A Reluctance to Negotiate

The SPLA's apparent reluctance to seriously negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict is a matter of record. The SPLA has waged war since 1983 against several governments in Khartoum - military, transitional and democratic - and repeated attempts at a negotiated resolution of the conflict have failed. While it is true that several governments came and went in the 1980s - there were six coalition governments during Sadiq al-Mahdi's tenure alone - the same government has now been in power in Sudan since 1989. The SPLA has constantly changed the conditions it has set for ending the war and negotiating. In the 1980s it demanded that Sudan's military pacts with other countries be abrogated, that Nimeiri's September 1983 sharia laws be repealed and that there should be a national constitutional conference. Sudan's military pacts have been dropped, in 1991 the government exempted southern Sudan from sharia law and the Libyan-Egyptian initiative envisages a national dialogue conference. Yet the war continues, SPLA demands change and peace talks falter. Negotiation is about dialogue. John Garang's stated position in 1999, however, was that "the [Sudanese government] cannot be reformed, it must be removed". This was echoed again as recently as 2001 when he stated that "negotiations must lead to the dismantling of the NIF regime". These statements perhaps explain some of the impasse within the peace process.

John Garang's disdain for the IGAD peace process has also been illustrated by his launching of large-scale offensives often one or two days before, or on the same day as, IGAD-brokered peace talks. On one occasion, thirty minutes before the June 2001 IGAD peace summit was due to be held in Nairobi, the SPLA faxed a statement to Associated Press stating that its forces had captured the southern town of Raga, declaring "this is excellent timing". Similarly, during the September 2000 IGAD peace talks, the SPLA escalated its military activity claiming to have inflicted "heavy loss of life and equipment" on government forces and to have captured the garrison town of Tahajulbolis. It has also not escaped the attention of the international community that on the occasions that the Sudanese government, conscious of international concerns about bombing, has declared a cessation of aerial bombardment within southern Sudan, the rebels have responded with new and vigorous military offensives: these offensives have themselves provoked a continuation of bombing in counter-response.

Despite clearly lacking legitimacy either as a national or even necessarily a regional force, the SPLA has nevertheless been unable to resist attempting to impose models on northern Sudan and Sudan as a whole. The SPLA, for example, has long demanded as a pre-condition for peace in Sudan that there be a total separation of religion and state in Sudan, that Islamic law be abolished throughout Sudan, north and south. This ignores the reality of Sudan's religious make-up. The Sudanese people are overwhelmingly Muslim. Nationally, Christians account for perhaps five percent of the population. Even in southern Sudan, where Christians make up perhaps fifteen percent of the population, with Muslims also accounting for a sizeable minority, the majority of the people are animist. As the SPLA has repeatedly been identified as a Christian rebel organisation, and given that John Garang has called the New Sudan Council of Churches the "spiritual wing of the Movement", there are additional questions that must be asked about how representative the SPLA are of the southern Sudanese population. Considering also that the government has exempted southern Sudan from Islamic sharia law, for the very reason that it does not have a Muslim majority population, it is questionable that the SPLA, at best questionably representative of sections of southern Sudanese society, seeks to dictate the political and religious dispensation within northern Sudan. While it has become convenient to claim that the conflict in Sudan is a religious one, sparked by the Nimeiri regime's introduction of Islamic laws in September 1983, the simple fact is that the second phase of the war began several months earlier, and was in a direct response to constitutional and political changes within southern Sudan. In September 2001, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan stated that: "church interlocuters almost unanimously share the general opinion that the war has no religious motivation."

The key issue of a referendum on self-determination has also shown SPLA contradictions. Given that the SPLA has been continually projected as fighting for southern Sudanese self-determination, the SPLA showed remarkable reluctance in embracing Khartoum's repeated offers of a internationally-supervised referendum whereby the people of southern Sudan could choose either unity or separation - offers outlined in the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement and incorporated into Sudan's 1999 constitution. Rather than seizing upon this offer, the SPLA chose first to downplay it and when the organisation did accept the concept of a referendum the SPLA then demanded that any such referendum should include a redrawing of the 1956 boundaries of what constituted southern Sudan. They additionally complicated matters by demanding that other areas of Sudan, namely the Nuba mountains and Ingessana hills, should also be afforded referenda on self-determination. It would be analogous to parties to a referendum in Canada on Quebec's political status demanding that the province's boundaries be redrawn and that parts of Ontario and Labrador be included. This attitude has been criticised by veteran southern Sudanese opposition politicians such as the Dinka elder Bona Malwal. Speaking out in May 2000, Malwal, a former culture and information minister, publisher of the opposition Sudan Democratic Gazette, and NDA executive member, stated: "I have noticed and revealed the duplicity with which you have participated in the peace process. Many Southerners have spoken for some time about the need to arrive at a Southern consensus over the question of Self-Determination. They recognise the need to fill the vacuum created by your vague goals for the war of liberation. After seventeen years of this bloody war in which two million of our people have perished, the Northern Sudanese political establishment as a whole has said that they would negotiate a political agreement with you to work out the modalities for a referendum on self-determination for the South. Yet, you have personally dodged this issue - as seen in the way you have briefed your delegations to the various rounds of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) peace talks..Perhaps your own tactics make you blind to this, but there is indeed increasing support among the Southern Sudanese people for pursuing peace, if peace is pursued honestly, diligently and in good faith by the other side. How many more millions of Southern Sudanese do you want to die to satisfy your ego?"

The SPLA position with regard to the Libyan-Egyptian initiative has also been characterised by its usual ambiguity. In erratic shifts in position, for example, the SPLA in 1999 both accepted and then rejected Libyan-Egyptian attempts at peace-making, sometimes within the space of 48 hours. In 2001 they repeated this pattern.

