July 7, 2003
Even as various optimistic assessments of the prospects for peace in Sudan are emanating from Khartoum (and other quarters), the National Islamic Front regime has very recently resumed major military re-supply efforts to the garrison town of Juba in southern Sudan. Multiple and extremely reliable regional sources have confirmed that eight (8) barges are presently moving toward Juba, loaded with military equipment and supplies. This redeployment of military assets is a direct and highly consequential violation of the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army on Resumption of Negotiations on Peace in Sudan” (October 15, 2002). The “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) explicitly states that both parties shall “cease supplying all areas with weapons and ammunition” (Section 3, item 5).
These terms are explicitly reaffirmed in the February 4, 2003 “Addendum” to the October 15, 2002 agreement (both agreements were negotiated under the auspices of IGAD). Moreover the “Addendum” also stipulates that there should be a “Verification and Monitoring Team” (VMT), one enjoying “free access to travel in and around areas where a complaint had been filed by any of the parties.” But the promise of a VMT appears increasingly meaningless, despite final agreement on the terms of deployment secured in negotiations at the end of May 2003. There is no credible or meaningful deployment of the VMT and none appears possible in the near term (indeed, deployment seems increasingly unlikely in the medium term). Here it is important to note that chief IGAD mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo has now set mid-August as a time-frame for the Machakos peace process:
“‘The negotiations in Nakuru [Kenya] will be the final phase of the talks during which the two parties will prepare the final documents they expect to sign in the middle of August,’ Sumbeiywo told journalists.” (Agence France-Presse, July 4, 2003)
A VMT that is not yet staffed or equipped (or even clear about the location of its deployment base) will not be able to provide anything of use in the way of intelligence or verification of military redeployments prior to a final peace signing. Indeed, it is increasingly difficult to believe that the VMT was ever intended to come into existence in a timely and effective fashion. The US State Department must here bear major responsibility, along with the UK.
These new redeployments by Khartoum are especially ominous since they reverse a trend that had been evident since at least early May 2003, when the insurrection in Darfur forced the regime to deploy as many as five brigades to the far western province in order to respond to the new “Sudan Liberation Army” (for a fine analysis of the military situation in Darfur, see the July 7, 2003 report from the International Crisis Group, “Sudan Endgame,” at www.crisisweb.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=1038). What has recently been fully confirmed as the movement of offensive military equipment to Juba suggests that Khartoum, rightly or wrongly, has concluded it need not direct all new military efforts to Darfur. Thus the build-up at Juba now continues a process that began in earnest shortly after the signing of the October 15, 2002 “Memorandum of Understanding.” Khartoum already has in Juba well over a division of soldiers, perhaps 30 to 40 tanks, many other armored vehicles, as well as missiles, heavy mortars, and other offensive equipment that will soon be substantially augmented.
The implications for the Machakos peace process of Khartoum’s renewed violation of multiple signed agreements can hardly be overstated. Yet again the regime is proving that such agreements are utterly meaningless without robust international guarantees and guarantors—neither of which would seem to be in the offing for any mid-August agreement that might be secured under the auspices of Machakos. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the people of the south generally must conclude that for all the talk of reaching peace, there is no real commitment to securing it. How else can they respond to the recent, intensely dismaying and inadequate reports from the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT)? What does it say that over five months after a Verification and Monitoring Team was initially negotiated, there is still no deployment that might confirm the movement of eight barges down the Nile River, in clear violation of both the October 15, 2002 and February 4, 2003 agreements?
It remains the most basic truth of the Machakos peace process, indeed any peace process for Sudan: a peace that is to be meaningful and sustainable must be just—and adequately guaranteed against Khartoum’s abundantly clear willingness to violate agreements whenever advantageous.
There are, of course, some who insist that there is a “new” National Islamic Front (NIF) regime in Khartoum, that these are now people who can be negotiated with in the ordinary manner of diplomacy. But Khartoum’s serial and consequential violations of signed agreements suggest that a great deal more evidence is required for anyone—certainly the people of the south and marginalized areas—to accept such a tendentious conclusion.
It would also seem incumbent on those who discern a conveniently “new” National Islamic Front regime to explain the recent and significant increase in repression in Khartoum. Numerous newspaper confiscations and arrests of opposition figures, highly credible reports of torture, and other forms of intimidation are the NIF’s means of insuring that there is no competing voice in the Machakos process. Those supporting the “Khartoum Declaration” have been singled out for a particularly forceful crackdown.
Parallel in many ways to the Cairo Declaration of May 24, 2003 (signed by the SPLM/A and the two major northern opposition parties), the Khartoum Declaration demands an end to one-party rule in Sudan and that Islamic law (shari’a) not govern the capital city. Agence France-Presse reports that “the Khartoum Declaration was signed by 18 opposition parties, 15 non-government organizations and more than 40 individual opposition leaders” (July 6, 2003). As of this writing, arrests of those supporting the Khartoum Declaration continue apace and SOAT (Sudanese Organized Against Torture) and the Sudan Human Rights Organization (Cairo) have issued a steady stream of disturbing accounts of the degree of repression now present in Khartoum.
Those who see a “new” NIF have many questions to answer and have so far failed to make a case or explain the manifest behavior of the regime. Indeed, as military barges move down the Nile toward the garrison town of Juba, as repression escalates in Khartoum, and as the regime sees that it no longer need fear a truly effective Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, perhaps it is not so difficult to understand why the NIF might see the present moment as ripe for the seizing. By agreeing to an expedient and minimalist peace (one increasingly likely to leave unaddressed the critical issue of the “three contested areas”), the regime will likely succeed in diminishing the unprecedented attention Sudan’s civil war has received in recent years, and guarantee an expansive window of opportunity for Khartoum to resume war on the most favorable terms (e.g., after the Darfur insurrection has been brought under control and the asymmetrical military/logistical advantages for Khartoum of a cease-fire have been exhausted).
To be sure, NIF President Omer Beshir’s recent expressions of optimism in Juba have the air of a chilling assuredness: “peace is at hand.” But these are words that for some will ironically recall another context.
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