Since early 2004, Aegis has undertaken policy, campaigns and media work to highlight the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. This has ranged from advocacy around the need for a robust UN force in the region to campaigning to prevent the deportation of Darfuri asylum seekers from the UK. You can click on the links to the right for more information about this work.
More recently, Aegis has broadened the focus of its Darfur work to concentrate on prospects for peace and stability across the whole of Sudan. Recent clashes in South Sudan have caused serious concern that the shaky peace brought about by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could collapse. The CPA ended 20 years of civil war between North and South Sudan - in which up to two million people died. If it were to fail now the consequences would be disastrous. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and it shares a border with nine other countries.
United Nations Missionin Sudan (UNMIS) Map of Sudan
Since independence in 1956, Sudan has been in an almost constant state of civil war. Initially the war was between the North and the South, which resented the lack of development and investment outside of northern areas. When Omar al'Bashir's successful military coup brought the National Congress Party to power in 1989, an Islamist revolution was set in motion, which further entrenched power in Khartoum at the expense of the rural areas. This sparked conflict in other peripheral areas, including in Darfur and the East, which felt marginalised and neglected.
According to experts, all of Sudan's conflicts have their roots in their same causes. International Crisis Group wrote in 2003 that rebel groups and factions across Sudan are angry with a government that has 'exploited local resources, imposed it's religious and cultural beliefs on historically diverse populations and consistently pitted local tribes and ethnic groups against each other for short-term tactical gain'.
The CPA was designed to 'make unity attractive' by addressing unequal development and ethnic tension. Its prescriptions for a fairer division of wealth and power across Sudan and the hope that these prescriptions would resolve other conflicts, in Darfur and eastern Sudan, was the culmination of thirty months of negotiation between North and South that included neighbouring states and serious, sustained international engagement.
Four years into the CPA's six year interim period, there are concerns that comprehensive peace is eluding Sudan. The crisis in Darfur continues and relations between the North and South over CPA mandated issues including the elections planned for 2010, border demarcation, and wealth sharing are tense.
In February 2009, the Head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan told the Security Council, "Without any exaggeration, 2009 could be a make or break year for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and for the prospect of peace in Sudan'. Below is a short summary of the various potential and actual conflicts and flashpoints that currently threaten peace and stability in Sudan.
- North/South conflict: The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan gave the South semi-autonomy for six years, after which it is entitled to hold a referendum on secession (in 2011). The referendum was seen by the international guarantors of the CPA as a last-resort guarantee to the South. So far, however, the CPA has not 'made unity attractive' and the referendum has therefore become the key provision for the South and the impetus behind all other major policy decisions, including how to approach the elections. Failure to implement the CPA by both the Government of South Sudan and the Government of Sudan in the North led to armed conflict in the disputed Abyei region in 2008. In the final two years of the CPA, tensions are high and renewed clashes are likely.
- Intra-South conflict: In June 2009, the United Nations announced that more people have died in tribal violence in post-war southern Sudan in recent months than in the western Darfur region plagued by ethnic and politically driven fighting. Many of the south's key oil regions, among them Jonglei and Upper Nile, have been paralysed in recent months by bloody tribal clashes linked to long-standing rows over cattle. It is feared the renewed fighting could spread among the South's highly armed population, which is growing increasingly angry at the slow spread of development. Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan has warned that the violence could get worse ahead of the elections planned for 2010.
- Violence in the disputed 'three areas': Special measures apply in the three areas of Northern Sudan drawn into the war because thier politics and culture were similar to those of the South: Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Southern Kordofan is a new state, created by the CPA. It is situated on the border area between north and south and has fertile land for agriculture and the only proven oil reserves in Northern Sudan. The region was of massive strategic importance during the civil war and risks being a critical battleground again in the future. The CPA has a special protocol relating to the region, but neglect of this protocol has led to unrest. Many experts see Southern Kordofan as a barometer for the viability of Sudan's entire peace process.
- Eastern Sudan: There has been conflict in north-eastern Sudan since 2005. The fighting is mainly between the a group of rebels called the Eastern Front and government troops. In the past, the Eastern Front has been backed by South Sudan's Sudan People's Liberation army (SPLA) and Darfur rebels, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The Eastern Front signed a powersharing agreement with Khartoum in October 2006 but, again, there is frustration with what is perceived as a lack of commitment and implementation.
- Darfur: In February 2003, rebels began an uprising in Darfur, complaining about the lack of development in the region and demanding equal representation in Khartoum. In response, the government launched a counter-insurgency marked by mass atrocity - it sent in armed Arab militias, known as Janjaweed that targeted the villages of the rebel groups. The ICC has recorded that Government forces and janjaweed milita directly killed 35,000 people, while between 80,000 to 265,000 people have died from disease and malnutrition caused by the crisis. The CPA did not include Darfur - analysis of this decision varies, some argue that the CPA was a bi-lateral deal between North and South, entered into at the expense of Darfur. Southern negotiators, however, have argued that the CPA is a panacea for all other problems in Sudan. The 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement signed between the rebels and the Government has failed. Meanwhile, the rebel movement in Darfur has splintered into numerous factions and huge doubts remain about whether the various groups will be able to agree on a joint set of grievances and negotiating points during the current round of Doha peace talks.
For more information about Aegis' work on Sudan please click on the links below: