There is no shortage of desire for a just peace in Sudan among people of goodwill everywhere. And there is widespread appreciation that a window of opportunity to achieve such a peace now exists—however slight, however transient. The challenge is to seize this moment of opportunity, to build on the great desire for peace, and to insure that a credible and well-designed peace process exists to facilitate the move toward peace. Sudan, in its nearly two decades of war, has never had such a process, one that truly reflects international support and commitment. It is long overdue. Thus it is of particular importance that an excellent design for such a peace process has very recently been published by the International Crisis Group (available at: http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=604). This comprehensive design for an effective peace process and negotiating mechanism deserves the closest attention of all who desire peace for Sudan.
Eric Reeves [April 5, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
The report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), published April 3, 2002, puts the matter all too tellingly in the opening sentences of its Executive Summary:
“Sudan’s window of opportunity threatens to become a missed opportunity if the peace process is not revitalised in the near future. Escalation of fighting around the oil fields, increasing use by the government [of Sudan] of helicopter gunships against civilian as well as military targets, and indecision surrounding the nature of wider international engagement all put at risk Sudan’s best chance for peace since the latest phase of civil war began nearly nineteen years ago” (page i).
Appropriately, the ICG report observes the limitations of the much-reported and discussed Danforth initiative on the part of the US government (page 9 ff.). Though acknowledging the achievements of the initiative, the ICG reports pointedly notes that Danforth’s effort has not addressed the underlying causes of the war, and proposes nothing that might serve as an effective peace process. It should also be noted that some of the comments on southern self-determination by Danforth have reflected a serious misunderstanding of the fundamental significance of this issue for any peace process that is to be credible for the people of the south.
It is the strength of the ICG report that it fully acknowledges the diplomatic and political difficulties within the region that attend the issue of self-determination, even as the report also offers a credible possibility for incorporating the issue of self-determination, including the terms for a referendum, into an internationalized peace process. The section of the report entitled “Self-determination: The Toughest Nut to Crack” (page 17) is extremely important as a contribution to a realistic discussion of the issue.
At the same time, it should be noted that the ICG report takes full cognizance of what is represented by the atrocity at Bieh, in Western Upper Nile, and in no way exonerates the Khartoum regime for its brutality in conducting scorched-earth warfare in southern Sudan, particularly the oil regions:
“The highly visible Bieh massacre and other similar but less publicised attacks provide further evidence of the need for more systematic, multilateral, human rights-focused pressure on the government” (page 1).
It is in this context that the report makes a fundamentally important point:
“International retreat from the peace process [ ] would represent capitulation to hard-line elements in Khartoum opposed to a negotiated settlement” (page 1).
There will be some who argue that Khartoum, while dominated by the National Islamic Front, is incapable of anything less than a hard-line response to the challenge of forging a just peace, though these are not the findings of the report’s highly experienced chief author, John Prendergast, in a long series of interviews over many months with various officials in Khartoum.
But it is nonetheless critically important for all to recognize that Khartoum must be engaged in a serious, well-designed, internationally supported peace process—if only to reveal the degree of intransigence on the part of the regime. International pressure on Khartoum, and not just from the US, will be much more likely down the road if the regime proves that it is unwilling to make a just peace even under the auspices of a robust and well-supported peace process.
For this reason, all should agree with the ICG report when it declares:
“The central challenge remains to reconcile the traffic jam of initiatives and construct a single viable, credible, and sustainable peace process marked by a new partnership between the region and the wider international community” (page 2).
The ICG report trenchantly summarizes the weaknesses of both the IGAD process and the Egyptian-Libyan Initiative. Given IGAD’s role as repository for the Declaration of Principles, and the silence of the Egyptian-Libyan Initiative on just these principles, the report’s appropriate conclusion is that “retaining IGAD leadership but finding a more direct role for the broader international community will be key” (page 16).
The final four pages of the report (pages 16-19) explore in persuasive detail the features of such an internationalized peace process. It envisions central roles for the US, Norway, and the UK (what is referred to as the “troika”). Actual negotiations “would be facilitated by closely cooperating envoys, one from Kenya representing IGAD, one from the [troika]” (page 16). The IGAD envoy “would report to President Moi [of Kenya], who would coordinate with other IGAD heads of state and President Mubarak, representing the Egyptian-Libyan Initiative” (page 16). There would also be a technical team that “would service the facilitators in legal, security, and other matters” (page 16).
The report is not nave about the difficulty of including Egypt in the process, but rightly concludes that realistically, Egypt cannot simply be ignored or excluded. Thus Egypt is included in the international contact group envisaged by the report: “The purpose would first and foremost be to make Egypt more of a partner. Its success would be dependent on active US diplomacy to encourage in particular Cairo’s flexibility on self-determination” (page 16).
Finally, the ICG report suggests a third and wider international group that would “coordinate leverage in the form of multilateral pressures and incentives” (page 16-17). [A diagrammatic model, “Partnership Model for the Sudan Peace Process, Appendix A,” offers a visually clear rendering of the various elements of the process described—page 19).
The time has come to move beyond Danforth’s inherently limited “confidence-building measures” and an IGAD process which left to itself can accomplish nothing. The Egyptian-Libyan Initiative is transparently without chance of success. Those working for peace in Sudan simply must help fashion and support “a single viable, credible, and sustainable peace process marked by a new partnership between the region and the wider international community.” To its immense credit, the ICG report takes on precisely this task—uniquely to date. It deserves the most serious consideration.
[The report can be found on line, in PDF format, at: