IMGXYZ6684IMGZYXWith the final results from the referendum indicating that the south voted for independence in a landslide, the stage is set for the world’s newest country to be officially born in July. Now comes the hard part.
Alan Goulty, a senior scholar at the Wilson Center and former UK Special Representative for Sudan involved in negotiating the 2005 peace agreement, analyzes the latest developments on the ground in Sudan, the realities that face the north and south, the impact of the secession on Darfur, and what lessons the international community can take from the peace process.
Why was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement unable to maintain the unity of Sudan?
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) marked the end of two decades of civil conflict between north and south Sudan. In the CPA, both parties accepted the duty to work to make unity attractive. But after the tragic death in 2005 of John Garang, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), neither the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) nor the SPLM/A devoted the necessary effort to this goal.
Instead of building cooperation, they continued to treat each other as antagonists. And the international community, whose attention was distracted by the tragedy of Darfur, did not use effectively the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, a body designed to monitor and support implementation of the CPA, which could have helped the parties work better together.
Finally, it had been the hope of most observers at the peace talks that the elections foreseen in the CPA would enable the Sudanese to choose their new leaders freely and that fair elections would create a democratic system, attractive to southerners. This did not happen: the elections were delayed until 2010 and did not give Sudanese—north or south—a free choice.
What needs to be negotiated before the south officially gains independence in July? Are there any outstanding issues that will be particularly difficult to resolve?
The most difficult issue is the future of Abyei, a disputed area on the north-south border on which all parties are intransigent. Other urgent issues include sharing oil revenue, the north-south border, citizenship and the rights of nationals of each new state in the other, security, and the division of debts and assets.
Although it would be good to settle as much as possible before secession of the south on July 9, decisions on these other issues may be deferred until later. It will also be desirable to conclude the popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile before July so that these areas do not again become a focus for contention.
How will the south’s independence impact the north? Will President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s regime survive?
It is important to remember that it was the NCP government that signed the CPA. Most, if not all, northern opposition parties oppose it. There are no votes in the north for more concessions to the south—or other peripheral areas. So the survival of the regime, at least in the short term, would be good for the prospects of peace between north and south. As yet there is little sign of an effective challenge to Bashir.
The north will probably lose a substantial part of the revenue it now derives from southern oil, but it will also gain. Secession will relieve the north of financial responsibility for the south, encourage diversification of the northern economy, and stimulate new exploration for oil, gold, and other minerals in the north. Peace and the promised normalization of relations with the United States, if it happens, will also encourage investment.
Less positively, the change may encourage the government in Khartoum to impose an Islamic system that is rejected by a minority of the population of the new state in the north, thus sowing the seeds of future conflict.
How will the split influence the situation in Darfur?
The ending of the CPA with the secession of the south will create new opportunities for solving the Darfur conflict. First, new political space will be opened up by the withdrawal of southerners from national political institutions including the vice presidency and the national assembly. This will enable new posts to be created for people from Darfur without disadvantaging any of the present incumbents or adding to costs.
Second, the north will need a new, or at least a modified, constitution. This exercise will offer the possibility of meeting some of the Darfur movements’ demands, for example a call for a regional government.
It may be argued that other regions of northern Sudan will want parallel treatment. The context of a constitutional review could facilitate such an exercise. In the late 1980s Sudan’s head of state was a five-man presidential council and this could be a good precedent for a similar council of vice presidents from different areas. In the past the whole country was divided for administrative purposes into nine provinces. The present system of 25 states, fifteen of them in the north, is not sacrosanct; and there would be no harm in reverting to the earlier system.
This will depend, however, on the willingness of the largest Darfur movements, who have stood aloof for more than four years, to negotiate seriously. For the first time at the end of January, the Justice and Equality Movement indicated its willingness to sit down at the negotiating table in Doha, Qatar for mediated peace talks. But the largest movement, the Sudan Liberation Army led by Abdel Wahed an Nur, remains aloof. The participation of all the armed groups is key to the current U.S. policy of conditioning improved relations with Khartoum on progress toward peace in Darfur. Khartoum cannot make peace in Darfur except with its adversaries: one hand alone cannot clap.
Old political players in northern Sudan have been trying to create a new civilian alliance. Is this a realistic option?
No. I regret to say that the old parties are ghosts from the past. They have had multiple opportunities to govern Sudan well and have failed to do so. Their attempts in the 1990s to create an opposition alliance against the regime (the so-called National Democratic Alliance) were a dismal failure. They lacked the confidence and resources to contest the 2010 elections. So there is nothing to be hoped for from that quarter.
What are the major problems facing the south? Will the south be able to set up a viable political system and develop a stable economy?
Southern identity has depended on opposition to Khartoum. When that external driver is removed, the challenge for the southern government will be to build a national identity and consensus which transcends regional and ethnic divisions so that all work together for the common good. That will not be easy, given the south’s history of tribal conflict and lack of human resources and infrastructure. But a start has been made and the commitment of the people was evident during the referendum.
Initially the south’s economy will be totally dependent on oil revenues, which in turn means that the south will be dependent on the north through which all the oil is exported. If a north/south agreement on sharing oil revenues cannot be reached, the south will look to donors to underwrite its budget. This will lay a heavy responsibility on the United States given the encouragement U.S. officials have always given to the secessionist movements. It is doubtful whether Congress can and will deliver as much as southerners will expect.
What role will the international community play in the birth of a new nation and containing conflict?
We expect the birth of two new countries, both of which will need international help. I trust that the international community will stand by both, providing aid and diplomatic help as needed, including to resolve their differences peaceably.
A continued United Nations peacekeeping presence could also be valuable. But there is much to be done to make that contribution more cost-effective. Remember that these are not international problems: Sudanese must take responsibility for solving them, of course with international support. So far they show every sign of doing so.
What lessons does the CPA have for other international conflicts?
There are five lessons that the world can take from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in dealing with other conflicts. First, the experience of the CPA shows that even the most apparently intractable conflict can be resolved through negotiation when the time is right. It equally demonstrates that warring parties must be prepared to negotiate to achieve their demands, not just to say ‘no’ as the Darfur movements have so often done and wait for someone else to deliver their aims.
Second, mediators must be united in their approach, counter attempts at forum-shopping, and resist the temptation to adjudicate between the parties. Observers and others wishing to help should firmly support the mediation and resist any attempts at wedge-driving by the parties. They should also coordinate their contacts with the parties and divide up the support roles between them. The temptation to compete should be rejected.
Third, the exclusion of other Sudanese stakeholders from the talks was a practical necessity. But it remained important for the mediators to listen to them and take account of their wishes. Part of the United Kingdom’s contribution, for example, was to meet with other stakeholders—southern parties in London, Khartoum, and elsewhere; other southern armed groups; the National Democratic Alliance in Asmara; leaders of the nomadic Misseriya, sections of which pasture and water their herds seasonally in the Abyei area; and others—and relay their input to Lazaro Sumbeiywo, the former Kenyan general who mediated the peace talks, and his team.
Fourth, each conflict has its own dynamics and demands a deep understanding of the causes and history of conflict which mediators need to take into account. It was no accident that the late Halvor Aschjem, who had been working on Sudan issues since 1973, was the most effective member of the Norwegian team in the CPA process.
Fifth, as I repeated at Naivasha to anyone who would listen, the peace agreement is only 5 percent of the process. The rest lies in how the parties and their international friends implement the agreement. This means guarantees, hand-holding, aid, and constant attention. In the case of the CPA, the Darfur distraction nearly derailed the process. International mediators cannot walk away, as we did after the Darfur Peace Agreement, and expect an agreement to hold.