Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak yesterday arrived in Khartoum, marking his first visit to this neighboring country in fourteen years. If one peels away the contrived camaraderie, the agenda for the visit is all too clear: to insure that a meaningful self-determination referendum cannot be held for the people of South Sudan. For of course such a self-determination referendum is meaningful only if the terms of the Machakos Protocol are fully preserved. These terms include the explicit possibility of southern secession: “At the end of the six year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, 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” [Section 2.5]. It is precisely this explicit provision of the bedrock Machakos Protocol that Mubarak is attempting to undermine with his declarations that “the division of Sudan is harmful to every part of the region” (AP, April 30, 2003), and that Egypt has “always stood for the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Sudan,” and that the United States and Egypt “agree on the need for safeguarding the territorial unity of Sudan” (Agence France-Presse, April 30, 2003). Mubarak is clearly trying to undermine the key provision of the Machakos Protocol. Since this agreement is the signal and indispensable achievement of the Machakos peace process, he is in effect undermining that peace process. The US, its European partners at Machakos, and the IGAD mediators must reaffirm the full validity of all terms of the Machakos Protocol.
Eric Reeves [May 1, 2003]
Northampton, MA 01063
Though there may be some surprise in Mubarak’s visit, the purpose is hardly open to doubt. The head of the Egyptian regime wishes to make clear—as he did last summer—that he is adamantly opposed to a true self-determination referendum for the people of South Sudan. Mubarak does not care that all that has enabled such progress as has been made in the Machakos peace process derives from the breakthrough agreement of last summer: the Machakos Protocol (July 20, 2003), with its guarantee of a self-determination referendum that explicitly includes the possibility of a vote for southern secession.
Without the possibility of voting to secede, the people of the south will have no means of insuring that the terms of any peace agreement are fulfilled, and that the negotiated interim arrangements meet the needs of the south. The six-year interim period is a test of the National Islamic Front’s willingness to work in good faith with all the people of Sudan, a test that it has so far failed in the most spectacular fashion.
Of course even if Khartoum re-affirms its agreement to a self-determination referendum in the event of a comprehensive peace settlement, there will need to be the most robust and committed of international guarantees and guarantors for this peace settlement and all its terms, including the self-determination provision of the Machakos Protocol. Khartoum has violated several, indeed all, agreements negotiated since the signing of the Protocol last July; there will be little reason for the people of southern Sudan to regard any new agreements as having meaning unless there is real pressure on the regime to honor its previous commitments.
There is, then, when Egypt’s President declares that “the United States and his country ‘agree on the need for safeguarding the territorial unity of Sudan'” (AFP, April 30, 2003), an obvious question: does the United States still fully support the Machakos Protocol? Unsurprisingly, the US State Department, and its Africa Bureau, has not recently offered any such explicit endorsement. It is not mentioned in the lengthy two-part report on Sudan recently released by the State Department; if figures only once, very briefly, and with no mention of the self-determination referendum in the White House “Memorandum of Certification” concerning Khartoum’s “good faith participation in the peace process.”
Now would be an extremely opportune moment for the State Department to re-affirm its full support for the Machakos Protocol as the bedrock agreement on which a comprehensive peace settlement might be reached. This would allow us to know just how truly the US is committed to realizing the aspirations of the people of South Sudan.