And, most recently, in April 2001, the SPLA has refused to accept the government's repeated offers of a comprehensive cease-fire stating that it would only agree a cease-fire if the government ended oil production in Sudan knowing all too well that it would be impossible for the Sudanese government to meet such a demand. It has repeatedly been claimed that oil revenues would encourage Khartoum to pursue a military solution to the conflict at the expense of negotiations. The fact is that since oil began to be exported from Sudan in September 1998, the government has offered or called for a cease-fire on at least twelve occasions. It has been the SPLA that has refused to respond to offers of a peaceful resolution of the war.

The Clinton Administration's Sudan Policy

Any study of the search for peace in Sudan in the 1990s cannot ignore the impediment to that process posed by the Clinton Administration. In April 2001, for example, former United States President Carter, perhaps the single most respected and objective commentator on events within Sudan, said of this period: "For the last eight years, the U.S. has had a policy which I strongly disagree with in Sudan, supporting the revolutionary movement and not working for an overall peace settlement." This echoed earlier concerns voiced by Carter. In December 1999 he had observed:

The people in Sudan want to resolve the conflict. The biggest obstacle is US government policy. The US is committed to overthrowing the government in Khartoum. Any sort of peace effort is aborted, basically by policies of the United States.Instead of working for peace in Sudan, the US government has basically promoted a continuation of the war.

Washington's attempts to destabilise the biggest country in Africa, a politically delicate country made up of a number of ethnic groups, hundreds of tribes and languages, and an Islamic-Christian fault line is simply incomprehensible. Sudan has ten neighbouring states. A successful attempt to destabilise and fragment Sudan would very likely lead to the "Lebanonisation" of the country, with all the grave implications that would entail. Alternatively, Sudan might become another Somalia, an anarchic patchwork of clan and tribal allegiances. As early as February 1997, commentators had outlined the regional dangers of Washington's policies. In an article entitled 'US Masterminds 3-Pronged War on Sudan', Africa Analysis reported:

There is growing anxiety in eastern and central Africa that Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda, the Americans and their European friends are steering into open warfare with Sudan. This is in turn stimulating contrary alliances extending to the shifting frontline of the Great Lakes region.The ramifications are alarming diplomats [in Nairobi].

The dangers of this involvement were also clear to American newspapers such as The Boston Globe: "To the peril of regional stability, the Clinton Administration has used northern Uganda as a military training ground for southern Sudanese rebels fighting the Muslim government of Khartoum."

This American attitude was all the more regrettable since the Sudanese government has repeatedly invited constructive United States involvement within Sudan.

It is clear what effect the Clinton Administration's military and political support for the SPLA had on the movement's willingness to negotiate a political settlement. Former President Carter observed at the time: "I think Garang now feels he doesn't need to negotiate because he anticipates a victory brought about by increasing support from his immediate neighbors, and also from the United States and indirectly from other countries". Sadly, in 2000 and 2001, the United States Congress voted millions of dollars worth of assistance to Sudanese rebels. Again, these are actions which probably serve to reinforce SPLA intransigence with regard to peace talks.

The Clinton Administration's message was also not lost on some of Sudan's neighbours. Carter bluntly stated that the Clinton Administration's millions of dollars in military aid to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda was "a tacit demonstration of support for the overthrow of the Khartoum government". In addition to its involvement within the internal peace process within Sudan, therefore, the government also had to spend considerable attention in securing peaceful relations with its neighbours, neighbours that had been encouraged to wage war on Sudan. This encouragement took the form of political, financial and military support, including grants of tens of millions of dollars worth of military assistance to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Sudan has successfully sought to re-establish peaceful relationships with these countries. In March 2000 Sudan and Ethiopia stated that their countries' ties were "now much stronger" than they were in early 1990s. The two governments announced that they had signed agreements on cooperation in political, security, trade, roads, communications, agriculture and other spheres. It was also announced in November 2000 that Sudan will be exporting oil to Ethiopia, and that an oil pipeline linking the two countries was being considered. In January 2000, Eritrea and Sudan resumed diplomatic relations with each other. Eritrea handed back the Sudanese embassy building to the Sudanese government. The Eritrean government had previously given it to the Sudanese rebels.

In December 1999, Sudan and Uganda signed an agreement brokered by Jimmy Carter which sought to normalise relations. This agreement sought to end support for combatants in their respective civil wars. Despite having signed this, and other, agreements pledging an end to military support for the SPLA rebels, Uganda has, however, continued such assistance. The first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eriya Kategaya, appearing before the Ugandan parliamentary committee on presidential and foreign affairs, stated for example that Uganda would not stop supporting the SPLA. He said that "To be seen to abandon them because we want peace with (Sudanese President) Bashir is not correct." Six months after having signed the December 1999 Nairobi accord, Museveni admitted to the Ugandan newspaper New Vision that Uganda was still providing the SPLA with weapons. Nevertheless, continuing Ugandan-Sudanese talks have seen progress. It is with Egypt, however, that Sudan has established a very constructive new relationship. Up until Sudanese independence in 1956, Egypt and Sudan had essentially been one country. Egypt still looks on Sudan as its hinterland, and has long been concerned about the unity of Sudan. Whatever the past differences may have been, from 1999 onwards Egypt and Sudan normalised their relations. The Egyptian government has also entered into a constructive dialogue with Sudan culminating in its involvement in the Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative. In 1999 Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa stated that "Egypt sees al-Bashir as the head of the Sudanese state and as a representative of his country". Egypt and Sudan were bound up, he said, by "eternal, special, historical, and future relations". In 2000, Moussa further stated: "There's now an openness in Sudan's government. It is prepared to listen and negotiate and reach a vision for a new Sudan that accepts all opposition factions."

