Statement to the US Peace Institute

Statement to the US Peace Institute

By: Imam Alsadig Almahdi

Washington, DC, November 12, 2011


It gives me great pleasure to speak to you on the Sudanese predicament. It is serious and dangerous.

I intend to approach the subject by posing three questions:

  • How did a peace agreement stop the war, but fail to build the peace?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Is peace, nonetheless possible? How?

Please follow my answers as I respond to these momentous questions.

Point number one: Asmara versus Nivasha

The forces of the Sudanese apposition to the present regime have in June 1995 outlined the optimum terms for peace and stability in Sudan: The Asmara Declaration.

Certain factors in Sudan, particularly the exploitation of oil, have persuaded many to seek a peace deal, particularly the USA, which, after recommendations of the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), changed its policies and breathed life into the IGAD Peace Initiative. However, contrary to the national approach of the Asmara Declaration, their approach, concluding in Nivasha in 2005, was bilateral.

The National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party in Sudan, welcomed this approach because it was consistent with its policy to divide the opposition. It promised to give it control of the North as its sole representative. It promised to give it international legitimacy. The Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) also welcomed the bilateral approach, eschewing its Asmara commitment, because it would give it control of the South, and would give it an opportunity to pursue its objective of a New Sudan- read: Secularist, Africanist Sudan.

Therefore, the approach of the two parties to the Peace Agreement was essentially tactical.

The international community with US stewardship gave priority to stop the war without much concern, about how to build the peace, nor how to achieve credible democratization.

They, therefore:

  • Accepted the bipartisan rather than national approach.
  • Accepted calling an incomplete document: Comprehensive Peace Agreement, although several points of difference remained; particularly: Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile.
  • The document was described as comprehensive peace when an active civil war was being fought in Darfur. Also there was continuous confrontation in Eastern Sudan.

In June 2005, I published a book weighing the CPA and the Transitional Constitution based on it. The gist of what we said was to welcome the CPA as an instrument to stop the war, and promise to achieve certain positive relations. However, we made it clear that the document will not make unity attractive as it promised, will not lead to inclusive government and will not achieve democratization.

After six years of the CPA, the promised plebiscite was held on time, but three of the most cherished targets of the CPA were missed; namely, to make unity attractive, to make government inclusive and to make the political system democratic.

We predicted that, certain aspects in the structure of the CPA would make separation rather than unity attractive; they are:

  • The Machacos Protocol which divided the country along religious lines, and so laying the ground for separate development, an updated version of the Colonial Apartheid Southern Policy of 1922.
  • The Wealth Sharing Protocol has, in a black spot of shortsightedness, given the South 50% of its oil, rather than relating the Southern share in wealth to the national cake. This encouraged Southerners to separate to keep all their oil to the South.
  • The ideologies of the two peace partners were irreconcilable, fueling a continuous cold war between them throughout the interim period (2005 – 2011).

We maintained that certain aspects in the CPA precluded democratization; namely,

  • Acceptance of the 1998 authoritarian constitution as reference.
  • Undemocratic measures to protect the interest of the two governing partners: the diarchy.
  • Acceptance of continuation of the autocratic laws and institutions until replaced. The NCP, with its built-in majority, saw to it that no alterations were enacted.


Second Point: Unresolved conflicts

Unresolved differences and the prelude to war conditions for North/North conflicts are:

  • The NCP controlled the implementation of the CPA and successfully deterred any SPLM reservations by its 52% majority. All non NCP political opinion was kept at bay by the autocratic regulations.
  • Accords about Abyei could not or would not be implemented, and in the climate of tension, a SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) unit was attacked by SPLA. This precipitated a SAF military control of Abyei. The area is a potential war front kept quiet only by Ethiopian troops with a UN mandate.
  • Nothing was done to prepare for the eventuality of Southern separation. Until the very end, NCP maintained the wishful thought of a South unity vote.

