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God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan


The International Crisis Group (ICG) works to prevent and contain deadly conflict through a unique combination of field-based analysis, policy prescription and high-level advocacy. Few countries are more deserving of such attention than Sudan, where the scale of human suffering has been mind numbing, and where the ongoing civil war continues to severely disrupt regional stability and desperately inhibit development. ICG launched a Sudan project in 2001 because we felt the country was at a crossroads, and that now was the time when concentrated attention by the international community could make a decisive difference.

As this report shows, a small window for peace has opened. The reasons for this include the shock effect of the 11 September terror attacks in the United States (U.S.) and their aftermath on policy debates within the Khartoum government; the military calculations of the government and its main opposition, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) insurgency; a difficult economic situation; and the increasing desire of the Khartoum authorities to escape international isolation and enjoy their new oil wealth. Importantly also, the U.S. government, by appointing distinguished former Senator John Danforth as Special Envoy, is showing some willingness to become more engaged.

Progress, nonetheless, will not be easy. This report makes clear that the Sudan situation is far more complex than normally port rayed in the media, or by advocates of particular causes. It is a struggle, to be sure, between a northern government that is largely Arab and Muslim and a southern insurgency that is largely black and significantly Christian , but it is also increasingly a contest between a non-democratic centre and hitherto peripheral groups from all parts of the country. It is a contest over oil and other natural resources , but also one about ideologies, including the degree to which a government's radical Islamist agenda can be moderated and a rebel movement's authoritarianism can embrace civilian democracy.

The Sudanese government faces stark choices, brought into sharp re l i e f since 11 September. It can build on the progress that has been made on counter - terrorism and commit itself to negotiate peace seriously. Or it can try to pocket the goodwill it has gained and intensify the war while remaining shackled to the ideology that was the inspiration of its 1989 c o u p .

The Sudanese opposition faces difficult choices and challenges of its own . The SPLA can remain a relatively limited rebel group, with a restricted geographic base and a low - risk minimalist partnership with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance, including a number of northern political parties . Or it can deepen its commitment to a hearts and minds campaign in the south and its cooperation with National Democratic Alliance partners around a credible peace agenda .

Among the main conclusions we reach, and recommendations we advance , are these:

1. A comprehensive peace may be possible but only if the international community for the first time makes its achievement a significant objective, and commits the necessary political and diplomatic resources;

2. There will be no success if the parties can continue to play one initiative off against another, which means the major existing efforts -the Egyptian - Libyan Joint Initiative , and that led by Kenya in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - must either be unified or a single new peace process created;

3. A unified peace process should be built around the vital element of IGAD's Declaration of Principles, namely self-determination, recognising all the room this leaves for creative negotiation on context, detail and timing;

4. A unified peace process needs to be energised from outside: the ideal team to coordinate both incentives and pressures for the parties to negotiate seriously would include the U. S ., indispensably, and key Europeans — ideally the UK re p resenting the European Union (EU) joined by Norway — with a meaningful degree of buy-in from key neighbours and other concerned states such as China, Malaysia and Canada;

5. Concerned members of the international community should pursue vigorously and concurrently four major interests in Sudan: stopping the war, laying the ground - work for democracy, protecting human rights and winning cooperation in the fight against terrorism; and,

6. The top priority should be a comprehensive peace, grounded in the restoration of democracy, which is the circumstance most likely to bring both fundamental human rights improvements and guarantees against backsliding on terrorism .

ICG developed this report , as always, through extensive fieldwork .The primary author, Africa Program Co-Director John Prendergast, made three trips between June and November 2001 and conducted many scores of interviews in Sudan - both Khartoum and wa r - t orn areas of the south - as well as in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Europe and North America . Many others on the ICG team helped with writing and production, including Mirna Galic, Regina Dubey, Philip Roessler, and Macgregor Duncan. ICG Senior Adviser John Norris played a major role in the editing process, supported by ICG Vice President (Programs) Jon Greenwald and, at the production stage , by Research Analyst Theodora Adekunle and Francesca Lawe-Davies. I thank them all for invaluable contributions. This book-length report is not the ICG's last word on Sudan. It will be followed by a series of further, shorter, field-based reports as we stay engaged with future developments . We hope very much that an end to Sudan's agony is near, and that this report will help the international Policy community to accelerate that process.

Gareth Evans President Brussels , 10 January 2002




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