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development Peace Process

The focus for many of the Sudanese peace talks has been the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development. Since the IGAD peace initiative commenced in September 1993, there have been 18 rounds of talks and meetings, including heads of state and ministerial summits. There has been a growing frustration with this particular forum. It has also been noted that the initial IGAD peace committee, made up of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Uganda, has not always been the most neutral forum given that three of these countries charged with working to secure peace in Sudan were simultaneously involved in militarily destabilising Sudan at various points since 1993. Human Rights Watch reported, for example, that it "found growing involvement in the war in Sudan by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Uganda through arms flows, the hosting of armed opposition forces, and some direct intervention." The IGAD initiative dealt exclusively with dialogue between the government and the SPLA. This excluded those northern opposition parties within the National Democratic Alliance. Given that the SPLA had come into the coalition in 1995 and had agreed the projection of the NDA as the single voice of Sudanese opposition, any attempt to resolve Sudan's conflict - which included armed insurrection by several northern opposition groupings within the NDA - through a forum only addressing SPLA, and arguably southern Sudanese, concerns and issues was skewed. Additionally, neighbours such as Egypt and Libya were excluded from involvement in this process given the IGAD membership structure. Several of these concerns had been voiced by Umma Party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi. In July 1999 he outlined a threefold criticism of the IGAD process: its restriction to "only.two parties to the conflict"; and its exclusion of constitutional issues; its exclusion of "other equally concerned neighbours".

Given the apparent stalemate that has characterised the IGAD process, the attraction of the Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative, and particularly its inclusiveness politically, is clear.

The History of Negotiations

Within days of coming to power in July 1989, the present government led by President Bashir invited the SPLA leader, John Garang, to take part in a negotiated settlement of the civil war. The government also declared a unilateral cease-fire, and announced a general amnesty for all those who had fought against the government since 1983. Garang rejected the call, and rebel forces continued their military activity, seizing, for example, the town of Kurmuk in eastern Sudan later that year.

At the Organisation of African Unity summit meeting in Addis Ababa in July 1989 President Bashir confirmed his government's commitment to securing a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Sudanese conflict. The Government met with SPLA representatives in Addis Ababa from 18-22 August, and it was agreed to continue a dialogue. This was the first ever meeting between a government of Sudan and rebels since the beginning of the present civil war in 1983. The Sudanese government convened a national conference on peace issues, which lasted six weeks from 9 September until 21 October 1989; Garang and the SPLA were invited to participate. Attended by a large number of groups and organisations, this conference passed several resolutions, including calls for greater political participation and power sharing, the need to recognise cultural and ethnic diversity and the need for a more equitable sharing of the national wealth.

The government held a second round of negotiations with the SPLA in Nairobi from 28 November-5 December 1989, talks facilitated by the former United States President, Jimmy Carter. The Khartoum government presented an agenda for discussion and the representatives of the rebel movement acknowledged the resolutions of the national dialogue conference on peace as being constructive. This featured in the final communiqué. The government addressed the issue of federalism and decentralisation. A federal system was introduced, whereby Sudan was divided into nine states with devolved powers. The southern states, those with a non-Muslim majority, were exempted from the sharia law.

In June 1991, President Bashir accepted a peace initiative advanced by the Nigerian head-of-state, President Ibrahim Babangida. The Nigerian government drafted an agenda and fixed the date of this round of meetings. These peace talks were held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, from 26 May-4 June 1992. Prior to this pivotal meeting, however, the SPLA had split into two factions in August 1991: the Nasir faction, led by Dr Riek Machar, had orchestrated the split, and the remaining faction, known then as the Torit faction, continued to be headed by John Garang. (The Torit faction would come to be known as SPLA-Mainstream and then just SPLA.) The Sudanese government met with representatives of the Nasir faction in both Nairobi, London and Frankfurt. This range of meetings culminated in crucial proximity talks in Frankfurt in February 1992. The Nasir rebel grouping agreed to accept federalism as the basis for negotiating an end to the Sudanese civil war. The Torit faction declared itself in favour of confederation or self-determination for southern Sudan.

The Abuja peace talks ended with the following resolutions: that a negotiated, peaceful resolution of the Sudanese conflict was needed and it was agreed that President Babangida would continue to mediate between the two sides; that Sudan was a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-faith country and that a constitutional and political dispensation similar to that within Nigeria should be explored; to agree on interim confidence-building measures; to establish a committee to examine equitable wealth-sharing measures during the interim period, and to resume Nigerian-sponsored talks. The Abuja peace talks were marred by continued schisms within the opposition ranks. William Nyuon, John Garang's deputy within the Torit faction, had represented SPLA-Torit at the talks. At a subsequent press conference in Kampala, Garang claimed that Nyuon had exceeded his authority during the Abuja talks. This disagreement resulted in another split within the SPLA, with Nyuon leading a third faction. In the aftermath of Abuja 1, John Garang contradicted the resolutions agreed at Abuja 1, insisting on a confederal model of two nations with separate constitutional arrangements and political institutions, with separate sovereignty in the fields of defence and foreign affairs. The Nigerian-mediated peace process stalled for several months. This deadlock was broken during a meeting at Entebbe in Uganda in February 1993 sponsored by the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Garang assured President Museveni that he did accept the Abuja 1 resolutions and that he would also accept whatever was agreed by his faction's negotiators at the forthcoming Abuja 2 peace talks.

