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Capturing the Moment: Sudan's Peace Process in the Balance

 PDF version of Capturing the Moment: Sudan's Peace Process in the Balance Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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Sudan�s window of opportunity threatens to become a missed opportunity if the peace process is not revitalised in the near future. Escalation of fighting around the oil fields, increasing use by the government of helicopter gunships against civilian as well as military targets, and indecision surrounding the nature of wider international engagement all put at risk Sudan�s best chance for peace since the latest phase of civil war began nearly nineteen years ago. The parties continue to signal that they are ready to negotiate seriously. The international community, and in particular the United States, must seize this opportunity to revitalise the peace process before the two sides re-commit themselves to resolving Africa�s longest conflict on the battlefield.

A government helicopter gunship attack which resulted in the killing of at least two dozen women and children lined up to receive food in the remote southern village of Bieh highlighted yet again the war's terrible cost. The tragedy, however, served as an impetus for progress on one of U.S. Special Peace Envoy John Danforth�s proposed humanitarian confidence-building tests � a protocol focused on the protection of civilians. Widespread condemnation from human rights organisations, relief agencies, the UN, and the international community forced Khartoum to accept international monitors for the agreement on the protection of civilians, which both parties had signed by late March 2002. The incident also accelerated implementation of one of his other key agreements: a local cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains. The parties� willingness to accept all four of Danforth�s tests clears the way for the U.S., United Kingdom and Norway to work as an informal �troika� with regional states in an effort to move beyond the Danforth initiative to a more serious negotiating process that addresses the underlying causes of the conflict.

A series of agreements reached between the Sudan People�s Liberation Army (SPLA) and other groups in both the North and South indicate that the opposition to the government has grown more united during the past few months. Most significantly, the SPLA reached an understanding with the Sudan People�s Democratic Front (SPDF) that ended a damaging decade-long split and resulted in the return of a number of key Nuer commanders. This has increased the SPLA�s ability to attack oil infrastructure but has led in turn to a major government offensive to secure areas of oil production and exploration. The SPLA also merged with the northern-based Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF) and concluded political agreements with former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi�s Umma Party and Hassan al-Turabi�s Popular National Congress (PNC) party.

As Senator Danforth prepares to make his final recommendation to U.S. President George Bush, the implications, both positive and negative, of his initiative should be understood fully. The cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains has alleviated the terrible suffering the Nuba people have endured in the past decade. In addition, it has enhanced the warring parties� perception of the U.S. as a crucial mediator and raised hopes for a larger, more comprehensive peace. However, the cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains has also allowed the opposing parties to divert their forces to the oil fields, leading to an increase in civilian suffering in western Upper Nile. Furthermore, Danforth�s strict adherence to humanitarian tests has exposed an unwillingness to shed reprehensible war tactics, particularly on the part of the government, whose comparative advantage on the battlefield is rooted in the use of helicopter gunships and high altitude bombing. But it has not extracted a better understanding of the adversaries� commitment to a viable peace process.

An international retreat from the peace process would represent capitulation to hard-line elements in Khartoum that are opposed to a settlement. International efforts to construct a meaningful process and achieve a comprehensive agreement should instead intensify. That represents the most realistic hope for addressing the human rights crisis at its roots as well as facilitating a democratic transition in Sudan.

This report recommends and provides a blueprint for such intensified efforts by the informal troika (U.S., UK, and Norway), working with the key regional actors (Kenya and Egypt), to point an alternative way forward that is consistent with the new global emphasis on a partnership between Africa and the broader international community.



1. Secure the agreement of the key regional heads of state, particularly President Moi of Kenya, and work closely with the IGAD countries and Egypt to construct a partnership approach to negotiations, based on the Declaration of Principles and the Egyptian-Libyan Joint Initiative principles.

2. Appoint a full-time envoy to represent the troika and work in cooperation with an IGAD counterpart to coordinate and conduct negotiations.

3. Support and finance a technical team to provide inputs to negotiators on legal, security, and other matters.

4. Designate high-level representatives to participate in an international contact group to coordinate negotiating strategy.

5. Work for the creation of a wider group of countries and multilateral organisations to coordinate the creation of incentives and pressures and their deployment with the opposing sides to the conflict.

6. Pave the way for a future democratic transition by increasing assistance to democratic structures and institutions, supporting implementation of inter-communal peace agreements, building the capacity of civil administration in opposition controlled areas, and bolstering civil society organisations, independent media, and professional associations in Khartoum and other parts of the country.


7. Work with the troika to establish a partnership approach to the peace process.

8. Give the current IGAD Special Envoy full-time status, and ensure that he frequently consults and reports to IGAD capitals.

9. Expand participation in negotiations to include not only the government of Sudan and the SPLA, but also Northern entities such as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Umma Party, and create a channel for the views of civil society to be heard as well.

10. Designate a high-level representative to participate in an international contact group to coordinate negotiating strategy.


11. Work with the troika countries and Kenya to create a meaningful contact group that will coordinate negotiating strategy.

12. Lend support to the unified mediation process.

Khartoum/Nairobi/Brussels, 3 April 2002

 PDF version of Capturing the Moment: Sudan's Peace Process in the Balance Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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