Sudanese Peace Talks, A Comprehensive Report On the Multi Tracks and Outcome

Hiba Salah waves Sudan’s flag outside Friendship Hall as the agreement is being signed.
5 January 2020

Juba — The Sudanese transitional government has taken a new approach in its talks with the armed movements grouped under the umbrella Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) whereby the talks take various tracks in which each track tackles the grievances of a certain region.

The move is understood to narrow the problem in its geographical framework for more focus that paves the way for presenting effective solutions within the framework of the overall philosophy of "tackling the root causes of the problem."

A joint technical committee from the delegates of the Government and the SRF had adopted an agreement to split the negotiations in several tracks that cover national issues and issues related to conflict zones with a view to stem the divide in the country, end the conflict and come out with a peaceful settlement that consolidates the chances for democratic transition.

On the option for multi tracks, SRF Chairman Dr. Alhadi Idris said "the historical defect in the administration of the Sudanese state relates to the development dossier and what is termed the marginalization that exists in the relation between the center and the regions."

He explained that "we are seeking to tackle these issues in a regional framework, regardless of our conviction that the problem in the Sudan rests in the center and is related to the crisis in running the national state. Since the country's independence, we as Sudanese failed to recognize the diversity of the country. The failure to recognize this diversity and this plurality had engendered vast national problems, the most outstanding of which is the cession of the South and the eruption of war in Darfur and the two areas (South Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile). To address this national crisis and slam the door in the face of any attempt to return to war in the future, we want to tackle the regional problems within these tracks."

In this context, peace negotiations were divided along five tracks: Darfur, Eastern Sudan, the two areas, the Central Sudan and the Northern.

But regardless of this arrangement, it became clear that there are differences and problems within the one track which are related to the components of a certain track (or region). These differences are related to the formation of delegates and representation and problems.

Hereunder Sudanow reviews these tracks and the breakthroughs so far made in each track and the complications that face them.

First: The Central Sudan Track

This is one of the five tracks the SRF agreed to incorporate in the talks in order for this region's problems to receive attention.

The Central Sudan track includes the central territories of the country and is chaired by the deputy SRF Chairman Altoam Hajo. It was the first track to seal (on 24 December) a framework agreement with the Government delegates.

Hajo said they will sign a final agreement with the Government that addresses "the root causes of the crisis and issues of general nature."

Hajo said the signing of this framework agreement "is a good omen and heralds the road towards peace."

He said the framework had embodied general principles that include "the basic issues related to development, farmers causes, the Gezira Scheme question, land rights in the central regions, the fair distribution of wealth and the living conditions for the citizens."

He said the deal did not speak about power sharing or government posts. "It is an accord for all and not for a certain party or group," said Hajo.

"The track of Central Sudan has covered all the area's causes, in a bid to treat the problem before it explodes," Hajo said, describing the area as "plagued with a host of problems."

Second: Eastern Sudan's Track

This track tackles the causes of Eastern Sudan's three states: Gedarif, Kasala and the Red Sea.

Activists complain that this region had suffered political, economic and social marginalization and, accordingly, assert that it is the responsibility of the Government to remove these grievances.

The Eastern states are undergoing a lot of changes that lead to sharp and deep social disputes that surfaced of late in the form of conflicts between the Bija, Bani Amir and the Nuba. In addition the political forces have started to reconsider their positions and rearrange their ranks for fear of being skipped during the transitional period. Some of these parties (namely the Bija Congress Party of former Presidential Assistant Musa Mohammad Ahmad) had previously signed the Eastern Sudan peace pact with the defunct regime.

In addition, there are tribal and religious leaders such as Suleiman Beetai and Alamin Tirik who seek to be involved in the talks.

The aforesaid differences have created a sharp polarization among these groups and the signatory group of the Juba Declaration led by Usama Saeed and Alamin Dao'od who chair the Bija Congress and the United Popular Front, respectively. Both these groups were in active opposition to the Bashir regime.

The venue of the peace talks in Jaba has witnessed repeated visits by several delegations from the region. Those delegates had met the talks' Southern Sudanese mediators and the Government delegation. The Juba mediators have explained to these groups their view for a solution that includes the convening of a conference to tackle the problems of the East.

It was accordingly agreed that the Eastern Sudan parties not included in the SRF convene a conference in Khartoum and then return to the talks in three weeks, starting 23 December.

Before that the Southern Sudanese mediators had asserted that real peace in the East can never be attained without reconciliation.

The mediators said they have no objection if a delegation from the East would come to Juba and join their other Eastern region delegates already in talks with the Government.

Regardless, the Southern Sudanese mediators have received and approved the ideas presented to them by these disgruntled groups and accepted them as negotiators beside the signatories to the Juba declaration.