Preliminary discussions between the government of Sudan and the John Garang faction of the SPLA preceded the Abuja 2 negotiations. The official talks took place between 1-17 May 1993. A wide number of constitutional, political and social issues were discussed. The peace-talks focused on several themes: power-sharing between central authority and federated states, the powers of a central authority, the use of referendums as a means of judging the wishes of people in southern Sudan. It was agreed that any future dispensation would involve a distinct separation of powers within Sudan. A number of interim measures were discussed, including security and military considerations, the resettlement and rehabilitation of those affected by the civil war and the status of the south during any future interim period. A considerable amount of common ground was covered and agreed, and the Nigerian hosts of the talks began drafting the final communiqué. John Garang arrived in Abuja one day before the end of the talks and demanded the redrafting of what had previously been agreed upon to include that any residual powers not specifically vested with central government would devolve to the states, a reversal of accepted federal models whereby those powers not vested with the states are reserved to the federal government. These demands effectively derailed the Abuja 2 peace-talks. The Nigerian government issued a statement outlining the course of the talks, the agreements and disagreements, and calling upon the two sides to continue their dialogue. Nigeria also declared its willingness to continue its mediation efforts.

The split in the SPLA had meant that for any meaningful attempt to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict, the government of Sudan had to engage in meetings with the various factions. At the same time as it was engaged in the Abuja 2 talks with that faction which then came to style itself SPLA-Mainstream, previously known as the Torit faction, the Khartoum administration was also involved in negotiations in Nairobi with that faction which came to be known as SPLA-United. (SPLA-United was an amalgamation of the Nasir faction with those groupings led by William Nyuon and Kerubino.)

The Nairobi talks were held from 10-25 May 1993. Both sides in these talks agreed that interim arrangements regarding the distribution of political power and wealth, religious issues, security arrangements and the referendum issue would be brought into being within a united, federal Sudan. There was also mutual agreement on power-sharing issues, the political and constitutional involvement of southern Sudan at a national level, human rights guarantees, and the need for a referendum to resolve key issues. With regard to sharia law, it was agreed that generally-agreed basic laws would be applied at national level, with the proviso that the states reserved the right to enact locally-specific legislation, such as traditional laws, in addition to federal laws. Areas of disagreement between the government and the SPLA-United grouping included whether or not Sudan should be administered as one or more units, the length of the transitional period and security arrangements during projected interim period.

Further meetings were held between the government and SPLA-United in August 1993, significantly inside Sudan itself, at Fashoda in the Upper Nile state. At both these meetings in Fashoda and before, the government and SPLA-United reached several agreements with respect to the logistics of humanitarian assistance, the opening up, for example, of land and river corridors for such aid, and non-hindrance of refugee and development projects in areas of conflict.

There were several subsequent rounds of peace negotiations between the government and the various rebel factions. Four rounds of peace-talks were held in Nairobi in 1994 under the auspices of the then Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development. IGADD drew up a declaration of principles which it hoped would constitute the basis for resolving the Sudanese conflict (agreement on this declaration was only reached in 1997). The government also convened a conference in Juba itself in May 1994 for southern Sudanese leaders and groupings to discuss a peaceful resolution of the political and social problems facing Sudan. The convention called for peace within Sudan, following the process of "peace from within" and saw the establishment of a body dedicated to securing peace in Sudan, the Supreme Council for Peace. This was brought into being by Presidential Decree Number 80.

The 1996 Political Charter

The 'Peace from Within' process in Sudan was a reflection of concerns, in large part realised, that at that time the Sudanese people could not rely on outside guidance and assistance in their search for peace, given the antipathy and unwillingness of several states to assist in the search for a lasting peace in Sudan.

Dr Riek Machar, the leader of the South Sudan Independence Movement, and Commander Kerubino Bol Kuanyin, the leader of the SPLA/Bar-al-Gazal Group, signed a Political Charter with the government of Sudan on 10 April 1996 in Khartoum. While stating that Sudanese unity should be preserved, the charter agreed a referendum to determine the political aspirations of the people of southern Sudan. It also agreed that citizenship shall be the basis of rights and duties. The establishment of a southern coordinating council in southern Sudan was also agreed.

In signing the Political Charter, Dr Machar stated that "although the real causes of war have long been identified, yet successive national governments in the past deliberately evaded providing a realistic and acceptable solution to the conflict. Promises and agreements were made but hardly honoured. Thus the war continued for forty years, resulting in untold loss in human lives, and property, retardation of socio-economic development, massive displacement of people, famine, diseases and break down of social fabric and traditions in Southern Sudan". Machar added that the signing of the political charter "is a clear demonstration to a commitment by both the current leadership of the Sudan and the South Sudan Independence Movement to start a new path to peace, stability, prosperity in the country". The referendum issue was central to the process: "Elaborate legal and constitutional procedures ought to be worked out and agreed upon for the ascertainment through a referendum of views of the people of southern Sudan with respect to their political and constitutional status at the end of the interim period". Commander Kerubino stated that the Political Charter would be "safeguarding the right of Southern Sudanese to participate in a full ruling of the country in guaranteeing the equitable share of wealth and resources of the country by its people and state."

Interviewed after the signing, Machar was asked why he had chosen to sign a peace agreement with the present government of Sudan: "We started dialogue in 1986 with Sewar El Dahab (leader of the Transitional Government after the downfall of Numeiri) and we did not reach any solution. During Sadiq El Mahdi's regime, we doubled our efforts, but no progress was achieved. And when the National Salvation Revolution came to power, we also further doubled our efforts. We started peace talks in 1989 in Nairobi, then under the auspices of former US president Mr Jimmy Carter and the Abuja 1 and 2 and several IGADD efforts and the Frankfurt talks. But Garang was always the obstacle. We tried to convince him but in vain...And then after IGADD, we decided to do it ourselves...we are convinced that this government is serious to reach a solution." These views were echoed by Kerubino who also stated: "We think this government is serious and committed to realise peace. And, after all, war was not our objective. We had reasons to go to the bush and start fighting and now we are here to challenge the government on the spot politically."

On 31 July 1996 the government also signed an understanding with the Nuba Mountain Central Committee of the SPLA of Commander Mohammed Haroun Kafi. Negotiations with Sudanese rebel leaders continued for the rest of 1996 and into 1997.

