Sudan: A critical time
NewsNotes, January-February 2010
Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, participated in a Pax Christi delegation to Sudan in early December. Her reflections follow.
The tall young man came from a cattle camp to the Pax Christi-sponsored workshop on gun control in the small town of Bor, Sudan, which is slowly coming back to life after being caught in the middle of Sudan’s long war. He borrowed his brother’s suit so he would be “presentable” and joined 30 or so others, mostly cattlemen and young like himself, to discuss and respond to inter-community violence in Jonglei state where Bor is located.
In 2009, violent inter-ethnic conflict killed 2,500 people in Southern Sudan, which is awash with weapons, and displaced more than 350,000. A recent report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) says that this inter-tribal fighting, while not a new phenomenon, has taken on a new and dangerously politicized character. Doctors Without Borders writes that recent killings are different from past violence over land and cattle in that this year, villages have been attacked, and raiders have targeted and killed women and children. In November, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum expressed alarm about the “increase of violence in some parts of Southern Sudan including the abuse, rape and killing of women, elderly and children, aimed at destroying the social fabric within and between communities.”
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 between the Government of Sudan in Khartoum and South Sudan is extremely fragile. With elections in a few months and the 2011 referendum on whether the South will secede or form a united Sudan in a little over a year, renewed fighting between North and South is considered very likely.
Our delegation spent several days in Bor and saw there both hope and danger. When the governor of Jonglei state, Kuol Manyang, addressed the workshop we were observing, his message was clear: Unless we stop killing each other we will never be able to improve the quality of life for our communities. He told the youth gathered that in other places in the world people have cement floors in their houses and electricity and water. They have paved roads and schools and, he said, we can have the same. We have to diversify our economy from its total dependence on cattle herding, learning to grow food in our fertile soil and start small businesses that create jobs. We could get some oxen to help plow the land – or even a tractor.
But the failure to realize many benefits five years after the CPA was signed is not all the fault of local conflict and observers are not optimistic about the future. Many elements of the CPA have never been implemented, largely due to the intransigence of the National Congress Party (NCP), the majority party in the Khartoum government. In late December, however, the NCP and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), representing the Government of South Sudan (GOSS), reached some level of agreement on crucial aspects of the CPA including the referendum bill, popular consultations and the Abyei referendum.
The Sudan Ecumenical Forum notes that “there are no post-referendum arrangements yet in place. Therefore, it is high time to start planning for the period after 2011. In view of the various scenario exercises and post-2011 negotiations planned, we call on those involved to put the safety, security, livelihoods and rights of the poorest and most vulnerable, including women, children, elderly, IDPs and refugees first. Whether the referendum leads to one united nation or two separate nations, it is essential to put in place meaningful arrangements for a peaceful transition. In the case of unity, issues of national identity, power- and wealth-sharing need to be addressed. If separation, issues such as the position of southerners and churches in the north, the arrangements for resources such as oil and water, and the status of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, need to be addressed to ensure peaceful relations between the two new neighbors.”
According to the ICG, “Unless the international community, notably the U.S., the UN, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the Horn of Africa Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperate to support both CPA implementation and vital additional negotiations, return to North-South war and escalation of conflict in Darfur are likely….
“The challenge is to craft a process that produces credible and fair elections, an on-schedule referendum and, if its decision is independence, two economically viable and stable democratic states. The CPA provides the overall political framework but does not address the Darfur crisis, the post-2011 arrangements or intra-South issues. Consequently, an additional protocol that addresses these issues, unites the several peace processes and revises the timing of some benchmarks should be negotiated.”
A recent delegation of “eminent persons” from the All Africa Council of Churches to Juba articulated recommendations to individual nations, the AU and the UN that emphasize accompaniment of the CPA implementation with funds and political pressure; investigation, monitoring and control of small arms flows into and within Sudan; ensuring that pledges from the international community to Sudan are honored and that the appropriate international agencies are mandated to resume the resettlement program. The “eminent persons” delegation further recommended that the international community, with the local government, ensure the security of all returnees; investigate and take action on the human rights violations that are continuing in the oil producing regions of Sudan; and closely accompany the election process, helping to secure a coordinated, just and peaceful process that gives the people of Sudan the possibility to make an informed and free choice of its leaders. Communities of faith were particularly encouraged to “step up the accompaniment for Sudan and continue to pray, engage and advocate (at the centers of power and on the issues identified above) for peace, truth, justice, reconciliation and development for all people of Sudan.”