Usama Saeed said they will be discussing with the Government delegation three dossiers: political, economic and security.

Saeed said the political dossier has provided a precise description of the problem in the East which he described as "an issue of political, economic and social marginalization."

He said they received note from the Government that it will resolve the political issue.

At the economic level, he called for a fund to be launched for the development of the East that rallies local, regional and international contributions.

Third: The Two Areas Track

This track discusses the problems of the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) /North (Malik Agar) is representing the Blue Nile State after its breakaway (due to internal rifting) from the mainstream SPLM/North (Alhilu) of Southern Kordofan.

Alhilu claims to control 35% of the lands of Southern Kordofan. His military power base is the ninth and tenth divisions of the Sudan People's Liberation Army of the SPLM founded by the late Southern Sudanese rebel leader John Garang.

According to that rift both Agar and Alhilu have entered the Juba talks with two different delegations.

Agar's faction had preceded the talks inauguration by signing an agreement with the government that caters for easing the delivery of humanitarian aid to war-affected citizens of the Southern Blue Nile d and the Southern Kordofan districts.

The Agar faction has forwarded its vision about the peace talks and coupled it with a blueprint for a peace framework in the two areas.

The Agar faction's General Secretary Yasir Arman said their paper has opted for self-rule in the two areas and called for ending the war along the principles of justice, indiscrimination and 'the building of a new Sudanese state.

Arman called for mutual coordination with the Alhilu group, expressing his movement's readiness for reconciliation with that group.

Arman also praised the "positive spirit" that engulfs the talks with the Government side, "no wonder if we remember that the two sides are partners in the revolution."

He said they were of the view to leave the issue of the relation between religion and the state for the proposed constitutional conference towards the end of three-year transitional period.

He said they were opposed to the idea of self-determination alluded to by Alhilu on the grounds that "the two areas inhabitants are the most ancient of Sudan's peoples and are present in all of the country's territories."

"Further, there is no common border between the South Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile districts that qualifies them to launch an independent state," he said, further arguing that "the social fabric of the two areas is not uniform. They are a mix of all the Sudanese races."

Meanwhile, Alhilu's faction has agreed with the government side on the postponement of the talks for two weeks to consult their power base on "some of the talks dossiers."

Alhilu's most outstanding negotiation position is his call for the secularization of Sudan.

In a related statement, government delegate, Minister of Justice Nasr Eddin Abdel Bari has said the main topic they have discussed with the Alhilu side "is the nature of the state."

Citing varying viewpoints on this matter, the Minister said: we have a view about the nature of the state and the relation between religion and the state and the relation between legislations and religion."

He went on to say that "we have presented our viewpoint to the other party and they also presented their viewpoint to us, but we could not reach common grounds on this issue."

Regardless, he said, the talks were very positive and "we have underlined the points of agreement."

From the position of the two SPLM factions, it is now clear that the Agar faction is ready to sign a framework agreement to discuss and settle the two areas' issues and is waiting for what the Alhilu group would say.

Meanwhile, Juba is striving to unify the two factions, an effort it (Juba) began two years ago. These efforts are personally led by President Salva Kiir Miartdit.

Fourth: The North's Track

This track has witnessed differences between the Kush movement (a signatory to the Juba Declaration) and the Entity of the North (led by Mohammad Sidahmed) who argue that Kush movement does not represent the region and that "its entire membership draws from a single family." This attitude has obliged the SRF to intervene to solve the dispute and unify the two groups. Accordingly, the two sides agreed upon and presented a unified position on the framework agreement.

Fifth: The Darfur Track

This track is made up of the Darfur rebel movements (the Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement, Sudan Liberation Movement (Minni Minawi), Sudan Liberation Movement (the transitional council) and the Alliance of Sudan Liberation Forces).

The Sudan Liberation Movement (Abdelwahid) has chosen to boycott the peace talks.

It is noteworthy to learn that Darfuri politician, Dr. Alhadi Idris, has been designated to chair the current term of the SRF.

The components of the Darfur Track have presented a clear vision about the talks, a matter that helped the talks to proceed without problems and reach and sign a framework agreement with the Government.

This big concord among the Darfur groups has motivated and encouraged them to present a comprehensive viewpoint towards the conflict that addressed the problems of the refugees, the IDPs and the general problems of Darfur represented in the borders and the lands problems, a matter that apparently prompted Abdelwahid (leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement) to coax the government and express his willingness to hold talks with the Government in Khartoum. Abdelwahid has possibly felt that the talks would rob him of his refugees and IDPs pressure card that won him World sympathy throughout the years of the conflict.

The Darfur framework caters for the discussion of national as well as Darfuri issues.