The 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement

As a result of this search for a comprehensive peace, on 21 April 1997, a Peace Agreement was signed in Khartoum. It was signed by the Sudanese Vice-President, Zubeir Mohammed Salih and by Dr Riek Machar, representing the Southern Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM), which was the largest of the rebel groups taking part in the peace process. Other signatories were Commander Kerubino Bol Kuanyin, for the SPLA (Bahr al-Gazal Group), Theophilus Ochang Lotti, for the Equatoria Defence Force, Kawac Makwei, for the South Sudan Independents Group, Arok Thon Arok, for the SPLA/Bor Group, Samuel Aru Bol, for the Union of Sudanese African Parties (USAP), which was itself made up of seven political parties - the Southern Sudan Political Association, the People's Progressive Party, the Sudan African Congress, the Sudan African People's Congress, the Southern Sudan Federal Party, the Sudan African National Union and the Sudan National Party. Also present were the Sudanese President, General Omer al-Bashir, the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Hassan al-Turabi, and other senior government officials, civil servants and army representatives. The Agreement carries into effect the principles agreed in the preliminary rounds of discussions described above, and incorporated in the Peace Charters.

Firstly in respect of southern aspirations for self-determination, there is to be a free and fair - and internationally monitored - referendum in southern Sudan after four years, to determine whether the people of the south desire independence or federation.

Second, in the meantime the sources of law in Sudan are to be Islamic sharia and local custom, but each of the 26 States created by the Twelfth Constitutional Decree of 1995, which introduced a federal system, is to have the right to make such supplementary laws as it finds just or convenient. Southern Sudan would be exempt from Islamic law. This provision settles the dispute that may not have restarted the civil war in 1983, but which certainly embittered it, and which the Governments led by Sadiq al-Mahdi conspicuously failed to address in the late 1980s.

Third, the Agreement guarantees all the usual freedoms - of movement, assembly, organisation, speech, and press in accordance with the laws in force in the country, and in accordance with the relevant international treaties. The Sudanese Supreme Court is to be the custodian of the Constitution, which will include the Agreement as entrenched legislation, alterable only by a special process. Worth mentioning are the articles that spell out that there shall be no official discrimination for or against any religion. Though overwhelmingly an Islamic country, Sudan is to give an equality of civil and other rights to its five percent Christian minority, and to the rather larger minority of animists.

Fourth, the Agreement provides that Southerners shall be equitably represented in all constitutional, legislative and executive organs at the Federal level. It decrees the formation of a 25-Member Southern Coordination Council, which is to include a President, 13 Ministers and the 10 Southern Sudan Governors. One of the permanent grievances of Southerners since before independence in 1956 has been the monopolisation of office by Northerners. The present Government has tried to redress this historic imbalance. The making of a formal guarantee of affirmative action at the official level is a logical extension.

Fifth, and following from the above, there is to be a formal sharing of national resources between the different regions of Sudan, with priority being given to reconstruction in the south.

Sixth, while Arabic is to be the official language of Sudan, English is to be the second language. This again settles one of the Southern grievances - the cultural domination of the Arabic North over the more English-speaking South. Moreover, other, traditional, languages are to be encouraged and developed, especially in the media.

The significance of the 1997 Agreement was that it represented at that time the boldest and most sustained effort in Sudanese history to bring about a just and lasting settlement to the Sudanese civil war. The rebel leaders who took part in the negotiations deserve high praise for their statesmanship in coming to the negotiating table. So also does the Sudanese Government, for having broken a deadlock that had defeated every previous government - and for having defied predictions that it would fight the civil war to the bitter end. The Southern Coordination Council was also established in August 1997.

It was significant that so many years of negotiations were focused amongst Sudanese, within Sudan itself. The result of this internal peace dialogue were the 1996 Peace Charters, the April 1997 Peace Agreement and subsequent agreements such as that with Dr Lam Akol, leader of the SPLA-United. The SPLA's intransigence amid calls to enter this process undermined the achievements made in 1996 and 1997. That the Government was still keen to include all parties to the conflict was demonstrated by its acceptance of the regional Inter-Government Authority on Development's declaration of principles in Nairobi in July 1997.

A heavy price was paid by the Sudanese government in its search for "peace from within". In February 1998, a transport plane carrying a senior peace delegation headed by the first Vice-President General Zubeir Mohammed Salih, the man responsible for negotiating the political charters and the 1997 Khartoum peace agreement, crashed near Nasir in southern Sudan. Vice-President Zubeir died along with 26 others, including the former rebel leader Arok Thon Arok.

In conclusion the following can be observed. The present Sudanese government declared within weeks of its coming to power that there could not be a military solution to the Sudanese conflict. It has also been the present Sudanese government that has sought to resolve the conflict with constitutional proposals and enacted legislation unprecedented in Sudan's post-independence history - actions which addressed all previous southern Sudanese aspirations as articulated by southern Sudanese leaders. These policies constituted a distinct break with the policies of previous governments. In 1991 the government exempted southern Sudan from the Islamic sharia law introduced by President Nimeiri in 1983 and maintained by successive administrations. Khartoum also introduced a federal system in Sudan, another long-standing southern call, which saw the formation of 26 states, ten of which within southern Sudan, governed by southerners. The 1997 peace agreement saw the granting of special status to southern Sudan with the creation of a Coordinating Council, in effect a southern government within the Sudanese federal system. This was incorporated into the 1998 Constitution. All this certainly follows the "one country, two systems" formula advanced by the SPLA. And, unlike any government before it, the present administration also accepted the holding of an internationally-monitored referendum whereby the people of southern Sudan could choose between unity or separation. This attitude must be compared to the inflexibility of previous Sudanese governments. None offered anything like these attempts to address the southern conflict, and the constitutional issues at its core. This attitude must also be compared to the intransigence of the SPLA and what can only but be described as the lack of negotiating will on its part. The SPLA has failed to recognise and seize the unprecedented political and constitutional opportunities for peace that exist. It has seemingly opted instead to pursue a futile military solution.

