August 18, 2003
For those waiting to see just what would emerge as the supreme moment of disingenuousness and reneging by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front in the Machakos peace talks, that moment has arrived. There is now a full-scale effort to deny the people of southern Sudan a self-determination referendum; this is apparent not only in the government-controlled press in Khartoum but in the various ways in which the National Islamic Front is now acting in concert with Egypt.
As all have recognized, present peace talks have grown out of what appeared at the time to be the breakthrough Machakos Protocol (July 20, 2002), in which the Khartoum regime agreed to a southern self-determination referendum six years after the conclusion of a final peace settlement. Only because of this breakthrough agreement at Machakos, which has given name to the peace talks sponsored by the East African consortium of IGAD, have present peace talks created what continues to be referred to as an historic opportunity for peace.
But of course any effort by Khartoum to renege on the self-determination agreement achieved in the Machakos Protocol would render present peace talks meaningless. And yet this is precisely what can be discerned in the actions and pronouncements of Khartoum, as well as the recent heavy-handed efforts of the Egyptian regime. This is a strategy that complements Khartoum’s continuing refusal to accept, even for discussion, the Draft Framework for a final peace settlement—the document presented by the IGAD mediators at Nakuru (Kenya) in early July, with very significant international support, most notably that of the “troika” of Norway, Great Britain, and the US.
Khartoum, in addition to an immediate, vicious, and highly public excoriation of the IGAD Draft Framework, still refuses to engage in discussions on the basis of the document despite subsequent broad international expressions of support for both IGAD efforts and for the IGAD mediators, headed by General Lazaro Sumbeiywo of Kenya, who drafted the Nakuru Document (Reuters, August 18, 2003; Agence France-Presse, August 15 and 16, 2003; BBC Monitoring, Al-Khartoum [Khartoum], August 16, 2003). These expressions of support have come from the European Union (August 8, 2003), the US State Department (August 7, 2003), the African Union (Press release from the African Union [Addis Ababa, August 11, 2003]), President Kibaki of Kenya (The Nation/Sunday [Nairobi], August 10, 2003), and the various nations of IGAD (The East African Standard [Nairobi], August 10, 2003).
Unless met quickly and decisively with a sharp rebuke and a clearly articulated set of serious consequences, Khartoum’s various efforts will soon collapse the peace talks. This so even if the talks have been factitiously extended until September 20, as has been claimed by NIF First Vice President Ali Osman Taha—perhaps the most powerful member of the Khartoum regime and the one most adamantly opposed to a just peace settlement (Reuters, August 17, 2003).
But simply continuing talks without any real commitment to the diplomatic process is no more meaningful than simply convening parties at a designated site (see analysis by this writer, August 11, 2003; available upon request). Unless Khartoum is effectively challenged, for which the prospects seem virtually non-existent, the regime will simply run out the diplomatic clock. The regime and its military leadership certainly recognize that such bad faith stalling, if fully successful, could take them to the beginning of the next dry season (September/October); at that time there will be ample opportunity for sustained military offensives in the oil regions and from the strategic sites to which military equipment and soldiers have been moved in very substantial quantities over the last ten months.
For Khartoum has, despite the culpable and shameful silence of the US and others who know the military facts full well, continuously violated the October 15, 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement, which specifically stipulates that the forces of the parties are “to retain current military positions” and “cease supplying all areas with weapons and ammunition” (Section 3). So massively and conspicuously has Khartoum violated these terms that it would appear that after months of watching helplessly, the SPLA has also begun to redeploy and re-arm in various parts of the south. The storm clouds of war are everywhere darkening.
But what is the evidence that Khartoum is not only refusing to negotiate the Draft Framework in good faith at Nanyiku, site of present negotiations, but is actively reneging on a self-determination referendum for southern Sudan?