Those national issues tackle the country's identity, public liberties, human rights, religion and the state, constitutional development, the systems of government, the restructuring of the civil and military organs, independence of the judiciary, wealth sharing and participation in the transitional government.

The Darfuri issues to be discussed include Darfur's administrative position, the return to Darfur's historical borders, participation in the regional government, wealth sharing at all the levels of government, land, the refugees and the IDPs, the nomads and pastoralists, compensations, indemnifications, transitional justice, accountability and reconciliation, development and rehabilitation, security arrangements, the Darfuri-Darfuri dialogue, agreement on timetables for accords' implementation, development issues, border security and "any other issues to be agreed on."

The two sides have also agreed to discuss the inclusion of the peace agreement in the Constitutional Document of the Government of Sudan.

The framework has also stipulated the participation of the refugees and the IDPs, Darfur's civil society and the native administration in peace building and the writing of the social contract, allowing the national and international NGOs to return to Darfur to render humanitarian aid to the IDPs and refugees and cancel any administrative restrictions that might impede the NGOs work.

The framework has also stipulated the removal of war effects and adequate individual and collective compensation for those affected by the war.

The framework has also stipulated the restructuring of the state of Sudan 'in a manner that reflects national cohesion and a fair distribution of employment opportunities without compromising the conditions for eligibility.'

It also called for the recognition of the principle for balanced and sustainable development and bridging the developmental gap between the country's regions and the fair vertical and horizontal division of wealth and power according to population density. It also called for respect of human rights and gender equality in keeping with international charters and agreements.

The framework has obliged both the Government and the rebel movements to enforce democracy, the rule of law and the principles of good governance and to respect the ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural diversity of the country.

It also asserted that constitution- making should be accomplished through a transparent and comprehensive process that takes everybody on board, beginning with the proposed constitutional conference which should pool ideas from the grassroots to the top (i.e the federal level).

It also gave the signatory rebel movements the right to practice politics according to the terms of the final peace deal.

The sides also agreed for the administration of the National Capital City to be representative of all the people of Sudan and the country's diversity.

They also stressed the principles of justice, accountability, graft combat and the promulgation of laws and mechanisms to achieve this purpose.

They also tentatively approved the release of all the prisoners of war and political prisoners detained because of the war, search for persons unaccounted for and the declaration of general amnesty for all members of the rebel groups.

In view of this review, the Darfur track has achieved quite a lot in terms of the search for tackling the root causes of the conflict.

It is also important to note that the parties to the talks have no other option than going along these tracks in order to achieve a settlement and sign peace deals that end the struggle and fulfill the aspirations of the Sudanese people and the regional and international communities for the peace and stability of Sudan.

Regional And International Support For The Talks

The Juba talks have received regional backing when Chad joined the mediation effort with a high level delegation lead by President Debbi's advisor for security and defense, thus boosting the Republic of Sudan's ongoing mediation effort.

Juba's senior mediator Dio Matok said the Juba peace forum has received support at the Pan- African level and at the level of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

He said the IGAD had in its latest meeting officially assigned Southern Sudan to mediate comprehensive peace in the Sudan.

He said the African Union (AU) has also authorized Southern Sudan to do this job.

Matok also indicated the presence of several international envoys in the talks, including American envoys from the office of President Trump's Envoy to Sudan Donald Both.

He said the talks venue has seen repeated visits from European and African ambassadors "who come and sit in the talks hall as observers."

Matok also said his team continues to provide those diplomats with due briefing on the progress of the talks.

Optimism About Reaching Peace Deals

A careful eye at the talks would discern a real will power among the negotiators to realize peace through these tracks.

Further, a spirit of optimism engulfs the talks' venue and the parties are working in cordial atmospheres, possibly derived from the December Revolution's most popular slogan: "Liberty, Peace and Justice."

Everybody is sure that the change that occurred in Sudan was the result of joint effort between the civilians and the armed movements. That has led the parties to demonstrate wide understanding upon the issues under discussion.

This optimism is also attributable to the wide relationships between President Kiir and both parties, given his position as First Vice President of Sudan before the cession of the South and also as chairman of the original SPLM.

By the result, Kiir appears as a pivotal personality in the peace issue.

So What After Peace Deals Are Signed?

The implementation of the peace deals is of vital importance. Juba says it has taken serious steps and has engaged the regional partners and its and Sudan's friends to boost the implementation of the peace agreements, in particular concerning the question of the refugees and the IDPs who yearn to return to their places of origin.

"No doubt, the implementation of the peace accords is of paramount importance. It is absurd to sit at a peace forum and conclude agreements that cannot be implemented," said Juba's chief middleman Dio Matok.

"It is very necessary for the regional states and Sudan's friends to reach consensus upon the need to implement the peace deals," he added.

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