This shortsightedness was catastrophic, because:

  1. After the exploitation of oil and the entry of its revenues to the economy in 1999, the government neglected the renewable resources’ economy in Agriculture and Industry, plunged into an extravagant expenditure spree in non-productive items, so that between 2000 and 2010, expenditure multiplied tenfold i.e. 1000%. The Sudanese economy reflected all the drawbacks of the Dutch Disease and the oil curse. This shortsightedness is destined to confront the Sudanese economy with an unprecedented crisis.
  2. The popular consultations, which should have been affected in the two areas concerned were not executed. After the Southern separation, the NCP, the ruling party, proceeded to deal with the SPLM-N i.e. the Northern branch of the SPLM, and with its armed forces before reaching political agreement, as required by the scheduled Popular Consultations. The SPLA troops in the North were given orders from the Sudanese armed forces which they refused to obey. This led to military confrontation in Southern Kordofan. It was inevitable that the same will follow in Southern Blue Nile.

A small incident near Damazin, the capital of Southern Blue Nile led to the expected war.

  1. In his official statement marking the emergence of the new Republic in the South, President Salva said that his country is concerned with the fate of the peoples in Southern Kordofan, Southern Blue Nile and Darfur, to see that their rights are guaranteed.

Those same regions became war fronts in a Northern civil war.

The Second Kawda Agreement of 11/11/2011, between the SPLM-N and the Darfurian groups, declared the formation of a revolutionary front to overthrow the Khartoum government. The NCP maintained that this conference took place in Southern Sudan and under the auspices of the Southern government. It therefore, in their opinion, represents a coalition between the new Front, and the government of the South to overthrow the government of Khartoum.

The South/South conflicts:

Some political groups challenged the position of the SPLM in the South.

This challenge escalated into a military action after the April 2010 election.

Seven war fronts materialized: Three Dinka, two Nuer and one Morley.

Recent manifestations of the conflict in Northern Upper Nile region and Unity State led by General George Ator, and another splinter from SPLA led by James Gai claims to be surrounding Bentiu, the capital of Unity State form all sides, and another insurgency leader: General Gordon Tong said that they will unite into a Front to overthrow the government in Juba.

Some even speak about themselves being marginalized and call for self-determination within the South. They maintain that South/South agreements were not implemented, that the April elections were rigged.

Conclusion: We are now faced with a Northern Front with Southern backing actively working to overthrow the government of Khartoum, and a Southern Front with Northern backing intending to overthrow the government in Juba. This confrontation will change from its original character of interstate conflict into an intra-state conflict. This coming war will lead to a devastating war involving external allies and polarizing the African Continent.

Just as 1972 Peace Agreement, because of defects, led to a worse war in 1982, the 2005 defective agreement promises to lead to a worse war in 2011 and after than the past war.

Third Point:

Who is responsible for this predicament?

  • The two signatories to CPA, signed it for tactical not strategic reasons. Their relations with each other, due to the ideological divide between them, made their proximity to each other, cause for greater distrust between them.
  • Mishandling the affairs of Abyei, and the two Popular Consultations’ regions, was a Causus belli (a cause for war).
  • The International (Western) sympathy for SPLM, and antipathy for NCP, widened the gap of distrust between the two Sudanese partners.  The International (Western) community added its own shortsightedness to the political theatre:
  • They accepted and blessed a flawed Peace Agreement to stop the war without much concern about how to build the peace.
  • They accepted flawed elections without much concern for their democratic credentials, simply to get them out of the way for the plebiscite.
  • The CPA Assessment and Evaluation Commission made no in-depth evaluation of the CPA implementation, they failed to warn about the seriousness of failure to effect the Popular Consultations on time. It failed to see that the technical border committee was inadequate, because many border issues are political not technical. It failed to point out, in good time, that the implementation of the CPA was going in a diametrically opposite direction to its targets. The CPA was welcomed as a Road Map for peace, for voluntary unity, and for democratic transformation. It failed the three tests: No peace, no unity and no democratic transformation.

It is imperative, at this juncture; that the Sudanese stakeholders should nationally confer to conduct a post mortum of the CPA, and determine to do what is necessary to save their two countries from the Abyss; and the international community to self-criticize their role, and draw the necessary lessons.

Fourth Point: Is peace possible?

The answer is yes, but not in the piecemeal bipartisan approach. The pattern of agreements between the combatants is defective.

Combatants can stop wars, but not build peace.

The stakeholders for peace building are a wide constituency. The combatants for the purpose of partisan power may wish to monopolize decisions about the destiny of Sudan.

This is unwarranted and will not build peace.

