The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Kenya by the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on January 9, 2005. The CPA marked the end of two decades of civil conflict and was the culmination of peace negotiations facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as well as the United Kingdom, Norway, United States, and Italy.

The CPA represented a last-ditch attempt to find a comprehensive, lasting solution to the conflict that had divided north and south Sudan since before its independence from Egyptian and British rule in 1956. The first phase of the conflict ended in 1972 with the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement brokered by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1983, however, then-President Jafaar Numeiri violated the terms of the agreement by reducing the prerogatives of the south and imposing sharia law, and war resumed.

The CPA is built on and includes a collection of documents negotiated and signed over a period of two years. It is comprised of six documents: the Machakos Protocol of July 2002, the Agreement on Security Arrangements of September 2003; the Agreement on Wealth Sharing of January 2004; the Protocol on Power Sharing of May 2004; the Protocol on the Resolution of Conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States of May 2004; and the Protocol on the Resolution of Conflict in the Abyei Area of May 2004.

Reduced to its essence, the 250-page agreement created an extensive system for sharing power and oil revenue equitably between the north and the south; in the details, it is a document of tremendous intricacy, a stark reminder that Sudan is torn by multiple intersecting conflicts and not just by a division between the Arab and Islamic north and the African and Christian or animist south, as is often portrayed. The CPA thus makes provisions not only for southern Sudan but also for three areas that are technically north of the 1956 boundary between the north and the south: the Abyei area, the South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile states. All three have been affected by the conflict, their populations are divided in their allegiance, and they risk becoming flashpoints at the time of the referenda.

Despite long years of negotiations and painstaking attention to detail embodied in the agreement, enough doubts remained as to whether it would provide a lasting solution to the long-standing north/south conflict that the document contained an escape clause. The CPA required that at the end of a six-year period, in January 2011, a referendum on independence be held, allowing the people of southern Sudan the opportunity to choose between perpetuating the power-sharing agreement or opting for full independence through secession from the north. The inhabitants of Abyei would decide in a separate referendum whether they wanted to be part of the north or the south. In the South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states, an ill-defined consultation was supposed to take place to gauge the impact of the CPA provisions on the two states, but it has yet to be scheduled.

Asymmetrical Federation

The CPA created an asymmetrical federal system, with a government of national unity (GoNU) in which the south would have some representation, and a separate southern regional government (GoSS). Both the northern and the southern region would be furthermore divided into states, each with its own elected assembly and executive; elected local governments (referred to as counties in some documents) would complete the picture in each state. The net result was that people in southern Sudan would elect, and be subject to, four layers of government—national, southern Sudanese, state, and local. People in the north would elect, and be subject to, three layers of government—national, state and local. On paper, each layer of government had a democratically elected assembly and executive which held extensive powers as well, including imposing taxes. In reality, elections were not held until April 2010, five years after the CPA was signed.

Abyei Area

Further complicating the system set up by the CPA, the Abyei region, a sensitive area located close to the historical boundary between north and south Sudan, was given special administrative status. Defined in the agreement as a “bridge between the north and the south,” Abyei consists of the territory of nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms that were transferred from the south to the north in 1905 when Sudan was under joint Anglo-Egyptian rule. Under the CPA provisions, Abyei was to be governed by its own elected executive council. Moreover, its inhabitants were considered to be citizens of both the western Kordofan state in the north and of Bahr al-Ghazal state in the South and were represented in the legislatures of both states.

At the end of the six years, the inhabitants of Abyei would choose whether they wanted Abyei to be incorporated into the southern state of Bahr al-Ghazal or to maintain its special administrative status in the north in the referendum originally schedule for January 9. The referendum is currently postponed indefinitely after agreement could not be reached over the eligibility requirements of the vote.

South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile States

The provisions for South Kordofan/ Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states were different than those for Abyei. The core provisions of the agreement did not affect the two states directly, since the CPA assumed that they would remain in the north. However, both regions, situated on the border between north and south, were heavily affected by the war, particularly after its resumption in 1983. Local grievances about control of land caused some segments of the population to side with the south.

The CPA thus recognized that any comprehensive settlement had to address the problems of those states. They were given a somewhat different governing structure, with more elaborate provisions concerning relations between states and local governments and revenue sharing. The CPA also created in each state a land commission to address territorial disputes that were at the core of much of the conflict. Finally, it created a monitoring commission in each of the two states to study the impact of the implementation of the CPA and raised the issue that the population of the two states had to be consulted but without specifying how or when.

Revenue-sharing Provisions

The Agreement on Wealth Sharing was one of the six protocols of the CPA. Revenue-sharing provisions were a key feature of the CPA as the country is heavily dependent on oil revenue. This is particularly true for the south, 98 percent of whose budget is financed by oil revenue. Disagreement over control of the oil fields and the distribution of revenue are thus the greatest threat to peace in Sudan regardless of the referendum outcome.

The CPA mandated that 2 percent of all revenue be shared by oil-producing states, while the remainder would be split evenly between government of southern Sudan on one side and the national government and the states of northern Sudan on the other. This revenue-sharing agreement will end in July 2011—and likely earlier if the south secedes—making a new division of oil revenue a high priority for all parties.

