Sudan peace talks in Kenya: a shaky chance for peace
Nairobi/Brussels, 12 August 2002: The talks beginning their second phase today in Machakos in Kenya are the best chance of a just peace in Sudan since this terrible war began nearly twenty years ago. But agreement will be hard to reach on the detailed issues now on the table, and the international mediators have a huge responsibility to keep on track the talks between the Khartoum Government and the opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA).
Last month's first phase talks produced the breakthrough Machakos Protocol of 20 July, committing both sides to a referendum on unity or secession for southern Sudan after a six-year transition period. But that and other agreed matters of principle still have to be translated into a detailed peace agreement. And other issues now to be addressed, such as the definition of the south, power sharing, wealth sharing, and security arrangements, are marked by widely divergent positions on the part of the parties.
"As so often, the devil is lurking in the detail, and his appearance here seems guaranteed when either side doesn't like the direction the talks are headed", said International Crisis Group President, Gareth Evans.
He was in Kenya ahead of the peace talks with ICG Africa Program Co-Director, John Prendergast, who warned of some major specific difficulties confronting the negotiators ahead: "The Protocol's agreement on the relationship between state and religion is ambiguous, has been interpreted in different ways by the two parties, and has angered a number of important northern and southern constituencies. The issue will remain a live one until an agreement is reached on a constitution for the central government that is neutral on religion".
"The process is also not sufficiently inclusive," Prendergast said. "More than just north v. south issues are involved, and their resolution requires the participation of a wider set of Sudanese parties."
The peace talks are being brokered by an increasingly effective partnership between Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) envoys from Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia and a group of observer nations comprising the U.S., UK, Norway and Italy.
These mediators have a crucial role, and will significantly increase the odds of success in the second phase if they use their authority constructively in the following ways:
q Hold the line on the self-determination referendum:
· In order to address the concerns of the southern Sudanese, the mediators must build international guarantees for, and ensure there is no backsliding from, the already agreed self-determination referendum for the south.
· A referendum on unity or secession at the end of the agreed 6 year transition period remains the best insurance that the government will actually implement its part of the agreement, because it will want to do everything before then to maximise the chances of a southern vote for national unity.
q Press for Compromises that Promote National Unity:
· In order to address the concerns of the government and Egypt's national security interests, the mediators must offer creative compromise proposals that will – if implemented fully – create favourable conditions for national unity.
· These include formulae for power sharing and security arrangements that give the SPLA incentives to be partners in a unified nation, not just masters of the south, and a wealth-sharing formula that will promote cooperative efforts between the north and south for national development.
q Create Mechanisms for Broader Sudanese Participation:
· All efforts should be made to bring other political actors – particularly the predominantly northern opposition National Democratic Alliance and Umma Party, and civil society groups – into the peace process.
· These representatives of the majority of Sudanese public opinion have so far not been involved in the talks, and their continued exclusion will undermine the implementation process and reduce the chance of a democratic transition being at the heart of that agreement.
· The worst outcome would be an unreformed regime in power in the north and the SPLA alone in charge of the south. This would be a recipe for continued war or eventual secession.
· To promote democracy and protect human rights in Sudan, the mediation effort should also ensure that the national constitution is neutral on the issue of religion (while leaving open the option of the northern part of the country embracing Sharia law in whole or part).
q Increase International Leverage:
· The observer countries (U.S., UK, Norway, Italy) should craft a multilateral strategy of incentives and pressures to be deployed at the request of the IGAD mediation team.
· Egypt in particular should be brought into this strategy as it has a vested interest in seeing a more inclusive, less extreme government in Khartoum.
· Cairo's opposition to a referendum must be discussed at the highest level between the Egyptian and U.S. governments in order convince Egypt that the unity of Sudan would be best guaranteed if it is voluntary and based on just and equitable political and economic arrangements.
· A strong commitment to the process by the U.S. is absolutely vital.
These and other points will be further developed in a shortly forthcoming ICG report, Sudan's First Chance for Peace: Great Expectations, Lurking Dangers. This follows ICG's earlier reports on the Sudan peace process published on 27 June and 3 April 2002, and the book length report God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan, published on 28 January 2002. All are available on ICG's website, www.crisisweb.org.
Katy Cronin (London) +188.8.131.52.93.51
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-408 8012
ICG reports on Sudan are available on our website: www.crisisweb.org