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‘Sudan govt. responsible for failed peace talks’: think tank

December 1 - 2015 KHARTOUM / ADDIS ABABA
The launch of the National Dialogue in Khartoum, 10 October 2015 (Suna)
The launch of the National Dialogue in Khartoum, 10 October 2015 (Suna)

A prominent Sudanese civil society think tank holds Khartoum accountable for the failure of the last round of negotiations with the main Sudanese rebel movements in Addis Ababa.

On 23 November, the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) announced the suspension of negotiations between the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on the Two Areas, and between the Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) on Darfur.

The failed negotiations, which lasted four days, aimed at addressing three basic items: the delivery of humanitarian aid, the cessation of hostilities, and a framework for the preparatory meeting for a comprehensive National Dialogue.

Despite the failure to reach any agreement on humanitarian aid or a ceasefire, which are basic conditions for opening up a broad National Dialogue, the AUHIP announced that the preparatory meeting on the political process will take place in the first week of December.

The Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), a think tank established by Sudanese independent and democratic civil society and media actors after the general election in 2010, issued a briefing on the current deadlock in the peace negotiations on the Two Areas (South Kordofan and the Blue Nile) and Darfur on 30 November.

“In stark contrast to the Government’s statements about the creation of an enabling environment for the continuation of the National Dialogue process, there has been a new round of detentions of political activists, civilians, and university students.”

Referring to a number of measures taken by the Government immediately after the suspension of the peace talks, the think tank has doubts about the outcome of the planned preparatory Dialogue meeting.

The day after the suspension of the talks, the chairman of the Government delegation and the Minister of Defence announced expanded military deployment in the three war regions, and the end of the unilateral temporary ceasefire.

The same week, death sentences were handed down against a group of captured members of the SLM-MM and civilians from Darfur.

The Government’s campaign of repression and denial of fundamental freedoms to those involved in political and civil society work in Sudan also continued. In stark contrast to the Government’s statements about the creation of an enabling environment for the continuation of the National Dialogue process, there has been a new round of detentions of political activists, civilians, and university students.

These actions of the Government are likely to block any opportunity to make progress on a comprehensive and all-inclusive political process that can contribute to achieving peace and democratic transformation, the SFDG concludes.

Humanitarian Access

The most recent round of negotiations was based on the recommendations of the AU’s Peace and Security Council’s Communiques 539 and 456. Addressing the two negotiating tracks (Darfur and the Two Areas), the session focused on three core elements: delivery of humanitarian aid, cessation of hostilities, and the preparatory meeting for the comprehensive national dialogue.

During the last round, the AUHIP tabled its vision of humanitarian access to the war-effected people in the Two Areas and Darfur in a draft agreement. Unfortunately, the mediators did not name the locations through which humanitarian aid would be delivered. This forms the most contentious issue between the negotiating parties.

The Government delegation insisted on the delivery of aid through Khartoum and other Government-controlled areas, under the supervision of the UN and NGOs operating under the close supervision of the state apparatus.

The SPLM-N suggested multiple corridors, including entry points from neighbouring countries and inside Sudan. The JEM and SLM-MM emphasised the importance of facilitating the return of those humanitarian aid organisations expelled by the Government from Darfur, and requested a more transparent and engaged role for the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) in order to improve the humanitarian situation.

The two movements also proposed the formation of joint humanitarian committees to carry out these tasks. The two Government delegations, however, rejected the proposals presented by the SPLM-N, and the joint JEM-SLM-MM delegation. The rebel groups in turn rejected Government conditions.

There is deep mistrust by the armed political movements of Government proposals for humanitarian aid delivery through army-held areas. This not only stems from the Government’s tight security and political control in these areas, including of humanitarian actors: it also relates to long-standing anger over the Government’s role in hampering – and in some cases denying – humanitarian accesses to civilians in the conflict areas.

Denial of humanitarian access is a war crime, and may also amount to a crime against humanity.

The Government severely restricts the movement of international humanitarian aid organisations and independent local organisations. Furthermore the Government has been involved in the cover-up of the grievous violations, such as the mass rape in Tabit village, North Darfur in October 2014.