Security Provisions

The CPA incorporated a permanent ceasefire protocol signed by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), controlled by the north, and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of the south in 2003. The Agreement on Security Arrangements was negotiated in Naivasha and Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of IGAD mediators and international experts.

The CPA stipulated that the SAF and the SPLA would remain separate entities during the interim period leading up to the referendum, but would both have equal claim to being part of Sudan’s National Armed Forces. To this end, the SAF and SPLA would form Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) consisting of 21,000 soldiers split evenly between SAF and SPLA.

The ceasefire was intended to cover all three regions of southern Sudan (Bahr El Ghazal, Equatoria, and Upper Nile), in addition to the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Abyei, and Eastern Sudan. The SAF and the SPLA also agreed to carry out a process of demobilization and reintegration of their combatants in four phases extending through 2012:

Phase I
(6 months): In the six months leading up to the interim period, the Sudanese government and the SPLM would start to disarm and demobilize combatants as well as train the JIUs.

Phase II
(36 months): In the first half of the interim period, both parties would finish redeploying their military factions from the contested ceasefire locations and demobilize them to their location of origin (e.g. SPLA forces would be relocated from the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile back to the south).

Phase III
(36 months): In the latter half of the interim period demobilization and disarmament would continue.

Phase IV
(6 months): In the months following the interim period, the integrated Sudan National Armed Forces (SNAF) would be formed if the south voted to remain part of Sudan; if the south opted for independence, the JIUs would be disbanded and each of the two new countries would form its own armed forces.

The Challenges of CPA Implementation

The CPA was never implemented as envisaged. The signing of the agreement was due to skillful international mediation and diplomacy, rather than to a sincere change in the position of the two sides. For the south, the six-year interval mandated by the agreement before the holding of the referendum was simply a waiting period before the goal of independence could be achieved. And the northern government gave no indication that it was willing to try democracy and power-sharing as a solution. It remained authoritarian in the north, dealing harshly with the opposition, and more determined than ever to crush resistance in Darfur with force. Sudan under the CPA was not a country at peace.

Elections Came Too Late

The CPA envisaged a highly decentralized country governed by democratic institutions at every level. In reality, elections took place only in April 2010, after a one-year delay when, in an electoral marathon, voters all over the country went to the polls to elect the national parliament and the national president and the parliament and president of the southern region, as well as assemblies and governors of all states.

This means that the system created by the CPA de facto remained untested during almost the entire six-year trial period preceding the referendum. By the time the elections took place, in fact, focus had already shifted to the referendum. The implementation of the CPA was already considered a failure, leaving few doubts that the south would vote for independence. One can only speculate whether earlier elections would have made a difference—probably not, given the depth of the hostility on all sides and the grip of the SPLM/A in the south and of the NCP in the north—but it is clear that the potential of democratic institutions to create a climate in which the north and south could remain part of one country was never tested.

Revenue-Sharing Plagued by Lack of Transparency and Recrimination

The wealth-sharing system stipulated by the CPA did not become fully effective until 2008—and even then its implementation continued to be hampered by political tensions and weak administrative capacity. Specifically, implementation delays were associated with the lack of trust between the NCP and the SPLM/A. The lack of transparency in Sudan’s oil sector also undermined implementation progress, as seen in the absence of publicly available information on the contracts between the government of Sudan and its investors. And the lack of information on the country’s total production of oil and the amount of revenue received makes it nearly impossible to independently verify the amount of oil exploitation, production, and revenues.

At present, oil accounts for 98 percent of the revenue of the government of southern Sudan (GoSS), and the majority of oil fields are located in the south. While the GoSS does receive oil revenue (starting one year after the signing of the CPA) in line with the terms of the wealth-sharing agreement, its lack of capacity to plan, allocate, and spend these resources has allegedly facilitated a rise in corruption within the SPLM/A. The lack of progress on demarcating the north-south border has also further impeded the establishment of a framework for calculating oil wealth in the border areas.

Disarmament and Reintegration Faltered

Cessation of hostilities between the SAF and SPLA was scheduled to take place within 72 hours of the signing of the CPA; however, numerous ceasefire violations have taken place since.

Little disarmament and demobilization has occurred since neither side trusted the other. The Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) that included both SAF and SPLA forces never worked properly and became a source of instability. In some cases, they attacked local populations, other army units or—in rare cases of ‘integrated” units—each other.

Violence was also partially the result of local grievances as well as increased competition for limited resources. There was a massive influx of former combatants who were never properly reintegrated because of lack of funds and poor monitoring. Returning combatants also sold weapons and ammunitions to support themselves, making weapons easily available to civilians.

Furthermore, both the SPLA and SAF took active steps to increase their offensive capability in anticipation of possible conflict after the referendum. Indeed, as Sudan moves toward the referendum, recriminations continue, with the NCP accusing the SPLA of not having retreated as far south as it was supposed to and the SPLA concerned because the SAF is still deployed in oil-producing zones. There have been complaints surrounding the militarization of such zones by both parties. For example, since May 2010, there have been multiple reports of SAF and SPLM/A units and soldiers stationed in and around the oil fields of Abyei.