October 2, 2003
One week after the signing of an historic agreement on security arrangements at Naivasha (Kenya), the opportunity for peace in Sudan continues to present itself distinctly, though the overall process is still fraught with difficulties and pitfalls. Recent analyses from a variety of sources have highlighted the danger to peace posed by the primarily Khartoum-allied militias operating in southern Sudan, and this danger remains great. At the same time there are preliminary reports that some of the rank-and-file in the militias are starting to disband in the wake of the Naivasha agreement, and this may be a significant portent. Some within the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum are reported to be disgruntled by the agreement, but there is no real evidence that this has translated into slippage in the time-frame for a completed agreement. Talks are expected to resume in mid-October, and there may be more rapid progress on outstanding issues than has heretofore been thought possible.
But the prospect of peace seems not to have registered fully with the US State Department, or at least in State Department budgetary requests. Despite optimistic words about peace in Sudan, there is presently—on the verge of a new fiscal year—no funding request from the Bush administration for either peace-keeping or for the immediate humanitarian and reconstruction needs that a peace agreement will make urgent. While there is a request to provide $50 million for research (and only research) into an Iraqi postal system, nothing has been requested for southern Sudan. This is a scandalous short-changing of a country that may see as many as one million presently Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) attempting to return home in the first six months following the end of the war. Their plight will be desperate without adequate resources, and their chances for using peace to regain self-sufficiency deeply compromised.
Even more short-sighted, however, is the failure to seek funding for either UN peace-keeping forces, or for forces that would be funded, led, and staffed by the “troika” (Norway, Great Britain and the US). Peace will be tenuous in the extreme during the time immediately after a peace agreement: this will be a time of great military tensions, difficult redeployments, and potentially serious militia violence—all in a part of the country that is awash in arms, of immense size, and without a transportation infrastructure. The need for a robust, well-supplied, and well-positioned peace-keeping force—with ample transport and logistical support—cannot be overstated. And yet no funds have been requested by the Bush administration State Department even at this late date and with the prospect of a peace agreement clearly on the horizon.
We need only recall the recent testimony of departing Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner to see that this is a clear case of reneging. Before the House International Relations Committee (Africa subcommittee), Kansteiner declared on May 13, 2003:
“The people of Sudan need to hear a clear message that the Congress wants to see a just and comprehensive peace, that the United States will remain engaged—but that the window of opportunity is now—and that we stand ready to support reconstruction and development in post-war Sudan.”
These are fine words, but they ring terribly hollow in light of the failure to ask for the funds that will “support reconstruction and development in post-war Sudan” at the most critical moment. And without an effective peace-keeping force, this reconstruction and development aid may never have the chance to materialize.
Kansteiner went on to declare in his Congressional testimony:
“At the urging of the United States and our ‘troika’ partners, the international community has come together to spell out to each side the tangible benefits of peace. Both sides know that there will be a large peace dividend for reconstruction and development if, but only if there is peace.”
But though peace is now a distinct possibility, it is entirely unclear who is going to provide the “large peace dividend” Kansteiner speaks of. Again, there is no pending administration request for funding of the immediate and short-term humanitarian and reconstruction projects that will be essential in the wake of a final peace agreement—or for the equally essential peace-keeping efforts. Whatever their mismatch in perceived strategic importance, Sudan and Iraq must both be seen as deserving US help in war’s terrible aftermath. It will earn the United State nothing but shame if it commits to making peace in Sudan but not sustaining it.
To be sure, other countries must do their part. Disturbingly, only 34% of the UN’s proposed $263 million 2003 emergency appeal has so far been funded. This is so even as UNICEF reports that the average rates of malnutrition in southern Sudan have been worsening since 2001. The European Union, which has through various of its members callously invested in Khartoum’s economy, should even now be making a very significant funding commitment for development and reconstruction in southern Sudan. Canada, which could not find the political will to end Talisman Energy’s rapacious presence in the oil regions of southern Sudan, owes a particularly generous response to reconstruction and humanitarian aid, especially in the areas where Talisman operated.
