Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East

Source: International Crisis Group

Unless the marginalisation of Sudan’s East is addressed, renewed war and further fragmentation of the country is a growing possibility.

In its latest report, Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East, the International Crisis Group examines the situation in the forgotten East, which, in contrast to the fighting besetting the country’s other peripheries, has been without deadly conflict since the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA). But this quiet is increasingly fragile, as the conflict’s root causes remain and in some respects are more acute, due to the failure to implement many of the agreement’s core provisions.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • Despite its success in tying up the loose ends of conflict in eastern Sudan left unaddressed by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the initial promise of the ESPA quickly faded. That it was only partially implemented by the NCP for reasons of political expedience and neglect was made easier by the weak political leadership of the Eastern Front, the alliance of armed insurgent groups.
  • The result has been further impoverishment and marginalisation of the forgotten East; the region’s population has little confidence in the local leaders who delivered the ESPA and is deeply suspicious of the NCP’s commitment to an equal sharing of wealth and political power.
  • The lack of an inclusive national process is pushing the East, like other peripheries, toward war and drawing in disgruntled ex-rebels. Eastern factions now call for toppling the regime and joining the Sudan Revolutionary Front, the alliance of mainly rebels from South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur. Renewed fighting is more likely, especially given spreading war in those three regions.
  • Urgent remedial measures are needed to revive ESPA, including convening the envisaged regional consultative conference. Tangible benefits must be fast-tracked for ex-fighters for whom disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programs did not deliver. Pledges on the Eastern Sudan Reconstruction and Development Fund should be met and humanitarian access immediately opened up for the worst-affected South Tokar region.
  • Alongside these local measures, an inclusive national dialogue and process are needed to address the root causes of conflicts between Sudan’s peripheries and the centre. Ultimately, the East’s grievances are due to elites’ decades-long failure to achieve national consensus on how the country should be governed and to build an inclusive and peaceful state.
“The East’s problems cannot be resolved without addressing governance at the centre”, says Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa Project Director. “Left unaddressed, demands could well rise to self-determination. For many now, separation must happen, whether by evolution or revolution”.

“As Sudan prepares to write a new permanent constitution, it needs to identify and make use of a forum that is genuinely comprehensive and national and so can address the core questions of its identity and system of rule, as well as wealth and power sharing”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Africa Program Deputy Director. “Otherwise, the spreading civil war in the peripheries may well lead to further fragmentation of the country”.