“General Lazaro Sumbeiywo and the Logic of Peace for Sudan”
The Kenyan elections are looming closer, and the likelihood of a victory by Mwai Kibaki and his opposition coalition in the contest for president has become a very distinct possibility. It is thus of exceeding importance, for a variety of reasons, that General Lazaro Sumbeiywo’s critical role in the Machakos peace process be fully recognized and supported by the international community. If Mwai Kibaki should defeat Uhuru Kenyatta and President Moi’s KANU party in the December 27, 2002 elections, this will mark a moment of considerable uncertainty for General Sumbeiywo, given how largely his power—both within Kenya’s military and in the IGAD peace secretariat for Sudan—derives from the outgoing President Moi. There may be some temptation on the part of Kibaki and his coalition to engage in governmental “house cleaning.” It would be extremely unfortunate if this were to extend to a reconsideration of General Sumbeiywo’s role in the Machakos peace process. For Sumbeiywo has become indispensable, both as a force for keeping the parties negotiating—and as the only person who can render a fully authoritative account of responsibility should the talks fail in 2003 to yield a just peace. For this latter reason alone, all possible international support should be accorded General Sumbeiywo.
Eric Reeves [December 8, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
It was an encouraging sign that General Lazaro Sumbeiywo was scheduled for a courtesy call last Monday with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. This was not the meeting with President Bush that many had hoped for, and encouraged, but was noteworthy in itself. Unfortunately, the recent terrorist attacks in Mombassa, Kenya apparently dominated the meeting between President Bush and Kenya’s outgoing President Daniel arap Moi, and thus the crucial Kenyan role in the Sudan peace process was very little discussed, judging by press reports of the meeting. (We may, of course, hope more was discussed than has been reported.)
But before the Machakos peace talks resume on January 6, 2002—indeed, before the Kenyan elections on December 27, 2002—this must change. It seems unanimously the view of those who have watched Sudan’s agony for these many years that this is the best opportunity for peace since the civil war resumed in 1983. It simply must not be an opportunity lost. The two negotiating parties—the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A—require both the firmness and fairness General Sumbeiywo has brought to the Machakos talks. The parties must know that General Sumbeiywo will continue to play his present role.
For if the peace talks should fail, if the best chance for peace in almost 20 years should be lost, then we must have the clearest, most decisive, and most authoritative accounting of how this opportunity was squandered. Blame must be laid squarely, honestly, unforgivingly upon the party that proved to be intransigent at the moment of truth. To be sure, it may require a more complex, less singular judgment. But such judgment is critical if the peace process is ever to be revived—and it is utterly essential that both parties know now that if they are intransigent, that unforgivable fact will be recorded decisively and authoritatively by General Sumbeiywo. Such knowledge by Khartoum and the SPLM/A constitutes the best insurance against their failure to do what is necessary to reach a just peace.
And General Sumbeiywo’s assessment should guide the international response to any collapse of the Machakos process. For there must be consequences to failure, given the degree of international investment (in all forms) in Sudan’s peace process, and given the immense human destructiveness and suffering that will resume. And these consequences must be commensurate with the degree of intransigence, with extent of responsibility. The world must have an honest broker in rendering this account and there is no candidate to rival General Sumbeiywo.
What should the consequences be? Given the overwhelming desire for a just peace on the part of the people of southern Sudan, intransigence by the SPLM/A—if that were General Sumbeiywo’s assessment—would occasion in and of itself a massive loss of confidence by the range of southern and other marginalized constituencies that the SPLM/A is representing at Machakos. This lack of confidence would inevitably translate into diminished international standing and credibility for the SPLM/A and its leadership.
But there is presently no real evidence that true intransigence is at all likely on the part of the SPLM/A at the critical moment. It has become clear since the break off of talks in mid-November that the mediators at Machakos regard the SPLM/A negotiating posture as both more accommodating, more unified, and more responsible to the challenges of dealing with the extraordinarily contentious issues outstanding. The people of the south don’t desire, and the SPLM/A doesn’t represent a desire for peace at any price—a peace that is a mere reprise of the untenable Addis Ababa accord of 1972. Thus the extremely difficult issues of interim governing arrangements, the challenges of dealing with painful geographic divisions not represented by the 1956 boundaries (the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei), revenue sharing, and the final disengagement of forces—all will require of the SPLM/A both realism as well as a representation of the deepest interests of the people of the south. It is a daunting challenge.
But the real question for the international community is much more likely to take the form of a response to intransigence on the part of the Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime. And it is here that General Sumbeiywo’s role is utterly indispensable. For if the Machakos process ends in failure, if this historic opportunity for peace is lost, then it will very likely be because of an unwillingness by Khartoum to make the key offers, the significant concessions towards justice for the people of the south, that are necessary for peace to be meaningful.
Khartoum all too clearly benefits from the status quo, as oil revenues continue to pour in and the present cessation of hostilities allows for military capabilities to be reconstituted, redeployed, and expanded. If war resumes, it will continue to be the case that the victims of conflict are overwhelming southern civilians. If war resumes, Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions will again be directed against the people of Western Upper Nile and other oil regions. If the Nuba Mountain cease-fire breaks down, these long-suffering people will again find themselves bereft of all humanitarian aid, as was the case for over 10 years.
The international community, and especially the Europeans, should declare now how they will respond to intransigence by Khartoum at Machakos. As a prudent first, step, the Europeans should join with the US and other countries in introducing a resolution before the UN Security Council explicitly endorsing the Machakos peace process, thereby fully ratifying the international character of the role General Sumbeiywo has undertaken and his authority in rendering a judgment of responsibility, should the Machakos process fail.
European nations should then declare that, if Khartoum’s intransigence collapses the Machakos process, there will be an immediate cancellation of the development aid promised to the regime earlier this year. They must suspend all further commercial and economic development projects. They, along with the US and Canada, should demand that oil revenues be used to pay down Sudan’s massive and still growing external debt (almost $23 billion) rather than go toward increased military acquisitions. This demand should be reflected in any future financial actions toward Sudan through the IMF or the World Bank. Indeed, there should be a rigorous arms embargo against Khartoum if it chooses war over peace: the world should have learned this lesson years ago from the disastrous Ethiopian/Eritrean conflict.
The US for its part should make clear that if Khartoum is responsible for the collapse of the Machakos process, it will downgrade diplomatic relations and continue comprehensive economic sanctions. The US should also exert all possible means to isolate the National Islamic Front and make clear to all Sudanese opposition forces how great US distaste is for a regime that has chosen war over peace—war that represents the most destructive civil conflict in the world today.
Responsibility for the collapse of Machakos cannot be a matter for casual assessment. The international community cannot, should the Machakos process break down, simply shrug and say glibly, “neither side really wanted to make peace.” We must know, from inside Machakos, just how to apportion responsibility for this obscene failure. No one is, or will be, in a better position to make this judgment than Lazaro Sumbeiywo. He deserves all possible international support for this signal authoritativeness.
It should also be incumbent upon Mwai Kibaki and his coalition and upon Uhuru Kenyatta and the KANU party to declare now, while so much is taking place in the minds and calculations of Khartoum, as well as the SPLM/A, that General Sumbeiywo will be retained as Kenya’s chair of the IGAD peace secretariat for Sudan. The US, Britain, Norway, and Italy—as well as the other IGAD Partners Forum countries—should call now publicly for this critically important continuity. So, too, should the African Union.
If this is the moment of truth for the peace process in Sudan, we must have a witness—recognized as such—with all possible authority. General Sumbeiywo has become that historically important witness.