It is important first to recall how “self-determination” has been used as a snare for southern politicians in the relatively recent past. When in 1992 southern leader Lam Akol met NIF envoy Ali el-Haj in Frankfurt, the NIF then agreed to southern self-determination as a means of widening the split between John Garang and Riek Machar that had occurred the previous year. There was no serious intention of ever granting self-determination. This became fully clear in 1997 when Riek Machar signed the so-called “Khartoum Peace Agreement,” which yet again promised self-determination for the south. Of course this promise was meaningless, and Riek would return to the SPLM/A, at least publicly declaring himself to be chastened by Khartoum’s deceit. Since the political and military realities of 1997 made it perfectly clear that the “Khartoum Peace Agreement” would never be honored, especially since it had been secured without meaningful international auspices, it is difficult to take Riek’s professions as face value.
This is the historical context for understanding what Khartoum agreed to in the Machakos Protocol:
“At the end of the six (6) year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the Government of Sudan 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” (Section 2.5 of the Machakos Protocol, July 20, 2002)
The Protocol was signed on every page by Ghazi Salih el-din Attabani, chief peace negotiator for the Khartoum regime. It could not be clearer, nor could the international auspices for this agreement be more serious. This was not another “Khartoum Peace Agreement,” but an agreement signed with the support of IGAD and the various countries—European and North American—that had bolstered the efforts of the IGAD Peace Secretariat.
Khartoum is thus aware that reneging on the Machakos Protocol will be a more difficult task than simply ignoring Riek Machar. The regime is perfectly well aware that John Garang and the SPLM/A are never so fully representative of southern aspirations as when they cleave vigorously to the terms of the Machakos Protocol. Neither Garang nor any other representative of the people of southern Sudan could ever abandon the demand for a true, internationally supervised self-determination referendum. Whatever differences there may be over the possibility of a “new” or united Sudan—either as a practicable or desirable goal—there are no differences over the bedrock issue of southern self-determination.
Here, of course, we come to the point of intersection with the Nakuru Draft Framework, which is notable precisely because it provides the means by which such a self-determination referendum could be guaranteed, viz. the maintaining of a southern force and command structure (that of the SPLM/A) during the interim period. The people of the south have already seen far too much of the international community’s weak and shallow commitment to guarantees already negotiated. Witness the collapse of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team as an effective investigative force, or the failure to see the terms of the October 15, 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement honored.
The same lack of meaningful international commitment on the ground in Sudan is also evident in the continuing failure to deploy a meaningful Verification and Monitoring Team, per the terms of the February 4, 2003 “Addendum” to the October 15 agreement (the “Addendum” was signed under IGAD and international auspices over half a year ago). Other key terms of the February 4 “Addendum” and “Joint Communiqu” have also been flouted with impunity by the National Islamic Front regime, including Khartoum’s obligation to dismantle garrisons built after October 15 along the oil road south of Bentiu.
No international guarantees are adequate to preserve the right of southern self-determination, the essential condition for a just peace. On this score, it does not matter how one assesses the SPLM/A as a political force: militarily it is indispensable, in its present form, for insuring that Khartoum does not simply sign yet another agreement and abrogate its terms as soon as international attention has drifted elsewhere. International assistance will certainly be needed to effect a disengagement of forces, and for the initiation of any true cease-fire. But meaningful long-term guarantees and guarantors cannot be found except within the people of southern Sudan.
It is in this context that we should understand comments from Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, reported by the Associated Press (August 16, 2003). Though it is clear from all evidence that it is Khartoum that refuses to negotiate on the basis of the Nakuru Draft Framework presented by the IGAD mediators (see above), Maher has chosen to accuse SPLM/A leader John Garang of obstructing the talks:
“We are contacting Garang to ask him to review his position, which are not facilitating the negotiations.” (Associated Press, “Egypt Accuses Sudan rebel leader of blocking peace talks,” August 16, 2003)
As Associated Press quite accurately notes in this wire report, “Egypt is known to oppose the interim settlement—the July 2002 Machakos [Protocol]—which provides for a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan in six years” (AP, August 16, 2003).
