Sudan (former South Sudan) the newest state in Africa and in the world gained independence on July 9, 2011 after a referendum to separate with the North Sudan. The long awaited jubilation was just for a short moment, Sudan sunk back to the usual trouble continuing to count the longest running conflict in Africa.
An ethnic-political power struggle that broke out in December 2013 between President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) and his former deputy Riek Machar (a Nuer), remain a cause of heartrending loss of life, destruction of infrastructure and the country economic resources. The people of Sudan have suffered over thirty years in the conflict. Albeit the first ceasefire agreement was reached in January 2014, the struggle is not about to dwindle very soon.
Following the recent AU mediation team, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the mid-August Addis Ababa negotiations between the government and armed movements; the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) of the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) of Darfur, reached a stalemate.
The parties blaming each other of ‘obstruction’ on the efforts of reaching a cessation of hostilities as explained by leaders of the armed movements the government’s persistence to know a precise locations of combatants’ positions in Darfur in return for one month cessation of hostilities; two, government’s reluctance to talk about the detained rebel fighters, who are languishing in the government’s prisons; and three, inaccessibility of delivery of relief to people affected in rebel-held areas.
This is just a nut shell of arising issues that can well be considered as games of politics. There are host of major problems that have remained unresolved over the years – issues of citizenship, security, oil management, wealth-sharing, natural resources, discrimination and equality rights all remain unsettled. At this point, it’s crucial to introduce locations of interest the South Kordofan and Blue Nile States Areas.
In the 1980s, many people from these two states were frustrated at the hands of the Khartoum government and therefore united with south Sudan in the civil war against the north as they felt they were victims of discrimination, oppression and human rights violations. The two states were at the front lines during the civil war and endured much of the effect of its death and destruction. Thousands of people were killed or displaced and societies were torn apart, as the Funj, Nuba and Uduk peoples joined by the Misseriya and other Arabs (Awlad Himaid and Hawazma) to fight the north. Ethnic tension fault lines rapidly manifested.
Now, under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between The Government of The Republic of The Sudan and The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) met in uninterrupted negotiations between May 2002 and December 2004, in Kenya, on contentious issues related to areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile States and Abyei Area.
While the CPA entitled Abyei to the 2011 referendum on whether it should be part of the north or south, South Kordofan and Blue Nile were allowed only a “popular consultation,” and vaguely defined in the CPA as “a democratic right and mechanism to ascertain the views of the people.” This is a bit confusing to the ordinary citizens given the complexities of issues and to an extent creep in the current politics.
In a focused group study by USIP Peace Briefing: Six Important Issues for Sudan and Its Future , a zoom out analysis presents a mis-understanding at the grassroots in the two states, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile of what popular consultation entails. Whereas the “three areas” – the Abyei area and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are considered as being volatile and significant, there are fundamental differences between Abyei and the other two states. The root problems of Sudan lay here.
That is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile home to both Arab and black African people. Located between north and south Sudan, they are rich in oil and minerals and host the site of a dam that generates considerable for the north. That explains why the crafters of CPA granted “popular consultation,” and vaguely defined the deeper meaning of what it entails.
Hence, by prioritizing and confronting unresolved issues remains the core of any efforts for change. Considering the struggle Sudan and its people have gone through for years, my take is that, cessation of hostilities should be treated as a principle without resistance in thought from government and opposing parties. The “ Two Areas” have an upper hand to re-unite the country and stimulate institutional changes while keeping dissatisfied North closer.
Indeed, the philosophies reflected in the CPA, declares popular consultation is a “democratic right” subject to the “ will of the people of the two states through their respective democratically elected senates can be used as the yard stick. State legislatures can re-negotiate new peace terms with the Government of Sudan and appropriately redefine the CPA.
It is only by act of good will, trust and friendliness from communities within the states themselves that a positive outcome can happen in Sudan.
By Nelly Niyonzima.