July 24, 2003
The present moment in the Machakos peace process is at once terrifyingly clear and perhaps fatally ambiguous. A failure to achieve full clarity, from all the parties involved in the negotiations, will likely produce an impasse in the talks and ultimately the renewal of war. It is thus no time for diplomatic coyness or obliquity. The question is squarely before the IGAD mediators and their international partners: is the document presented at Nakuru two weeks ago (“Draft Framework for Resolution of the Outstanding Issues Arising out of the Elaborations of the Machakos Protocol”) the basis for negotiating a final agreement, or is it not?
There must be no hesitating calculation, no mincing of words, no diplomatic equivocation. There is urgent and compelling need for public and unambiguous answers from Kenya and the other IGAD countries as well as Norway, Great Britain, and the US.
For Khartoum, with the strong support of the Arab League, has already sharply rejected the Nakuru draft accord as the basis for a final agreement. This is so even as the SPLM/A leadership, in declaring its support for the mediators’ document as a basis for final talks, has made clear that they cannot accept Khartoum’s reneging on the terms and final product of a drafting process that all had agreed to. The document in question was presented by General Lazaro Sumbeiywo after consultation with his fellow IGAD mediators, as well as diplomats representing the “troika” (the UK, Norway, and the US). This followed Sumbeiywo’s extensive consultations with Khartoum and the SPLM/A, and with the people of the north, the three contested areas, and southern Sudan.
If the resumption of the peace talks requires the SPLM/A to accept a new document, one generated by Khartoum’s reneging on and diplomatic threats to a process the regime had already accepted, then the negotiations will collapse from a transparent lack of integrity. Up to this point, none of the key diplomatic partners in the Machakos process has publicly declared support for the process and the “Draft Framework.” Though Norway has apparently preserved its status as most stalwart supporter of the peace talks, some exceedingly well-informed sources are reporting that Great Britain is waffling. Though not altogether surprising, this is an extremely ominous turn of events, and makes the recent ill-advised and at times fatuously ignorant comments by US special envoy for Sudan, John Danforth, all the more troubling.
Danforth seems more intent on reassuring Egypt and the Arab League than on respecting the integrity of the Machakos process and insuring that the “Draft Framework” is perceived by all the parties as enjoying full US support. Indeed, his public comments suggest that he has, on the contrary, worked to undermine the Draft as the basis for final negotiations (see commentary from this source, July 21, 2003 and July 18, 2003; available upon request). The State Department, for its part, has made no public comment restating its full support for the Machakos process, and thus for the “Draft Framework.” Evidently confident that Sudan’s domestic political profile has diminished, and that the complexities of the present diplomatic situation will discourage news reporters from making forceful inquiries, no one at the State Department’s Africa Bureau has felt the need to say a word about the present diplomatic crisis . This silence becomes hourly more consequential.
Of course ideally the Machakos process and the “Draft Framework” would receive international support from the United Nations, or at the very least the Secretary General. But clearly fear of offending Khartoum seems to take precedence over maintaining the integrity of a negotiating process that has been almost unanimously described as the best chance for peace in Sudan in a generation. At a time when the United Nations is struggling to regain its relevance in international diplomacy and in addressing critical issues of war and peace, a refusal to endorse the best and most widely supported international peace process for resolving Sudan’s 20-year civil conflict seems a large step backwards.
We should recall here that the Machakos negotiations have been moving for some time now toward a process closer to arbitration than pure mediation. This is because no substantial progress had been recorded on any of the major outstanding issues since the signing of the Machakos Protocol in July 2002. Given the difficulty of all the issues involved, the mediators moved to take them on as a whole (this is the “holistic” method explicitly announced by Sumbeiywo as the only way to move the talks towards a final resolution). The “Draft Framework” is the fruition of this move toward arbitration, an evolution in diplomatic strategy accepted by Khartoum. It is thus not just a draft document that is being rejected by the National Islamic Front regime (though special envoy Danforth would have us believe as much), but the very authority of the Machakos process under IGAD auspices.
What we have, in other words, are the clear outlines of a diplomatic impasse, one that if not resolved quickly will lead to renewed war. When and if the now-deferred Machakos talks resume (August 3 is the date most often mentioned for such resumption), what will be the point of reference for what are supposed to be the final negotiations: the document presented, clearly and unambiguously, by the Machakos mediators as the basis for these final negotiations? or some new draft, the result of Khartoum’s blunt, intransigent refusal to accept the mediators’ best effort to bring resolution to the various outstanding issues?
Khartoum continues to insist that it will not resume negotiations on the basis of the “Draft Framework” tabled at Nakuru. The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reports (July 23, 2003) the unambiguous comments of Khartoum’s deputy ambassador to Kenya, Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry: “The only way out is to throw out the IGAD document, get back to the Machakos Protocol and base the drawing up of a peace agreement on it.” Dirdeiry conveniently fails to note that the full title of the document he wishes to have “thrown out,” the document presented by the mediators at Nakuru, bears the title: “Draft Framework for Resolution of the Outstanding Issues Arising out of the Elaborations of the Machakos Protocol.” In other words, Dirdeiry simply refuses to accept that it is not a question of “getting back to the Machakos Protocol,” but rather of accepting that the mediators have fashioned a way to move beyond the heretofore fruitless discussions of the various contentious issues while preserving the essential elements of the Protocol, most critically for the people of the south, the right to a self-determination referendum.
Even as Khartoum is declaring that it cannot accept the “Draft Framework,” the SPLM/A leadership has made it fully clear that “if the Khartoum government did not accept peace proposals suggested by mediators, there would be no end to their war” (Reuters, July 23, 2003).
In short, Khartoum has declared that there will be no resumption of peace negotiations unless the “Draft Framework” is abandoned, and the SPLM/A has declared there can be no negotiations without continuing commitment to the “Draft Framework.”
This is the impasse that must be resolved, or the peace process will collapse and war will resume again. The only means of resolution is for the international community—most urgently Norway, Great Britain, and the US—to declare publicly and forcefully their support for the Machakos mediators and their “Draft Framework.” Without such declarations, the talks will lose direction and momentum and will be impossible to bring to a moment of true decision.
War will be the inevitable result of present silence and indecision.
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