But US leadership, given US promises, is essential. Without an immediate revision of its funding request, the State Department will clearly be guilty of reneging on the pledges made by Kansteiner to Congress less than five months ago.
As context for the presently inadequate response to the prospect of peace in Sudan, we should bear in mind the various shortcomings and failures in commitments made even prior to a final peace agreement; these have been all too characteristic of the US and its allies in previous efforts to deploy monitors and monitoring teams. Justice Africa, in its September 2003 report on Sudan, provides a disturbing overview:
“Residents of the Nuba Mountains are expressing mounting concerns over the effectiveness and impartiality of the Joint Military Commission [JMC]. Similarly, people on the ground in Southern Sudan have frustrations with the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team [CPMT]. A series of incidents indicates that both these institutions appear to be acquiescing to procedures demanded by Khartoum, sometimes at the detriment of actually fulfilling their mandates. Fighting continues in parts of Upper Nile, despite the ceasefire and with no indication of the CPMT taking action. Both teams appear ready to accept prima facie the legitimate right of the Government of Sudan to restrict or enable access and define the limits of their mandate. […These issues] are a marker of potentially serious problems in implementing the provisions of any peace deal.”
To this assessment must be added some account of the ongoing and inexcusable failure to deploy a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT) per the terms of the February 4, 2003 “Addendum” to the original cessation of hostilities agreement (October 15, 2002). Assistant Secretary Kansteiner suggested in his May Congressional testimony that “disagreements over the modalities to [monitor the October 15, 2002] agreement have delayed the foundation of the VMT.” But in fact those “disagreements” were resolved shortly after Kansteiner testified and there is still no effectively functioning Verification and Monitoring Team. What does this say about US and European commitment to peace-keeping?
Very serious complaints in the Nuba Mountain region about the Joint Military Commission (JMC) were being aired well over a year ago, and in January 2003 this writer heard from a great many civil society and military leaders about a lack of impartiality on the part of the JMC. Little appears to have changed in the last nine months.
On yet another monitoring front, following Khartoum’s grounding of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) from March 7, 2003 to April 11, 2003, the CPMT has been deeply compromised in fulfilling its primary reporting mission, fully earning the disturbing assessment rendered by Justice Africa. To be sure, an optimistic assessment of the CPMT was offered by Kansteiner, again in his May 2003 Congressional testimony:
“The CPMT, which has been operating since last October, has helped deter attacks against civilians by casting a spotlight on those responsible, as it did in its February report definitively documenting the responsibility of the government and its allied militias for the military actions in the Western Upper Nile.”
But this assessment takes no account of the conspicuous failures by the CPMT in its investigations of military actions against civilians in Eastern Upper Nile (reports by this writer on these failures available upon request). Nor does it take account of the ongoing military consequences for civilians of the oil road south of Bentiu; Khartoum’s more recently established garrisons were to have been dismantled per the February 4, 2003 “Addendum,” but this has not happened.
There has been very optimistic talk from the US State Department in the wake of the security arrangements agreement signed last week at Naivasha. And this is indeed a major diplomatic achievement. But a great deal of serious work remains, both in negotiations and in providing the means for peace to take hold in southern Sudan. Neither the US nor its European allies seem at present willing to provide the robust, impartial, and effective monitoring and peace-keeping forces that all acknowledge will be critical for a lasting peace. Nor is there a US (or EU, or Canadian) commitment to funding the most critical short-term humanitarian projects that will be essential given Sudan’s desperate needs, and the large events most likely be set in motion by the end of fighting.
Sudan needs more than diplomacy and encouragement from the US, however important these have been in reaching this critical stage in the peace process. Sudan needs a real commitment of resources and funding, and the Bush administration must urgently request these of the Congress. Whatever the costs of peace, renewed war will be much more costly—in all senses.
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