Feb, 2005 -- The signing of a comprehensive Sudan peace agreement in Nairobi on 9 January brings to an end the final negotiation phase, extended over nearly three years, of the 'Peace Process' begun a dozen years ago. It sets in motion a six month 'pre-interim period' to be followed by a six year 'interim period' during which the provisions of the agreement are to be implemented. Only on the conclusion of that will we know with any certainty whether peace has come to Sudan.
The agreement includes protocols on state and religion, self-determination, power sharing, wealth sharing, security, a ceasefire agreement, the status of the border areas of Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and a separate set of modalities for implementation, which alone runs to over a hundred pages.
To assess whether an agreement of such complexity can bring a lasting peace to Sudan one must first examine the extent that it addresses the causes of the war, and then gauge the extent that either side is willing or able to implement it.
Western Journalists repeatedly state that the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Amy (SPLM/A) is fighting for 'greater autonomy for the Christian and animist South'. This is wrong. The SPLM has always repudiated the idea that there a 'Southern problem' that needs a special attention, and have claimed instead that the South's own grievances are part of a wider national problem of sectarian, racial and regional imbalance.
The official goal of the SPLM has always been, and still remains, a 'New Sudan'. This ostensibly means a Sudan freed from the dominance of Islamic sectarian politics, and where underdeveloped regions have a greater say in their own administration, greater control over their own resources, and a greater share in the nation's governance. Independence for the South has been presented as a secondary option, a fallback position for the South alone, in the event that Northern intransigence makes the 'New Sudan' unobtainable.
The SPLM's position has been vindicated, in part, by events. The war is not confined to the South, but has spread to other 'marginalized' areas with Muslim populations. This not only includes the 'African' regions of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, but the fully 'Northern' Muslim region of the Eastern Sudan, where the SPLA has long had a military presence.
The fighting in Darfur is part of the same trend. Whatever ideology still divides them, the anonymous authors of The Black Book and the spokespersons for the Sudan Liberation Movement/ Army and the Justice and Equality Movement have all articulated Darfur's grievances in terms very similar to the SPLM' s original position: their common enemy is seen as the clique from the central Nile Valley who have dominated Sudan's governments and controlled its economy since independence.
It is a restructured Sudan, not secession, that is presented as a solution for the grievances of Darfur, the East, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, and the South is seen as a key player and guarantor in such a restructuring.
The National Islamic Front (NIF) seized control in a coup in 1989 to prevent such a restructuring being negotiated between the SPLM and the government of Sadiq al-Mahdi (Southern secession was not even on the agenda at that time).
Since then they have imposed their version of an Islamic state, ruthlessly suppressing the Muslim opposition and generating a series of rebellions throughout the Muslim North. It is partly for this reason that they cannot afford to make any concessions on the Islamic state: to do so would be to give an opening to their Muslim opponents.
When the current peace process was revitalised by the Bush administration in 2002, Khartoum managed to persuade the president's envoy, former Senator Reverend Jack Danforth, that they represented the will of the Muslim majority in the North.
ln consequence, the solution that both Danforth and the State Department favoured, and which set the agenda for the renewed peace talks, was the preservation of the Islamic state in the North and regional autonomy for the South, protected by US-style constitutional guarantees for minority rights.
The SPLM's 'New Sudan' was not an option even to be discussed. Secession thus became the only realistic alternative. The Machakos Protocol of July 2002, which is the basis on which all subsequent protocols have been negotiated, thus enshrined a unitary Sudan as an Islamic state with a separate Southern regional administration, but with the Southern option to secede after a fixed period.
Negotiations since 2002 have focused on how the SPLM and the South can function within such a state over the next six years. Ostensibly this is to create the conditions by which Southerners will be persuaded to voluntarily remain part of a united Sudan.
Conversely, the provisions must also set up a viable Southern state which will have a chance of surviving on its own should Southerners choose secession. Thus the SPLA is not to be disbanded (as the old Anyanya was), but both it and the national army are to be reduced, and both are to contribute to a national force which will be stationed in parts of the current war zone.
The SPLM is to take over the administration of the entire South, including those are as currently under government control. The South is also to have a certain amount of economic autonomy.
The revenues from the Southern oil fields are to be divided equally between the Southern and National governments, but the Southern government has no power to renegotiate any of the oil leases the National government has granted prior to the date of the final peace agreement.
Southerners are also to have a share in the national government. Not only does SPLM chairman John Garang become vice-president of the Sudan (as well as president of the South), but Southerners have been offered a quota of 30 per cent of appointments in the central government.
Separate provisions have been made for the regional states of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, both of whom have contributed substantially to the SPLA, but neither of whom desire to be incorporated into an autonomous or independent Southern state.
Each is to have its own autonomous regional government, but the SPLM/A in both regions will have to share not only the civil administration, but the security forces with the government and its current allies.
An agreement this complex will need goodwill to implement, not only for the immediate cease fire and six month 'pre-interim' period, but throughout the following six years and especially during the final referendum in the South. So far there are worrying indications that such goodwill is not forthcoming.
The government's behaviour in Darfur has shown that it is unwilling to apply either the letter or spirit of cease-fire agreements. This is not surprising considering its numerous, documented violations of the agreements to cease offensive operations in the South or avoid attacking civilians.
The devastation of the Shilluk Kingdom in 2004 (see Parliamentary Brief, August 2004) was just the most recent example of such violations. The failure of the US and the UK not only to impose some sanctions on Khartoum for these violations, but to even make public protests, is one reason why Khartoum, quite rightly, decided that it could get away with similar violations in Darfur with impunity.
Just as worrying as this past behaviour are reports that the government is also trying to establish new militias in the border areas (Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Abyei) to resist the implementation of the peace agreement on the ground.
The last minute absorption of the government's Southern militias into the national army is also an indication that Khartoum is going to try to maintain its own allies within terri tories to be handed over to the SPLM administration. Any sustained effort by Khartoum either to circumvent or to undermine the provisions of the agreement will mean that, once again, secession of the South will become the only alternative.
In the South, opinion in the SPLM is already divided over whether to try to make the agreement for a united Sudan work or to go all out for secession.
If the latter opinion prevails then it is unlikely that Garang and the SPLM can make effective use of their role in the central government to bring an end to the Darfur fighting or insist on negotiations with Sudan's internal Muslim opposition, thus diluting the NIF's Islamic state.
The South's erstwhile allies in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains (and even, possibly, in the Dinka enclave of Abyei) could be abandoned in favour of a narrowly constructed Southern nationalism.
Such short-term thinking would be counterproductive, because whether the South remains part of Sudan or becomes independent, it will need allies in the North, and especially along its borders. This requires a recognition of common goals, as well as common grievances.
Douglas H. Johnson is author of The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars' (James Cuney, 2003) and editor of the Sudan volume of the British Documents on the End of Empire series.