The Government is also known for its tactics of abusing humanitarian operations to infiltrate and deploy its security agents disguised as humanitarian workers in the rebel-held areas, exploiting aid delivery for security and military purposes, according to the Sudanese think tank.

Cessation of hostilities

On 19 November, the AUHIP presented a draft agreement on the cessation of hostilities to the negotiating parties. It included a cessation of hostilities for a period of six months from the signature of the agreement in order to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and as a trust building measure for the preparatory meeting for a comprehensive national dialogue.

The draft text included provisions addressing all elements of a ceasefire, including the positions and locations of forces, and movement of the armed forces; prohibited military actions during the course of the agreement, and the creation of joint committees for implementation and monitoring.

In response to the AU proposal, the Government proposed a one-month period for cessation of hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas, followed by a one-month comprehensive ceasefire process involving disarmament and demobilisation of the opposition armed forces. The proposal required that the JEM and SLM-MM would become parties to the Darfur Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), while the SPLM-N would join the National Dialogue in Khartoum to address the political issues related to the three war regions.

From their side, the rebel groups responded positively to the AUHIP proposals, endorsing the Sudan Revolutionary Front roadmap for cessation of hostilities and humanitarian aid (September 2015), in line with a six-month ceasefire. They also agreed to the detailed technical aspects of the AUHIP’s proposal on positioning of forces and monitoring the implementation of the agreement.

The Darfur delegations demonstrated additional flexibility in proposing that Unamid could function as a monitoring body for the ceasefire. They also proposed an exchange of captives as a gesture of good will.

According to the SDFG, it became apparent that the objective of the Government was not to reach genuine agreement on cessation of hostilities. Khartoum want to achieve political, security, and military advantages through the process by absorbing the armed political movements into the political dialogue monopolised by the Government, weakening the military capacities of the movements through the imposition of premature permanent security arrangements and disarmament and demobilisation; and inserting Government forces behind the movements’ military lines—an objective which the Government has long failed to achieve during the whole period of fighting in Darfur and the Two Areas.

Preparatory Dialogue meeting

The AU Peace and Security Council mandated the AUHIP in its communiques 456 and 539 to facilitate a preparatory meeting which would lay the ground for a comprehensive national dialogue. The communiques stressed the importance of reaching a holistic solution for all Sudan’s crises, including through the convening of a national dialogue based on procedures and arrangements agreed by all Sudanese stakeholders in a preparatory meeting held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The AU mediation called for the participation of all Sudanese stakeholders in a preparatory meeting to agree on the organisational and procedural issues, within three weeks from the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement, as a first step towards a comprehensive dialogue.

“The ruling party’s continues to insist on dominating and monopolising all options for a political solution to Sudan’s multiple crises.”

The rebel movements reiterated their full support to the AU communiques, and emphasised the importance of the participation of all Sudanese stakeholders in the preparatory meeting to be held Addis Ababa. Prerequisites for such a meeting include respect for freedoms and rights; commitment to cessation of hostilities; delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in the war zones; and the identification of a clear agenda and specific mechanisms for a comprehensive national dialogue.

The Government delegates rejected the call for a preparatory meeting on a national dialogue by the AU mediation, pointing to the ongoing National Dialogue in Khartoum. They also proposed that all other issues relevant to the particularities of the war regions be addressed and resolved as a part of that dialogue.

The SDFG notes that the position of the Government on the AUHIP’s proposals on the preparatory meeting leading to a comprehensive national dialogue reflected the ruling party’s continued insistence on dominating and monopolising all the options for a political solution to Sudan’s multiple crises.

Accountability

The stance of the Government, throughout ten rounds of negotiations on the Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and two rounds on Darfur under the AUHIP facilitation has further hindered humanitarian access to the conflict zones at a time of particular vulnerability. The SDFG stresses that the Government should be held accountable for the consequences.

The current humanitarian crisis requires tough and immediate response from the people of Sudan as well as from the international and regional influential actors in support of the Sudanese victims of war. Denial of humanitarian access is a war crime, and may also amount to a crime against humanity.


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