The "peace from within" activities of the Sudanese government were also gradually augmented with new constitutional reforms and the introduction of multi-party politics in the country. It was these changes which unfolded in the late 1990s which came to persuade key opposition leaders such as former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi that genuine political changes had come to Sudan. It is clear that for the SPLA their war in southern Sudan is, as stated by the Comboni missionaries, "no longer a struggle for freedom of the Sudanese people and for the defence of human rights". There can also be no doubt that the international community, and particularly the United States, has a vital role to play in bringing pressure to bear upon the SPLA to embrace the peace process within Sudan. Given that the IGAD process has for some time been blocked by SPLA intransigence, it is little wonder that we have seen the emergence of the Libyan-Egyptian initiative as an additional, and some would say an alternative path towards peace.


1 The SPLA is sometimes also referred to as the SPLM/A, a reference to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, presented as the political component of the organisation.=20

2 'U.S. News & World Report', 9 April 2001, p.36.

3 IGAD was originally known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD): "Drought" was later dropped from the title to become IGAD.

4 "EU and Sudan Agree to Mend Rifts Through Dialogue", 'Middle East Times', 19 November 1999. See, also, "EU Seeks to Renew Dialogue with Sudan Broken Off in 1996", News Article by Agence France Press, 10 November 1999. In July 2000, the countries of Africa also selected Sudan to represent the continent as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The fifty-three African nations chose Sudan over Mauritius and Uganda to succeed Namibia as the African representative on the Security Council. Although ultimately unsuccessful as the result of intense American lobbying, The Egyptian Foreign Minister said that "There is an African and an Arab decision in Sudan's favour concerning this issue."

5 See, for example, Majorie Lister, 'Conflict, Development and the Lome Convention', European Development Policy Study Group Discussion Paper No. 12, April 1999; 'Foreign and Humanitarian Aid: Paradox and
Perspectives', Medicines Sans Frontieres, March 2000 (available
); Don Hubert, "Resources, Greed, and the Persistence of Violent Conflict", 'Ploughshares Monitor', Canada, June 2000; "Feeding the War in Sudan", 'World Press Review', December 1998.

6 Sudan has over the past three years emerged as a leader of the region, developments which culminated in Sudan's hosting of the Eighth Heads of State summit of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) body, as well as the February 2001 Heads of State summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.

7 Sudan is amongst the first nine of twenty Common Market of East and Southern Africa member states to implement the first stage of the envisaged Free Trade Area. This will be Africa's first step towards full
regional integration and a common currency by 2025. See "Sudan to Join African Free Trade Area", News Article by Reuters, 30 October 2000.

8 See, for example, "Bush Launches Sudan Peace Effort", 'International Herald Tribune', 7 September 2001; "White House to Launch Sudan Peace Initiative", 'The Los Angeles Times', 5 September 2001.

9 "Developments in Sudan Favour National Reconciliation: Mahdi", News Article by Agence France Presse, 25 December 1999. See, for example, "Opposition Leader Predicts Solution to Sudan's Conflict", News
Article by PANA, 27 March 2000; "Sudanese Rebel Group to Enter Khartoum Politics", News Article by Agence France Presse, 20 March 2000; and "Mahdi's Withdrawal Dents Opposition Alliance", News Article by PANA, 25 March, 2000.

10 See, "Report: Sudan Accepts Egyptian-Libyan Peace Plan", News Article by Associated Press, 24 August 1999; "Sudan 'Willing' to Enter Peace Talks, Newspaper Says", News Article by Agence France Presse, 21
August 1999; "War-Torn Sudan Takes Step Towards National Dialogue", News Article by Reuters, 21 August 1999.

11 "Sudano-Egyptian Cooperation, Sudanese Reconciliation", News Article by Agence France Presse, 20 May 2000.

12 "Sudan's Opposition Leader Reiterates Support for Egyptian-Libyan Initiative", News Article by Xinhua, 15 August 2001.

13 See, most recently, for example, "Sudanese Government Declares Ceasefire", News Article by BBC World, 5 August 1999; "Sudanese Government Declares Comprehensive Cease-fire", News Article by Associated Press, 5 August 1999; "Sudan Government to Observe Ceasefire Despite SPLA Rejection", News Article by Agence France Presse, 7 August 1999; "EU Welcomes Cease-Fire in Sudan", News Article by Xinhua, 20
August 1999; "Annan Welcomes Ceasefire", News Article by United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network, Nairobi, 11 August 1999; "Annan Hails Sudan Cease-fire Allowing Aid to Flow", News Article by Reuters, 6 August 1999; "Sudanese Rebels Reject Peace Plan", News Article by BBC World, 30 August 1999; "Sudanese Rebels Reject Government Cease-Fire", News Article by Reuters, 5 August 1999.=20

14 See, for example, "Sudan's Government in Favour of Ceasefire in 18-year Civil War", News Article by Agence France Presse, 22 April 2001 and "Government "Ready for a Ceasefire', News Article by United Nations
Integrated Regional Information Network, Nairobi, 15 May 2001.

15 "Sudan Backs Combination of Arab and African Peace Drives", News Article by Agence France Presse, 24 October 1999.

16 See, for example, "Sudan calls for Western Pressure on southern Rebels to Accept Ceasefire", News Article by Agence France Presse, 26 April 2000; "US Catholic Clerics Urged to Pressurise Garang into Accepting Cease-Fire", News Article by Sudan News Agency, 27 March 2001; "Britain Can Pressurize Rebels to Realize Cease-Fire, Sudanese Diplomat", News Article by SUNA, 26 February 2001; "Sudanese Government Welcomes Carter's Initiative to End the War in southern Sudan", News Article by, 26 April 2001.

