Sudan Roundtable in Juba

Tasneem Jamal

Author
Lynne Griffiths-Fulton

The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2006 Volume 27 Issue 4

Since January 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended a decades-long conflict between north and south Sudan and instituted an interim arrangement to share power and resources for 6-1/2 years, Sudan has achieved some notable goals. The Government of National Unity (GoNU) has been formed and the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), which administers 10 states in the southern part of the country, has been established, although the official boundary between the North and South remains under dispute.

The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly has convened and established various Ministries. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), various UN agencies and international NGOs, and an increasingly active indigenous civil society have provided a welcome impetus to implementation of the CPA.

However, there have also been a number of obstacles and delays. Most glaring are the delays in transferring oil revenues from the North to the South, deployment of Joint/Integrated Units of the armed forces, implementation of DDR (disarmament, demobilization, reintegration) processes, and execution of security arrangements agreed under the CPA.

In October Project Ploughshares’s Executive Director John Siebert and Program Associate Lynne Griffiths-Fulton traveled to Juba in Sudan to take part in a roundtable. Project Ploughshares and the Africa Peace Forum, a non-governmental organization based in Nairobi, Kenya, are engaged in a three-year research and engagement project, “Building the Capacity for Sustainable Peace.” Launched in 2005, this project continues work in Sudan by Ploughshares and APFO that began in 1999 and is supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

This roundtable brought together key stakeholders – civil society representatives and government officials – who are trying to bring sustainable peace to Sudan. Discussion at the meeting focused on commissioned research on power-sharing and people-to-people peace processes, and discussions on problems in implementing DDR and security arrangements. The meeting provided an opportunity to look at ways to more fully support and encourage full implementation of the CPA. And, while participants were concerned about delays, they understood that establishing a stable peace in a complex post-conflict environment could take more time and effort than parties to the agreement originally anticipated.

Overview

In remarks that began the roundtable, APFO’s Director, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, noted that a lot of work remains to be done in Sudan to consolidate peace and prevent a return to a situation of conflict. A worrying trend in Sudan is the presence of too many actors who could pose a threat to the nascent government. Civic education about the CPA is necessary for both Northern and Southern Sudanese. He also underlined that sustainable peace in Sudan is linked to stable regional security. For example, Somalia’s Transitional Federal government, which is supported by Ethiopia, is threatened by advances by the Islamic Courts Union. If conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia breaks out, the stability of the whole region could be threatened.

But Ambassador Kiplagat also saw signs of hope in the region. Talks, mediated by the Government of South Sudan, are ongoing between the Ugandan Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Abuja agreement on Darfur, while not fully realized, has been signed by parties to the conflict. A ceasefire, although shaky, has been signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

So, although there are still many challenges to overcome in the region, Ambassador Kiplagat stressed the importance of recognizing how much progress has been made. Of the Sudanese case he said, “The CPA has many faults but it is also a framework for positive peacebuilding.”

Power-sharing

In his presentation, Dr. Alfred Lokuji, an independent Sudanese researcher, highlighted some of the main obstacles that hamper implementation of the CPA’s power-sharing recommendations. He cited:

  • the lack of political will in the North, evidenced by Khartoum’s refusal to give powerful ministries such as Finance or Energy and Mining to Southerners;
  • a split in the South between those who want to give unity a chance and those who believe that “the unity of the people and territory of Southern Sudan shall be supreme over other considerations”;
  • delays in setting up appropriate democratic federal institutions and questions about whether those delays have been deliberate and who provides the oversight;
  • tensions between officials and individuals allied to the late John Garang and Salva Kiir Mayardit (now Vice-President of Sudan and President of South Sudan) that could diminish the already shallow pool of Southern Sudan leaders;
  • ethnic conflict that could be fuelled if issues such as disarmament are not handled properly; and
  • demands by groups excluded from the CPA that could threaten the fragile peace.

Despite such significant barriers, Lokuji suggested that the CPA was a very important tool that needed to be developed. He stressed that certain priorities such as the security arrangements and the creation of democratic institutions and structures need to be given attention over the next two or three years in the lead up to the referendum. Like Ambassador Kiplagat, Lokuji was hopeful that, if fully implemented, the CPA can provide some of the key safeguards needed to maintain peace and security.

People-to-people peace processes

The discussion on people-to-people peace initiatives was led by Dr Dan Alila, who provided examples of successful grassroots, community-based peacebuilding initiatives that had been developed to deal with conflicts between specific groups. The lessons learned clearly showed that space should be made for these interventions during the interim period. It was felt that they could be helpful in raising awareness about the CPA and encourage interactions between new government leaders and communities and their traditional leaders. Participants acknowledged that organized civil society groups (NGOs, faith-based groups) are needed as honest brokers to facilitate these processes, particularly in the many places where traditional community systems are in disarray following the civil conflict.

Using the same approach to deal with tensions between North and South was discussed, but some participants thought that it could be seen as a move to promote unity between North and South. Many Southerners do not want to unite with the North and would use destabilizing political manoeuvres to counter any moves to make the concept of unity attractive. Participants acknowledged that the issue of religion would be a major obstacle to these kinds of initiatives between North and South. However, people-to-people processes should not be ruled out entirely but need to reflect the realities of a post-war environment to be effective.

Track II diplomacy could also be helpful. The international community could bolster the Government of South Sudan by engaging more fully in such activity. The donor community could also be helpful by providing technical and financial resources for continuing support.

Security arrangements

Participants generally agreed that implementing the CPA’s security arrangements is key to building sustainable peace. Although the CPA outlines security arrangements – status and integration of armed forces, North-South DDR processes, and ceasefire and monitoring – much more is needed. Unfortunately, so far, even the agreed arrangements are far from fully implemented.

Representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the DDR Commission of South Sudan both spoke of the need to undertake the appropriate measures that will ensure greater community safety and create a more democratic security sector. Besides the successful implementation of the CPA security arrangements, the following are critical:

  • intensified demining,
  • small arms collection and control,
  • intercommunal security cooperation mechanisms,
  • civilian control over military institutions, and
  • the integration of Sudan into a reliable Horn of Africa security architecture

Small arms pose a particular problem, as do armed militias that are not part of the ceasefire and monitoring framework. The combination of readily available small arms and unemployed young men continues to hamper community development.

Results of the UNDP’s pilot community disarmament project point to an arms control approach, rather than full disarmament. Developing this approach into national small arms legislation will need the assistance of technical experts from civil society. It was suggested that this is a concrete initiative that APFO and Project Ploughshares could follow up as part of their ongoing work.

Future work

Following the roundtable, some of the attendees met with the President of the Government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, to share information about the project and encourage him to include civil society in the reconstruction process. On behalf of the GoSS, he expressed appreciation for the efforts of civil society and affirmed the need to deal with the pervasive presence of small arms and light weapons to ensure greater country-wide peace and security.

It was evident from the discussions that implementation of the CPA must include sustained resolve from all stakeholders. While it is obvious when witnessing the desperate need of the people in Juba that much must be done to rebuild a viable and sustainable society, the fact that the peace has held for over a year provides some degree of hope that the CPA is being implemented, however slowly. The work that Ploughshares and APFO will engage in over the next year-and-a-half will complement other initiatives being undertaken by actors in the political, economic, and humanitarian realms to ensure progress continues.

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