Blame for the present predicament in Sudan is divisible by three: The two CPA signatories and the international community. However, the NCP has the lion’s share in it because it insisted upon being the major decision maker.

Therefore, in the opinion of the Umma National Party (UNP), peace and democratization in the Sudan are contingent upon radical change in the government of Sudan.

For that radical change, there are now four scenarios:

  • The NCP, the ruling party, is already aware of the need for change. Many individuals within the party speak the language of change. The leadership of the party realizes that internal, regional, and international pressures for change are real enough. However, the arteriosclerosis of the party and Regime makes their program for change too little, and too late.
  • The Kawda revolutionary Front is a radical approach to regime change. However, there are two complicating factors in this enterprise:
  • The timing and place of the declaration make it a mirror image of the opposite Front to overthrow Juba. So whatever their intentions are, the two fronts will be drowned in an escalation war between the two Sudanese states.
  • The other factor is that unfortunately, the Sudanese population has been subjected to policies which created an ethnic divide which has become a prism through which many view political events.

The knockout Kawda scenario will not avoid the impact of the two complications. The whole exercise could simply expedite a total North/South war of unprecedented proportions.

  • The scenario of an uprising is possible. This would draw inspiration from Sudan’s 1964 and 1985 uprisings, and the current Arab Spring. Many youth groups across the political parties are working towards this uprising. There are also numerous independent youth groups by the name GRIFNA (meaning disgusted), SHARARA (meaning Spark), youth for democratic change, and several others. There are similar grievances to the ones which fueled the Arab Spring. However, the regime is expecting this eventuality which deprives it of the element of surprise that helped the youth organizers of revolution in Tunis and Egypt. Sudan is therefore going to be more like Syria and Yemen.
  • In a recent conference in Cairo organized by SISCO, and an International Forum for Women, and the UN Human Rights Council, the X-President of Chile, Ms. Michelle Bachelet Jeria, addressed the conference about lessons from Latin America for the Arab Spring. She described how the political parties in Chile were so weak, that they unified their position which strengthened their influence, and when pressure for democracy reached a certain threshold, President Augusto Pinochet invited the opposition to agree upon a Road Map for democratic transformation. She described how the same pattern prevailed in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. King Juan Carlos did the same in Spain. When the popular pressure for democratic change reached a certain threshold, General Aboud in Sudan sent me two senior officers to discuss response to the popular demand. We negotiated a road map for a soft-landing.

In the present circumstances, the Umma National Party is seeking to unify the position of political and civilian opposition on a national charter or a national agenda to:

  • Agree upon a democratic constitution which would accommodate the county’s diversity on the basis of citizenship equality.
  • A special twin relationship between the two Sudans.
  • Positive response to Darfur’s legitimate demands which go further than Doha, accommodate the recommendations of the Heidelberg Document and endorse the UNP declaration of principles.
  • Carry out the Abyei plebiscite, and implement the Popular Consultations for the two regions.
  • Guarantee Human Rights consistent with universal charters.
  • Espouse a program for radical economic reform.
  • Deal realistically with the ICC in a formula which reconciles retributive and restorative justice.
  • Dismantle the present partisan structures of Governance in favor for a new National system.

The terms of this new system and the supporting policies must be approved by the Sudanese body politic. Towards that target we intend to employ all the activist means at our disposal avoiding the use of violence.

Considering the alternatives, this scenario would be consistent with national aspirations, and the standards of the Arab Spring.

What we expect of the International Community is to realize that such terms are the only viable terms for comprehensive just peace, and genuine democratic transformation.

It is the viable road map for stability in the Sudan. It also benefits the Republic of Southern Sudan because stability in the two Sudans is indivisible.

The current American sponsored workshop on Darfur is a waste of time. It is a repetition of the old piecemeal approach which is responsible for the current Sudanese tragedy. The present Sudanese civil wars have regional centers. However, they are National problems requiring National Resolution.

Your institute, along with other American councils; have been involved in Sudan’s peace processes. You must now realize that they have gone severely astray.

A Twelfth century Egyptian jurist, Alizz Ibn Abdalsalm said that any measure which realizes the opposite of its aims is wrong. If and when you realize the need for a new approach, we hope that you will understand and offer moral and political support for the Peoples of Sudan to own and achieve their own salvation.

Thank you for listening.