What have not been widely noted are the even more hostile and self-serving remarks of Foreign Minister Maher in the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (August 17, 2003). Maher was speaking of the reports of the impending collapse of the Machakos peace talks. SPLM spokesman Yasir Arman had declared on Friday (August 15) that because Khartoum continued to refuse to discuss the Nakuru Draft framework at Nanyiku, the talks “are deadlocked and on the verge of collapse” (Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2003). But instead of supporting the IGAD mediators and their Draft Framework—as had the US, the European Union, the African Union, the IGAD countries, as well as “troika” member Norway—Egypt framed the diplomatic issue as a need to pressure the SPLM/A:
“What is needed now is to influence Garang, not the Government of Sudan, which has expressed its good intentions” (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, August 17, 2003).
This supreme arrogance and mendacity is fully in character with the Egyptian regime’s narrowly conceived self-interest, and has inevitably gone unchallenged by those who profess an interest in peace for Sudan. Certainly no country has greater leverage with the Egyptians than the US, and yet there is no evidence that the State Department or any of the US diplomats involved in the Sudan peace process have challenged Egypt on these clearly unhelpful comments and threatening diplomatic signals. Despite the more than $2 billion the US annually sends to Cairo (mainly to the military), there is no resolve to demand that the Egyptians stop obstructing the Sudan peace process.
No doubt Egypt has played its various diplomatic cards well in discussions with the US, including with US special envoy for Sudan John Danforth on his recent trip to Cairo: “We are your indispensable Arab partner for a Middle East peace settlement that offers you rich political rewards,” and “We are the Arab bulwark in a nasty region now even more resentful in the wake of your war in Iraq.” Still, such blunt diplomatic threats must be explained: why would Egypt obstruct peace for Sudan? what does it gain?
The most cogent explanation, though there are several versions, lies in an understanding of Egypt’s brutal calculation that a just peace for Sudan will set in motion forces that would end the rule of the National Islamic Front, and thus the possibility of extending Egyptian hegemony further south into Africa. Though not happy with certain features of the NIF, nor the complicity of NIF figures like Nafie Ali Nafie and Ali Osman Taha in the 1995 assassination attempt on Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Cairo still counts on Khartoum to extend the reach of Islam and Arabism southward in Sudan. Indeed, this is the only real basis on which Egyptian hegemony can be extended. To be sure Egypt has legitimate interests in the waters of the Nile; but these are continually overstated, especially with respect to any possible threat to the White Nile that might emerge from southern self-determination. Nor should it be forgotten that over 75% of the Nile waters flowing into Egypt come from the Blue Nile, which does not pass through any part of southern Sudan.
The ugly truth, which feckless Western democracies seem incapable of speaking, is that a continuation of war in Sudan serves what the Egyptian leadership perceives as its compelling national interest. Though not completely indifferent to the international desire to bring peace to Sudan, Cairo is nonetheless clearly willing to collapse the peace talks if peace appears to threaten its interests, including the possibility for reviving some version of condominium rule (1898-1956). This is the context in which we should understand the shameless prevarication defining the remarks of Foreign Minister Maher about the source of problems in the present diplomatic process in Nanyiku.
Sensing growing Egyptian fears that a just peace might actually be achieved, and that such a peace will necessarily have as its foundation southern self-determination, Khartoum has also begun to engage in a calculated campaign of reneging on its commitment to the key term of the Machakos Protocol. A column by Idris Hassan in Al-Ray Al-Aam (August 16, 2003) is clearly only the opening salvo (Al-Ray Al-Aam, though nominally “independent,” is especially close to the powerful security apparatus of the NIF). Hassan (editor of the newspaper) declares, after expending a good deal of overheated and gratuitous rhetorical energy, that:
“The SPLA now stands alone against the consensus in the political arena by its unjust and impossible demands that are against any desire for peace and unity; and if the SPLA is serious about unity, then it would not continue to make demands for self-determination that means separation.”
