By Fred Oluoch
For many southerners both inside and outside the SPLM, the peace deal is ultimately about the southern self-determination
While Khartoum is often blamed for the slow implementation of the January 2005 agreement, the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is facing enormous challenges that undermine its ability to function as an effective partner in government.
Smarting from the death of Dr John Garang, coupled with the challenges of the transition from a rebel movement to a government, the SPLM is currently grappling with the unmet expectations throughout the South, 15 months since the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement .
The International Crisis Group report argues that without a functioning and effective SPLM, there is little chance that the peace deal will hold.
SPLM, led by first vice-president Salva Kiir, is facing the dual challenge as the lead party in the new autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), and the minority partner in the new Government of National Unity (GNU).
Yet the study shows that SPLM, weighed down by internal divisions and with no functional party structures or party decision-making mechanisms, has been overwhelmed and unable to successfully or consistently challenge Khartoum on most issues relating to implementation of the peace deal.
As a result, observers say, SPLM currently lacks the strategic vision to consolidate its place in the national scene as the natural umbrella for all the marginalised and the oppressed and as the guardian of the democratisation project that the peace deal envisions.
For instance, despite faring well in the south by establishing governance structures, the SPLM - apart from controlling a handful of state ministry positions - does not yet have any members integrated into the national civil service or other national institutions.
According to the peace deal, the SPLM controls 70 per cent of the appointed positions in the GOSS until elections, the National Congress Party 10 per cent, and other southern parties the remaining 20 per cent.
At the level of the GNU, the NCP maintains 52 per cent of the appointed positions, the SPLM 28 per cent, other northern parties 14 per cent and other southern parties 6 per cent.
The SPLM must also establish 10 new state governments in the South (where it will maintain its 70 per cent control, with 20 per cent going to the NCP and 10 per cent to other parties), and fill 45 per cent of the positions in the state governments of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, and 20 per cent in all other northern state governments.
Without functioning party structures and party policies on many of these issues, many people see Salva Kiir and the southern SPLM leadership focusing increasingly on the South, at the expense of the SPLM in the North, the New Sudan, and serious engagement in the GNU.
Since his swearing in last August as the new first vice-president of the GNU , Kiir had been critical of Garang's exclusive decision making and overly centralised leadership style, and there was initially optimism that a more democratic movement would emerge under his watch.
But old differences within SPLM persist. For many southerners both inside and outside the SPLM, the peace deal is ultimately about the southern self-determination in the referendum.
A second group includes both northerners and southerners committed to the New Sudan ideology, who view the peace deal as a vehicle to ultimately change the system of government, spread national power and wealth more evenly throughout the country and ultimately remove the NCP from power while retaining a united Sudan.
Attached to this school are some southern secessionists who recognise the importance of engaging fully in the central government and challenging Khartoum to implement every aspect of the peace deal, as a strategy to safeguard the referendum and the South.
However, there are early signs that the SPLM is beginning to overcome some of its internal challenges and focus its efforts on implementation of the peace deal.
The January 8 Juba Declaration to integrate the bulk of the government-aligned southern armed groups operating within the umbrella South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) into the SPLA will help consolidate peace in the South, though implementation of the agreement will be difficult.
Though the challenges are enormous and the slow pace of progress understandable, the report notes that GOSS is running up against increasing frustration and unmet expectations throughout the South, and is experiencing a rise in insecurity.