17 Summary of World Broadcasts, BBC, 15 December 1997.

18 See, for example, "Annan Calls on Sudan's SPLM Leader to Sign Ceasefire", News Article by Agence France Presse, 7 August 1999.

19 Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, UN Special Rapporteur Gerhart Baum, United Nations General Assembly, New York, A/56/150, 7 September 2001.

20 'The Economist', March 1998.

21 "Thousands Dying of Want in the Midst of Sudan's =A31m-a-day War",'The Independent' (London), 20 March 1999.

22 Even anti-government groups such as the British-based 'Nuba Survival' have observed that "Reflecting its Marxist-Leninist roots...the SPLM is engaged in a centralised, militaristic, single-party struggle that is antipathetic towards freedom of association", 'Committee of the Civil Project', available at

23 "Perpetuating an 'Emergency' in War-Torn Sudan", by Raymond Bonnere, 'The New York Times', 11 October 1998.

24 'Aid for Sudan Ending Up With SPLA: Relief Workers', News Article by Agence France Presse, 21 July, 1998 at 08:23:48.

25 In 2000 the United States government alone provided US$ 93.7 million in humanitarian assistance to southern Sudan ('Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and U.S. Policy', Issue Brief for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington-DC, 8 June 2001). The international community provides hundreds of dollars worth of additional aid each year.

26 "Declaration of the Comboni Missionaries Working in SouthernSudan", The Comboni Missionaries, Nairobi, 19 January 2001.

27 'The Catholic Telegraph', Online Edition No. 5, 2 February 2001.

28 The mission and church were burnt to the ground on 22 February 2001. See "Sudan Rebels Raze Town, Comboni Mission", News Article by Catholic World News on 15 March 2001.

29 See 'The SPLA: Fit to Govern? ', The British-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 1998. Available at

30 'Appendix E: Elected Governors of Ten Southern States', Famine in Sudan, 1998, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1998.

31 'Appendix E: Elected Governors of Ten Southern States', Faminein Sudan, 1998, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1998.

32 Mansour Khalid (Editor), 'The Call for Democracy in Sudan', Kegan Paul, London, 1992, p.137.

33 See, "Sudanese Rebel Leader wants 'United' Sudan with 'Equality'", News Article by Agence France Presse, 12 August 1999; "SPLA committed to Sudan unity", News Article by, 29 November 1997; "Separatist leader wants Sudan to Split into Two", News Article by BBC, 22 March 1999; "Sudanese Rebels Accused of Planning Separate State", News Article by Agence France Presse, 2 August 1999.

34 See, for example, "Southern Sudan's Two Rival Movements Announce Merger", News Article by Agence France Presse, 28 May 2001 and "Sudan Rebel Group and former Rivals Reunite", News Article by Reuters, 28 May 2001.

35 'Sudan: Human Rights Developments', World Report 1999.

36 'Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan', UN Special Rapporteur Gerhart Baum, United Nations General Assembly, New York, A/56/150, 7 September 2001.

37 'The Economist', March 1998.

38 'Sudan: The Ravages of War: Political Killings and Humanitarian Disaster', Amnesty International, London, AI Index: AFR 54/29/93, 29 September 1993, p.21.

39 See, 'The Sudan Peace Summit in Nashville (USA)', posted on Sudanese List MSU.EDU, 31 October 2001.

40 'Slavery, War and Peace in Sudan', Washington Office on Africa, Washington-DC, 29 November 1999.

41 John Prendergast, 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia', Pluto Press, London, 1997, p.57.

42 Ibid, p.56.

43 Ibid, p.57.

44 See, for example, "Growing Friction in Rebel-Held Southern Sudan", News Article by BBC Online, 9 June, 1999.

45 See, 'Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan', UN Special Rapporteur Gerhart Baum, United Nations General Assembly, New York, A/55/374, 11 September 2000, paras.38-42.

46 "Sudan Opposition Divided Over Talks with Khartoum", News Article by Reuters, 10 June 1999.

47 "Speech by the Chairman of SPLM and C-in-C SPLA Dr John Garang de Mabior on the 18th Anniversary of SPLM/SPLA", 16 May 2001.

48 "Sudan's Government Calls On International Community to Push for Cease-Fire", News Article by Associated Press, 5 June 2001.

49 "Sudan: Peace Talks Continue While SPLA Claim New Victory",United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network, Nairobi, 29 September 2000.

50 There is a certain amount of divergence in respect of estimates of the religious breakdown of the southern population. The United States government states that 70 percent of Sudanese are Muslim, 25 percent are
animist and five percent Christian ('Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and U.S. Policy', Issue Brief for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington-DC, 8 June 2001). Human Rights Watch states that 4 percent of the population are Christian and that about 15 percent of southern Sudanese are Christian ("Religious Persecution in Sudan", Testimony of Jemera Rone, Human Rights Watch Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Africa, 25 September 1997). The Economist Intelligence Unit in its report entitled Sudan: Country Profile 1994-95 also puts the Christian population ofsouthern Sudan at 15 percent. The definitive United States government guide, 'Sudan - A Country Study', published by the Federal Research division and Library of Congress, states that "In the early 1990s possibly no more than 10 percent of southern Sudan's population was Christian." Muslims may make up a similar percentage in southern Sudan.

51 'Great Expectations: The Civil Roles of the Churches in Southern Sudan', Discussion Paper No.6, African Rights, London, April 1995, p.29.=20

52 Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, UN Special Rapporteur Gerhart Baum, United Nations General Assembly, New York, A/56/150, 7 September 2001.

53 See, for example, "Sudan Says Happy for South to Secede", NewsArticle by Reuters, 7 May 1998; "Sudan offers South secession", News Article by BBC, 22 February 1999; "Southern Secession Better Than More
War: Sudan's President", News Article by Agence France Presse, 22 February 1999.