Here we have the patent absurdity of a media spokesman for the NIF declaring that the SPLA is issuing “unjust and impossible demands” when in fact it is the tyrannical and profoundly unrepresentative Khartoum regime that is demanding that the Nakuru Draft Framework be withdrawn by the Machakos mediators. This is the only “demand” of consequence at the moment: it comes from Khartoum, it was held out threateningly as a “precondition” for resuming talks by Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail, and it is now a “demand” that has brought the talks at Nanyiku to the verge of collapse. The only “demand” of the SPLM/A is that the integrity of the Machakos/IGAD process be preserved.
But with this absurd commentary Hassan has only set the stage for what is, in fact, his own demand, one certainly representative of NIF thinking and tactics (which are finally indistinguishable):
“***The first step [for the SPLM/A] is to delete its demand for self-determination from its agenda*** [emphasis added], since calling for unity means Sudan has already determined its destiny.” (Idris Hassan in Al-Ray Al-Aam; August 16, 2003)
It requires considerable effort to attend to all the speciousness that is contained in this single sentence, so let us focus only on the most conspicuous. Whatever unity is hypothetically possible for Sudan can only be attained if the people of the south are guaranteed a self-determination referendum. Unity must be chosen, it cannot be forced upon the people of the south. The unspeakable human destruction and suffering of the last half century grows out of precisely this effort by Khartoum to impose “unity”—the unity of Islam and Arabism. This is the “destiny” that Idris Hassan presumes is already “determined.” But it is “determined” only in the self-absorbed cultural and racial arrogance that motivates the National Islamic Front; it is “determined” only if Islamic fascism prevails. And when we speak of such “destiny” we are not speaking of justice or peace; we are speaking only of the triumph of evil. For the people of southern Sudan, the only peace promised by such a “destiny” is the peace of the grave.
There can be no “deleting” of the right of the people of southern Sudan to self-determination. No just peace can be built on such “deletion,” nor furthered by any country endorsing such a demand. Either the terms of the Machakos Protocol remain fully in force, or there is no peace process.
With the evidence of present diplomatic commentary and maneuvering, it is readily apparent that we are fully into the end-game of Machakos. In all probability, the talks will collapse soon and war of unprecedented destructiveness will ensue. Sensing that it need only obscure the diplomatic climate and stall a short while longer, Khartoum is confident that it will emerge from the collapse of the Machakos process only mildly tarred with its unrelenting disingenuousness, its bad faith, its reneging, and its violation of every single agreement negotiated under the auspices of Machakos.
Now that Egypt is squarely on Khartoum’s side in attempting to deflect blame from being properly assigned, the stakes are much greater for the international community, and yet and there seems to be no willingness to accept the challenge of telling the truth to both Cairo and Khartoum. Sadly, this is just as true for international journalism and the foreign reporting of supposedly authoritative US newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as the national weekly “news” magazines. Shamefully, none has done anything of significance in apprising American readers of the impending catastrophe.
War will come again, and its vast and fearsome consequences will quickly be evident to all. Perhaps then we will have a facile summary article or two from the international press. For its part, the Bush administration, in the face of such inexcusable failure, will undoubtedly hide behind some fatuous comments from special envoy John Danforth to the effect that “neither side really wanted peace.” That this is patently not true, that the US helped to squander this historic opportunity through ineptitude and lack of commitment, will be of little consequence—at least so the political calculations will go. The State Department may belatedly and meaninglessly declare at the end of October that Khartoum is “not engaged in good faith peace negotiations,” but by then the killing fields will once again be streaming with the blood of southern Sudanese. Nor is there reason to hope for more from the Europeans or the African nations.
Sudan will again drift into the invisible and savagely cruel cauldron of engineered starvation, the bombing of civilian and humanitarian sites, scorched-earth clearances in the oil fields, and the relentless, deliberate destruction and displacement of the non-Arabized, non-Islamicized populations of the south. In short, genocide will resume.
This is not an occult hypothesis, nor some distant prospect. It is what all evidence points to as the impending reality. Genocide is set to resume in southern Sudan and—knowing full well this to be true—the world is without the resolve to stop it.
This is who we are.
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