“Egyptian Opposition to Sudan Peace Process Comes Into Focus”
Wire reports from Cairo continue to present an unmistakable picture of Egyptian determination to abort the self-determination agreement that is the key to the Machakos Protocol, and thus to the chances for a just peace in Sudan. Again and again, the Egyptian government has signaled that it will obstruct a peace agreement based on the right of southern self-determination. The question is why the US refuses to recognize the problem and address it squarely—and why no other voices have been heard from, demanding that Egypt accept the negotiated agreement on self-determination. Cairo needs to understand and believe that the international community will not countenance the continued massive human destruction in southern Sudan. President Hosni Mubarak need only look to the areas around Tam in the oil regions of southern Sudan, where tens of thousand of civilians have been forced to flee from a brutally destructive military campaign by Khartoum, to see what the future holds if a just peace is not reached.
Eric Reeves [August 1, 2002]
Smith College firstname.lastname@example.org
Northampton, MA 01063 413-585-3326
The voices out of Cairo are unanimous in refusing to accept the agreement on self-determination negotiated at Machakos. An internationally supervised self-determination referendum for the south, with the option of secession, is being likened to “a contagious phenomenon that would spread to surrounding countries” (Osama al-Baz, senior advisor to Hosni Mubarak; AFP, July 31, Cairo dateline). A recent commentary in Cairo’s state-sanctioned Al-Akhbar (in Arabic, published July 23, 2002) declares ominously, “It is not a secret that external forces, particularly America, and hidden hands worked and still are working on separating the south [of Sudan].”
Agence France-Presse reported yesterday on the deliberate snubbing of NIF First Vice-President Ali Osman Taha by President Mubarak, a signal designed to show Egypt’s deep displeasure with Khartoum’s signing of the Machakos Protocol:
“Taha’s failure to meet with President Mubarak as planned has been seen as a calculated snub by Egypt to show its disapproval at the agreement. ‘Yesterday the large differences between Egypt and Sudan due to the “Machakos protocol” showed through. Taha departed Cairo after a three-day visit without meeting President Hosni Mubarak as was expected,’ the Arabic language al-Hayat said Wednesday.” (AFP, July 31, 2002; Cairo)
And the language out of Cairo has a relentless refrain: peace for Sudan will come only on Egypt’s terms, namely “unity,” i.e., no option for secession in a self-determination referendum. No voice is more representative than Amr Moussa’s. Presently the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Moussa was previously Egypt’s foreign minister. Reuters reports that: “Moussa affirmed the keenness of the League on the Arab fixed position concerning the unity of Sudan and the integrity of its territory” (Reuters, July 24, 2002; Cairo).
President Mubarak has also emphatically used the code word “unity” in signaling his opposition to a southern self-determination referendum. The Associated Press reports today: “‘Egypt will stand with Sudan’s unity and its people’s endeavors to enhance this unity,’ Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, speaking to reporters, quoted President Hosni Mubarak as saying” (August 1, 2002).
Given all this implicitly threatening language, it is not surprising that the Associated Press is reporting that: “The Sudanese government wants Egypt, Libya and the Arab League to attend next month’s peace talks with rebels, the Sudan’s information minister said Wednesday” (AP, July 31, 2002). Given the heavy-handed treatment of Taha, and the threatening language emanating from Cairo, it is hardly surprising that Khartoum has been forced to agree to Egyptian participation. Indeed, it might be that in an effort to renege on the Machakos Protocol the Khartoum regime believes it will be useful to have an obstructionist Egypt by its side. The blame for failure of the August negotiating session at Machakos can then be shifted onto Cairo, and the military assault on the oil regions can proceed unencumbered by a negotiated settlement.
This is where US efforts must be assertive and effective. The government of Egypt simply must not be allowed to obstruct further progress at Machakos. The historic agreement of July 20 cannot be abandoned because Cairo does not approve of section 2.5:
“At the end of the six (6) year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the GOS and the SPLM/A, 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.”
If the US is committed to this language—as Assistant Secretary for Africa Kansteiner unwillingly and ineptly confirmed at his press conference of July 30, 2002—then now is the time to show it. If Egypt senses weakness on the part of the US, it will know that it has nothing to fear from the Norwegians, the British, or the Italians.
The oil-driven destruction of southern Sudan already represents a terrible failure of moral will on the part of the international community. But now the focus is where is surely must be, on US efforts to wield its unrivalled power in halting this catastrophic human destruction. History will record this as the moment in which the United States supported self-determination for the people of southern Sudan, and thus the basis for a just peace—or the moment in which a callous US geopolitical calculus betrayed the people of Sudan.
This is the unmistakable moment of decision.