Eric Reeves •
Two agreements about the dangerous crises in Sudan were signed in the past few days: one purporting to address the Abyei crisis (http://reliefweb.int/node/422034), the other the massive ethnically targeted violence in South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/world/africa/29sudan.html?_r=1). Cause for celebration? Hardly. There is a serious danger that these very modest diplomatic achievements, which resolve none of the fundamental issues, will simply buy Khartoum time to accomplish its goals in both regions.
The first agreement, a June 27 UN Security Council resolution, authorized an Ethiopian peacekeeping mission of 4,200 troops to patrol the disputed area of Abyei (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-27/un-votes-to-deploy-4-200-ethiopian-forces-to-sudan-s-abyei-as-peacekeepers.html ). This resolution grew out of the June 16 agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)—soon to become the leadership of the Republic of South Sudan when the country formally divides on July 9—and professed to address several issues surrounding control of Abyei. But the June 16 agreement is explicitly temporary; while Khartoum is obliged to remove its regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the document is vague about the militias that have created so much havoc in Abyei. Even with the presence of the Ethiopian force that was finally authorized a few days ago, Khartoum will only withdraw from Abyei to those locations that had given the northern regime de facto military control months ago.
The agreement also does nothing to explain how the more than 110,000 displaced Ngok Dinka—the indigenous people of Abyei—will be able to return to their homes safely. This is one reason the failure to deal head-on with the issue of militias, largely constituted by the nomadic Misseriya people, is so important. Unsurprisingly, it seems that no journalist in the region has found any Ngok from Abyei who are prepared to return.
But the most critical limitation of the recent agreement is that the final status of Abyei is simply consigned to future negotiations—negotiations that will change fundamentally when the North and South formally separate. At that point, Salva Kiir, President of the Government of South Sudan, and one part of the three-person “Presidency” established by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to govern Sudan during the “interim” period, will lose his position, leaving only members of the Khartoum regime in the presidency and leaving Omar al-Bashir to make arrangements for Abyei’s self-determination referendum. Essentially, this cedes control to al Bashir, who has already indicated his disregard for the Abyei Protocol set up by the CPA and the Abyei ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2009. Khartoum also insists on considering nomadic Misseriya Arabs as residents of Abyei for voting purposes. It is difficult to see how the future does not entail a permanent land-grab by Khartoum.
And what of the agreement signed on June 28 by representatives of both the North and the South calling for shared governance of the contested border areas? This is even less substantive than the authorization of the Ethiopian troops—little more than an agreement to continue negotiations. It speaks of an “agenda” comprising only vacuous phrases: “recognition of the diversity in Sudan,” “rule of law,” “human rights,” “justice for all citizens of Sudan.” One could forgive the perversely inflated rhetoric if there were some substance to the document. But it contains no agreement for cessation of hostilities, even as those hostilities continue in the most brutal fashion in South Kordofan. The document merely talks about the formation of a North-South Joint Security Committee to address “all relevant security issues.” This will be little comfort to those Nuba residents of South Kordofan ….
[complete essay at from The New Republic, June 30, 2011