54 "SPLA Plays Down Deal on Referendum in southern Sudan", NewsArticle by BBC, 7 May 1998

55 "Referendum Agreed at Sudan Peace Talks", News Article by BBCWorld, 7 May 1998

56 Bona Malwal, "Open Letter to John Garang from Bona Malwal", Sudan Democratic Gazette, May 2000.

57 See, "Sudanese Rebels Reject Peace Plan", News Article by BBC News Online Network, 30 August 1999; "Sudanese Rebels Snub Libyan-Egyptian Mediation Effort", News Article by Agence France Presse, 30 August 1999; and then "Sudanese Rebel Leader Supports Peace Plan: Egypt", News Article by Agence France Presse, 31 August 1999 and then "Sudanese Rebels Say They Can't Commit to Egyptian-Libyan Peace Drive', News Article by Agence France Presse, 14 May 2001; "Sudanese Rebels Reject Reconciliation Accord", News Article by Associated Press, 29 November 1999.

58 See, for example, "Sudanese Rebels Repeats Conditions for Joining Peace Bid" News Article by Agence France Presse, 24 August 2001.

59 See, for example, "Sudan Rejects Proposal to Suspend Oil Operations in Return for Truce", News Article by Agence France Presse, 28 April 2001; "Ceasefire Blocked by Oil Demand, Says Government", United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network, Nairobi, 2 May 2001.

60 "Carter Says Wrong Time for Mideast Talks", News Article by Reuters, 24 April 2001.

61 "Carter, Others Say US Has Faltered in Africa", The Boston Globe, 8 December 1999. For more details of American support to the SPLA see "Ex-President Opposes Policy of Aiding Khartoum's Foes", The
Washington Times, 25 September 1997; "Sudan's American-aided guerrillas", The Economist, 25 January 1997; "Sudan Accuses US of Supplying Rebels with Mines", News Article by Xinhua, 21 January 1999; "US flies in howitzers to subdue Sudan", 'Africa Analysis' (London), No 290, 6 February 1998; "Albright Meets Sudan Rebels, Pledges US Support", News Article by Reuters, 10 December 1997; "U.S. Said to Promise Aid to
Sudanese Rebel Areas", News Article by Reuters, 2 June 1998.

62 "Ex-President Opposes Policy of Aiding Khartoum's Foes", 'The Washington Times', 25 September 1997.

63 "US Masterminds 3-Pronged War on Sudan", 'Africa Analysis' (London), 7 February 1997.

64 "Carter, Others Say US Has Faltered in Africa", 'The Boston Globe', 8 December, 1999.

65 See, for example, amongst many overtures: "Interview - Sudan Wants to Bury Hatchet with US", News Article by Reuters, 20 May 1999; "Sudan Wants Dialogue With US, Bashir Tells Envoy", News Article by
Reuters, 7 March 2000; "Sudan Wants Better Ties with US's Bush", News Article by Agence France Presse, 2 February 2001 and "Sudan Welcomes U.S. Peace Involvement but Urges Neutrality", News Article by Associated Press, 28 May 2001.

66 See, for example, "U.S. House Backs Efforts to Aid Sudan", News Article by Reuters, 13 June 2001; "Sudanese Rebels to Receive Dlrs 3 Million in Assistance", News Article by Associated Press, 25 May 2001,
and 'U.S. Slates $3 Million for Sudan's Opposition", 'The Washington Post', 25 May 2001.

67 This encouragement has included debt relief as well as significant increases in the levels of British and American aid to these countries. The 'Financial Times' of 26 February 1997 reported, for example, that Uganda was said to be expecting debt relief of between US$ 252 and US$ 386 million in April 1998.

68 "Sudan, Ethiopia Say They Have Normalised Relations", News Article by Agence France Press, 5 March 2000.

69 "Sudan Set to Begin Oil Export to Ethiopia", News Article by PANA, 4 November 2000.

70 See, "Sudan, Eritrea Resume Diplomatic Relations", News Article by PANA, 4 January 2000.

71 See, for example, "Carter's Patience Pays Off in Africa", 'The Washington Post', 12 December 1999; "Uganda, Sudan Agree On Ending Rebel Activity", News Article by Reuters, 8 December 1999.

72 "Kategaya Takes Up Issue with Defence", 'New Vision' (Kampala), 3 March 2000.

73 "Museveni Warns Sudan on LRA Rebels", 'New Vision' (Kampala), 25 May 2000.

74 "Uganda, Sudan End Peace Talks, Report Progress", News Article by Reuters, 27 September, 2000.

75 See, for example, statements by Osama El-Baz, political adviser to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak: "El-Baz: Sudan is the Strategic Depth of Egypt", News Article by, 14 September 1999;
"Egypt Reiterates Backing for Sudan's Territorial Integrity", News Article by Xinhua, 22 December 1999.=20

76 "Egypt and Sudan Restore 'Full' Diplomatic Relations", News Article by Agence France Presse, 23 December 1999; "Focus - Egypt Restores Diplomatic Ties With Sudan", News Article by Reuters, 23
December 1999.

77 "Egypt Hails Sudanese President's Visit", News Article by Xinhua, 22 December 1999.

78 "Focus - Egypt's Moussa in Sudan to Discuss Peace", News Article by Reuters, 4 January 2000.

79 'Sudan. Global Trade, Local Impact: Arms Transfers to all Sides in the Civil War in Sudan', Human Rights Watch, New York, August 1998.

80 "Former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadek El-Mahdi Addresses the Sudan Issue", News Article by, 2 July 1999.=20

81 'Sudanow' (Khartoum), May 1996, p.15.

82 'Sudanow' (Khartoum), May 1996, p.14.
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