposals that have emerged from the process to date. The Sudanese government immediately rejected the framework, while the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA) noted reservations but allowed that it could serve as the basis of further negotiations.

It is crucial for the mediating countries from the region and the official observers (U.S., UK, Norway, Italy, the African Union and the United Nations) to get fully behind the process and the IGAD proposals. Specifically, the U.S. and Egypt should provide clear and consistent messages that the IGAD framework represents the sole basis for a workable agreement.

Sustained U.S. pressure on the parties is the single most important factor needed at this point. Regrettably, recent public and private statements by American officials and the lack of high-level U.S. public support for IGAD’s proposals have sent potentially damaging mixed signals. Egypt needs to recognise that the IGAD proposals provide the only realistic chance for sustaining Sudan’s unity peacefully and that it can best work for that outcome by supporting rather than criticising them.

“IGAD’s proposals are the first comprehensive attempt at real power sharing since Sudan’s independence”, said John Prendergast, Special Adviser to the President of the International Crisis Group. “Through them, a united, peaceful Sudan is possible. That is what makes Khartoum’s wholesale rejection so short-sighted. IGAD’s framework prioritises unity, and an agreement along the proposed lines will give sustainable peace a chance. The Arab League’s strong support for unity will be compromised if its members – particularly Egypt – do not weigh in with Khartoum to support an approach that is built on promotion of unity through real power sharing and equal rights. Greater pressure from those governments, but also from the U.S. and others, is a prerequisite”.

The SPLA is also in a difficult position. Many Southern Sudanese would like an agreement that allows them to vote on independence as soon as possible. The SPLA must show leadership in supporting an outcome that makes unity realistic through genuine power sharing at the centre. Otherwise, resumed war is highly likely.

“Although a lesser agreement would be a welcome respite for the people of Sudan”, said ICG Analyst David Mozersky, “any agreement that blatantly promoted the eventual independence of the South would likely be derailed by elements in Khartoum, causing the war to restart. Meaningful power sharing in the central government is the only recipe for long-term peace and stability”.

The parties should be supported in amending or trading off any parts of the IGAD proposals on which they can agree, but the basic thrust of the framework document needs to be maintained. Any crack in the international community’s unanimity would allow the parties to back away from an attainable peace and condemn Sudan to further years of war and famine.

Media Contacts
Katy Cronin (London) +44-(0)20-7981 0330 [email protected]
Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 00 65
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
ICG reports and briefing papers are available on our website: www.crisisweb.org

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 90 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.


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