The Machakos Protocol released publicly yesterday (available upon request) holds out extraordinary promise, even as it is burdened by exceedingly great difficulties if that promise is to be realized in a just and lasting peace. We do no service to the peace process if we ignore either the promise of Machakos or the many and various obstacles. This is the moment of truth for peace in Sudan. We should ask—with honesty, appropriate skepticism, and moral determination—how the peace process can be supported, and insure that there shall indeed be “an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the Government of Sudan and the SPLA/M, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession” (Machakos Protocol, 2.5).
Eric Reeves [July 22, 2002]
Smith College email@example.com
Northampton, MA 01063 413-585-3326
The initialed signature of “Dr. Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, for: the Government of Sudan” appears at the bottom of the page on which these most important of words appear. But it must immediately be asked whether this represents the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime—or simply the approval of one member of the regime, for reasons that may have more to do with personal politics and expediency.
It is an open secret that Ghazi has had difficult relations with many other members of the NIF, which is presently rife with personal and political strains. So we should hardly be surprised that within two days of the Machakos signing, senior presidential advisor Qutbi al-Mahdi declared in Amman, Jordan that a secession option for the south was not part of the agreement. And nothing has been heard from First Vice President Ali Osman Taha (presently in China), who is arguably the most powerful person within the NIF. President Omar Beshir is trying his best to negotiate these difficult waters, and thus his own expedient needs could come into play in unfortunate ways at any juncture.
All of which is to say that Machakos means only as much as the international community forces it to mean. Unrelenting pressure must be exerted on the NIF to build on the Machakos Protocol, rather than seek ways to renege and walk away from what has been agreed. There is no room for complacency or self-congratulation: we are at best well begun. The US and its European allies (especially the Norwegians, British, and Italians) must seek immediate clarification about the degree and nature of Khartoum’s support for the Machakos Protocol, and convey this to all parties prior to the resumption of talks on August 12.
Equally important is the need, especially for the US, to bring immediate and high-level pressure on the Egyptian government. President Mubarak and the three most senior members of his government must hear directly from President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and/or National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. The message must be blunt, unambiguous, and determined: “We will not accept Egyptian obstruction of the peace process for Sudan. We understand your objection to self-determination for southern Sudan, but this simply cannot abort the present opportunity for peace. We also understand your concern about the Nile waters and will guarantee all fair riparian rights. But there will be serious consequences if you work against the peace process.”
Looking ahead to the August session of the peace talks, it is critically important that the language on self-determination not be changed, unless to shorten the time before the referendum occurs. For six years is a long time, and obliges hard thinking about how to prevent this interval from being used by Khartoum as a means of sowing division within the south, exacerbating rivalries, and creating conditions unconducive to a fair vote. The strongest of safeguards and international guarantees must be built into any truly effective peace agreement.
At the same time Khartoum must be put on notice that abrogation of any of the terms of a concluded peace agreement will result in severe sanctions and other punitive measures. Without clear consequences for treaty violations, military incursions, or obstruction of international monitoring and safeguards, Khartoum will continually be testing the resolve of the international community. The NIF has undoubtedly calculated that the world will have ceased to care about Sudan six years hence, and that their agreements and commitments of the present can be slowly eroded to the point of inconsequence. There will be no peace without determined, vigilant involvement by the international community.
Civil society construction and reconstruction must begin immediately and on a massive scale if southern Sudan is to become viable in six years time. A self-determination vote will mean little if there is not a working economy, a real and growing physical infrastructure, a restored educational system, solid experience with judicial and administrative systems, and the achievement of reconciliation among parties that have in too many cases been bitterly divided. These are all difficult tasks, and six years may in fact be an optimistic time-frame in which to achieve even a good start in some areas.
This makes the revenue-sharing negotiations in August critically important. The most important tasks of rebuilding the south will require a great deal of money. A fair arrangement of oil revenues simply must be attained, and that wealth must be wisely and equitably expended during the interim period envisioned in the agreement. For this reason, power-sharing arrangements, that will secure revenue-sharing, are an equally important part of the talks set to resume in August. Khartoum can be expected to be unyielding, and the IGAD representatives, General Sumbeiywo, and the international observers must all push hard for fairness and justice.
Much else remains to be done as well if the promise of Machakos is to be realized. The governments of China and Malaysia, both of which have huge economic and financial leverage with Khartoum, must be approached forcefully to use that leverage to work for a peace that is finally in their own interest. Further oil development will be possible only with peace, and the continuation of war puts existing production infrastructure at serious risk. France as well, given TotalFinaElf’s enormous concession holdings far to the south, should see that this is the moment to weigh in forcefully with Khartoum to encourage a sustained commitment to the peace process.
Finally, it must be frankly acknowledged that a peace agreement with Khartoum is the diplomatic equivalent of a “deal with the devil.” The National Islamic Front regime has not changed. It is the same regime that has deliberately withheld critically important humanitarian aid from millions of desperate human beings. It has committed on an ongoing basis the most egregious of human rights violations, including deliberate aerial assaults on civilian and humanitarian targets. The regime is conducting an ongoing and savagely brutal campaign of scorched-earth warfare in the oil regions by way of enabling the oil extraction efforts of companies like Talisman Energy (Canada), Petronas (Malaysia), China National Petroleum Corp., and Lundin Petroleum (Sweden).
As a negotiating partner, the NIF brings this same moral viciousness to the table. A deal that is cemented will not only need the most rigorous of safeguards and international guarantees, but must be recognized for what it is: a deal that leaves a tyrannical regime in power. This tyranny will continue to be felt by all northern opposition parties, within the country or in exile. The NIF is not representative of the north, merely brutal enough in its survivalist ways to have resisted all democratizing efforts. A far preferable negotiating partner in peace talks with the south would be a truly representative northern government.
But if that is not to be, the people of the south can be held hostage to NIF tyranny no longer. Peace cannot wait for ideal circumstances. Nor can a perfect peace be attained. But a just peace can be reached if it receives enough support.