Southern Sudan: On the Path to War

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By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

On 31 December 2004, Sudan's ruling National Congress Party ((NCP) formerly
the National Islamic Front (NIF)) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement
(SPLM) signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), bringing to an end 21
years of civil war and Islamic jihad.


The process of formulating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been fraught
with difficulties as the secular, inclusive, equitable, democratic "New Sudan"
vision of Dr John Garang's SPLM and the ruling NCP's vision of an Arab
Islamist Sudan with racial and religious apartheid were totally incompatible.

Dr Garang's vision of a New Sudan with "unity on a new basis" attracted
followers from amongst the marginalised non-Arab, non-Muslim and non-Islamist
majority all over the nation, causing the south-based SPLM to blossom into a
truly national movement.

Of course such a vision was (and still is) anathema to Sudan's ruling Arabist
Islamist regime which was (and still is) driven not only by Islamist ideology
and ideas of racial and religious supremacy, but by the knowledge that it
could never survive in an open and free environment. The NIF has never had a
mandate from the people to rule or implement divisive Sharia: its power was
obtained and is held by force.

Further to these difficulties of SPLM-NCP incompatibility, the SPLM was itself
divided between those who supported Garang's New Sudan vision with its
national agenda and those southerners who supported self-determination.

The CPA, with its six-year interim "one nation, two systems" confederation
period, was a pragmatic attempt to secure peace in the short term whilst
providing steps towards a long term solution.

The CPA appeased both SPLM camps by providing for elections in 2009 and a
referendum on self-determination for the south in 2011. Meanwhile the central
government of national unity had the interim six-year period (2005-2011) to
"make unity attractive" and thus prevent the dismemberment and/or
disintegration of Sudan.

Garang knew that separatism was a recipe for war. He hoped that full
implementation of the CPA and elections that routed the NCP, along with
positive momentum across the nation and improved living conditions in the
south, could convince the southerners that Sudan was a state worth staying in
- that is, they might choose unity with nation-building over separatism and a
return to war.

Today, the New Sudan faction, which is south-based but geographically,
ethnically and religiously diverse, advocates a national solution and sees the
CPA as a roadmap to national reform via elections. The southern
self-determination faction, which is tribalist and south-focused, sees the CPA
as a roadmap to the 2011 referendum where they will "exercise their right of

The self-determination faction fails to address the fact the north will never
let such oil-rich territory go and will return to war, with the NCP flying the
flag of jihad, to retain it. Furthermore, for the NCP there are not only
economic considerations but also their Islamic ideology which cannot let the
south succeed.


It is nearly three years since the CPA was signed. The central government is
not implementing its provisions and is not making "unity attractive" because
it is still advancing its Arabist Islamist vision for Sudan which is not
attractive for any non-Arab, non-Muslim or non-Islamist.

The southern oil fields are still over-run with northern Sudanese Armed Forces
(SAF) and their associate militias though the deadline for their withdrawal
passed on 9 July 2007. (Link 1)

Even before the deadline passed there was a serious military confrontation in
Malakal. (See WEA Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 408, "Southern Sudan:
Serious clash threatens peace", 13 December 2006: Link 2)

Because the CPA's security protocols are not being implemented, northern
troops are still facing off against southern troops that are now supposed to
be in charge of the south's security. Tensions are escalating.

Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times describes the situation in the
southern town of Abyei: "The two sides were supposed to have been integrated
by now into a single army -- marching, living and fighting together for one
Sudan. Instead, the soldiers eyeball one another across the narrow divide,
with thousands more massing to lay claim to the contested oil fields nearby,
seemingly bracing for another long separatist war.

