The government of Sudan announced on Wednesday that it has met with rebel leaders to begin implementing a deal that aims to end a war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Rebel commanders from the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the transitional government met face-to-face for the first time on Tuesday, one day after striking the deal.
The meeting held on Tuesday was the first joint meeting to be held after the finalization of the accord. Alhadi Idris, the head of the SRF rebel coalition, stated to SUNA news agency that the meeting considered preliminary matters relating to the agenda to be followed.
“We discussed in this meeting what will happen going forward,” Idris said, adding that there were “still issues related to the timeline to implement the deal”.
The agreement aims to put an end to 17 years of civil war and conflicts which in turn followed decades of intermittent conflict that have ravaged the country since the 1950s.
The SRF, founded in 2011, is an alliance of five armed rebel groups and four political movements from the vast western region of Darfur, and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
“Our priorities now are economic progress and humanitarian issues related to people displaced by the conflicts,” said Minni Minawi, who leads a faction of the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement.
The peace deal signed on Monday covers issues related to security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing and the return of people who fled their homes because of fighting.
It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of the fighters into the national army.
Sudan’s transitional government, which took power after the April 2019 ouster of then President Omar al-Bashir, has made forging peace with rebel groups a priority. Fighting in the Darfur conflict has killed approximately 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others, according to the UN.
The rebels groups are largely drawn from non-Arab minority populations that long protested against Arab domination of the national government based in Khartoum. Sudan’s Revolutionary Front comprises four armed movements that have been fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in the south, and in Darfur, in the west.
The movements in Darfur include Sudan’s Liberation Army, spearheaded by Arko Minnawi, and the Justice and Equality Movement, led by Jibril Ibrahim, brother of founder Khalil Ibrahim, a former minister in Al-Bashir’s government.
The agreement proposes a federal system for Sudan and grants autonomy to the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. According to the terms of the agreement, the Darfur region, which was split into five states, will be reunified into one area after seven months and have its own governor.
Revenues and resources of the two states shall be divided between the federal authority, which will receive 60 per cent, and local authorities, that will be given 40 per cent.
According to the agreement, Sudan’s Revolutionary Front shall be allocated 25 per cent of cabinet and parliamentary seats (including 75 seats in the transitional legislative assembly of 300 members which is still yet to be established), and three seats in the 11-member Sovereign Council.
The country’s transitional period will be extended for 39 months starting 1 September, as per the accord, during which time the armed movements’ forces should be disbanded and legally re-integrated as part of several security arrangements.
Sudan’s transitional period was originally scheduled to last for 39 months starting in the second half of 2019, a few months after mass mobilizations and protests toppled the government headed by long-time president Omar Al-Bashir in April of that year.
The pact follows 10 months of negotiations in Juba. Absent from the accord, however, were the Sudan Liberation Army, led by Abdel-Wahed Mohamed Nour, which controls strategic locations in Darfur’s Marrah Mountains, and a faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, headed by Abdel-Aziz Al-Helw, whose forces are engaged in South Kordofan conflicts.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Tuesday that the deal “creates a new Sudanese state, and remedies all injustices of the past”, and appealed to the two holdout rebel movements who refused to take part to join the peace process. LINK
Comprehensive peace in Sudan has been the priority of Abdalla Hamdok’s government, which is now focused on resuming peace negotiations as soon as possible with the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement-North and the Sudan Liberation Movement. The government’s reform programme strongly depends on spreading peace to all corners of Sudan so that reconstruction efforts can begin in earnest.
On Thursday, one of the two main holdout rebel groups announced that it is joining the peace process. Sudan’s government has reached an agreement with the group laying out conditions for the armed faction to recognize the peace deal signed with other rebel groups earlier this week.
Making Sudan a secular state is the core focus of the agreement signed on Thursday by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and Abdul Aziz Alhilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N).
The agreement declares that Sudan’s constitution should be based on the principle of separation of religion and state and be geared towards ending discrimination in the country.
“Sudan is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. Full recognition and accommodation of these diversities must be affirmed,” reads the declaration seen by Anadolu Agency.
“For Sudan to become a democratic country where the rights of all citizens are enshrined, the constitution should be based on the principle of ‘separation of religion and state’ in the absence of which the right to self-determination must be respected.”
“Freedom of belief and worship and religious practice shall be guaranteed in full to all Sudanese citizens.”
“The state shall not establish an official religion. No citizen shall be discriminated against based on their religion.”
The understanding is expected to draw a strong reaction from many of former Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir’s supporters, who have held multiple protests against what they say is the transitional government’s failure and corruption. LINK
Previous peace accords in Sudan, including the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in Nigeria in 2006 and another signed in Qatar in 2010, have failed to resolve the conflict.
The Sudan government and people need tangible support from the international community, especially influential countries and international financial institutions. Regional powers, including Egypt and the Gulf, have promised their support for the peace accord and expressed their hope that it will contribute to Sudan’s stability and help Khartoum focus on pressing issues, foremost among which is the plummeting economy, and launch local development programmes, the absence of which has contributed to the lack of peace and stability. LINK
On Friday the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the signing of the peace agreement between the government of Sudan and a faction of the North Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM- N).
According to a press statement issued by his office, the UN remains fully committed to supporting all efforts for a sustainable peace in the country. Guterres also called for the Sudan Liberation Movement, the last major rebel group holding off from signing the accord, to join the peace process and help find a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the territory. LINK
Sudan is however at risk of becoming embroiled in the raging geopolitical conflicts in the region at a moment when it can least afford it. It is facing strong pressure from the US and Israel to normalize relations with the latter, the former using the punitive economic and financial sanctions it imposed on the country years ago as a bargaining chip – unless Khartoum normalizes relations, it is unlikely that the Trump administration or the US Congress will lift the sanctions.
Western countries and analysts have also expressed concern over the fact that Russia has had a significant presence in the country over the last few years. Numerous detailed reports have accused Russia of supporting the ‘regime of the day’, or of manipulating particular political factions and social sectors, against the interests of the Sudanese people in a cynical pursuit of power and resources. LINK1, LINK2
There are very few major international and regional actors that could not be accused of similar things. The people of Sudan and the transitional government will have to tread very carefully and be vigilant as to the nature and objectives of all foreign actors in the country during this critical period.
Moreover, Sudan still has some of its troops deployed as mercenaries in the conflict in Yemen fighting under the command of the ‘Saudi-led coalition’. Although Sudan has significantly reduced the size of the military force deployed there, last reports suggested around 5,000 remain. There have also been occasional reports that the UAE has been trying to persuade the military leadership to send troops to fight in Libya, invariably drawing vehement denials from official spokesmen.
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