" 'We're on a path back toward war,' said David Mozersky, the Horn of Africa
project director for International Crisis Group (ICG), which researches
conflicts around the world. 'We're seeing a military build-up on both sides,'
he said, '(and) the partnership between the two sides has broken down.' "
(Link 3)

Furthermore, the NCP has been consistently obstructing work towards border
demarcation, a national census and electoral law, thus jeopardising the 2009
elections. As the International Crisis Group notes, "While free and fair
elections may worry the NCP, it would welcome quick and dirty ones." (Link 4)


The NCP has no intention of implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
(CPA), because that would be political suicide. Therefore it is in the NCP's
interests to keep the nation destabilised and the SPLM as divided and
conflicted as possible.

Since Dr John Garang's death in a helicopter crash on 9 July 2005, the SPLM
has, in the words of International Crisis Group (ICG, July 2007) "had trouble
maintaining focus on national issues. . ." (Link 4)

Under the leadership of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar the SPLM has been
retreating from the New Sudan vision and national agenda of Dr John Garang.
Instead of cultivating its partnerships with all the Sudanese pro-democracy
groups, repressed and marginalised peoples and SPLM associates across the
nation -- groups that seek the ousting of the NCP and reform at the centre to
create a liberal democratic secular New Sudan -- the SPLM is pursuing
secession and partnership with the Arab Islamist NCP in Khartoum, believing
this will actually enable them to secure it.

Does anyone else have a sense of déjà vu?

During his two decades as SPLM/A (Army) leader, Dr John Garang (a Dinka)
opposed making southern self-determination the political aim of the rebellion.
Garang saw Sudan as a diverse nation, with numerous peoples, cultures,
histories, traditions and beliefs. He saw the forced imposition of Arabism and
Islamism, and Islamist Arab hegemony, as conducive to endless conflict.
Political and religious repression and persecution only generate resistance
and separatism which in turn spurn further political repression, racial and
religious persecution and Islamic jihad. Dr Garang believed that peace could
only come through secularism and democracy that guaranteed inclusion, equality
and liberty for all Sudanese, and a commitment to nation-building.

In 1991, the SPLM/A split when Commander Riek Machar (a Nuer, and now the Vice
President of the Government of Southern Sudan) led a breakaway faction into a
fight for independence. The Arab Islamist NIF regime in Khartoum was never
going to be threatened by Machar's mostly Nuer SPLA-United faction, not like
it was (and still is) threatened by the New Sudan vision which has the
potential to unify national opposition. So the NIF, doubtless delighted by the
SPLM split, partnered with and armed Riek Machar's faction in support of his
personal, tribal, political and military conflict against Garang's New Sudan
faction. In other words, while the SPLA-United was fighting for independence,
Khartoum was using the faction as a proxy militia in its own war against
Garang's SPLM. (Realistically, when the enemy supports your strategy you
really should reassess your mission!)

In light of this, the present scenario is starting to look very familiar. The
SPLM has expressed its frustration over the lack of CPA implementation.
Meanwhile the Arab Islamist NCP knows that it cannot win a free and fair
election. Furthermore, like all dictatorships everywhere, the NCP leadership
has no intention of relinquishing the privileges and spoils of power, and like
all committed ideological Islamists everywhere they have no intention of
secularising, for that would be akin to apostasy.

Commenting on the NCP's signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Sudanese
Islamist leader Hassan Abdullah al-Turabi says: "The SPLM had the African and
the international community support, and the government was isolated and weak.
I think that once you sign a contract you have to abide by it but I think they
(NCP) did not read it, and when they read it they found the agreement was too
much for them. . . These people now realise they have signed the wrong thing .
. . " (Link 5).


International Crisis Group (ICG) reports that the biggest blow to the CPA has
been the NCP decision to "actively undermine core CPA elements and try to
divide the SPLM" (Link 4, page 3).

According to ICG's July report, at high-level talks in late April 2007 "the
NCP offered to implement some key CPA areas if the SPLM would commit to an
electoral partnership.

"The NCP strategy is twofold: partnering with the SPLM would strengthen its
chances to survive democratic elections and, perhaps more importantly,
eliminate the possibility of an SPLM-led alliance of marginalised political
groups, including from the South, Darfur, the East, the Nuba Mountains and
Blue Nile, which could challenge its supremacy." (Link 4, page 4)

When the ICG report was being written in July, the SPLM was "resisting an
electoral arrangement". ICG notes: "A serious internal contradiction in its
view of the CPA affects the SPLM's ability and willingness to consider a real
[electoral] partnership. For its northern members and supporters of Garang's
New Sudan vision, the central purpose of the peace deal is to dismantle the
NCP government and reform the centre. This requires a program focusing
primarily on national reforms and is inconsistent with a partnership with the
ruling party. Instead, the natural choice would seem to be an alliance with
the other marginalised regions and opposition parties.

"For its predominantly southern majority, however, the primary purpose is to
deliver the self-determination referendum. This opens a possibility for a
political deal with the NCP, including even an electoral partnership, since
many SPLM members believe the best way to protect the referendum is to allow
the NCP to keep control of the North, while their party focuses on the South."
(Link 4, page 4)

However, as ICG notes, "SPLM leaders seem inclined to the second line."

On 10 September, the Sudan Tribune reported: "In his speech at the opening of
the second session of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly Salva Kiir
[President of the Government of Southern Sudan] expressed his deep concern and
worry about the status of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
implementation. 'I am alarmed, worried and deeply concerned about the status
of CPA implementation. I'm worried Mr. Speaker that it is likely that Sudan
will [revert] again to war if we do not act now with our partner NCP." (Link 6)

Kiir enumerated the CPA violations by the National Congress Party. (The full
text of his speech is in the linked article.)

In his address Kiir clearly articulates his determination to pursue
self-determination, adding, "It is regrettable that there are some voices in
the Sudan who are agitating and would like to [tamper] with this
constitutional right."

While talking about his visit to China Kiir says: "At least China is now aware
that most of the oil produced in Sudan is from Southern Sudan and that people
of Southern Sudan will exercise their right of self-determination in a
referendum to be conducted by 2011."

If the SPLM forms an electoral partnership with the Arab Islamist NCP with the
view that this will safeguard the 2011 referendum and enable the southerners
secure independence then they are mistaken. If the NCP retains power in the
north in the 2009 elections then multiple Darfur-type rebellions are likely to
erupt across the north as repressed, persecuted and politically marginalised
peoples seek liberation. This will scuttle CPA implementation and the 2011
referendum. The electoral partnership will have enabled the NCP to retain
power over a destabilised state where the CPA will not be implemented and the
referendum for self-determination will not be guaranteed. The SPLM will be
left critically conflicted, divided, without its northern allies and weakened.
The hope of a New Sudan will fade. The Old Sudan -- an Arabist, Islamist
military dictatorship -- will remain with the power, the oil, the biggest
guns and no interest in human rights, liberty or change.

Does anyone else sense an NCP conspiracy?

Forced Arabisation and Islamisation, and Islamist Arab hegemony, are a recipe
for endless conflict, and so too is separatism. The only hope for peace in
Sudan is full CPA implementation leading to free and fair elections contested
by a strong, united opposition with a vision for a secular, equitable,
inclusive, liberal democratic New Sudan. The Arab Islamist dictatorship must
be confronted sooner or later. As long as it survives, there will be no peace.

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


1) Sudan misses withdrawal deadline
By Amber Henshaw, 9 July 2007

2) Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 408 | Wed 13 Dec 2006
Southern Sudan: Serious clash threatens peace

3) Cracks in the Peace in Oil-Rich Sudan as Old Tensions Fester
By Jeffrey Gettleman, 22 September 2007

4) A Strategy for Comprehensive Peace in Sudan
Africa Report N°130. 26 July 2007

5) Interview with Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan Abdullah al-Turabi.
By Ahmed Elzobier. 10 September 2007 (KHARTOUM)

6) Salva Kiir says "Sudan will likely reverse again to war"
11 September 2007

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