- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Africa’s longest civil war is over. Sun-day’s peace agreement, signed in Nairobi, Kenya, by Sudan’s government and the Sudan

People’s Liberation Army and its nonmilitary arm, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, now referred to as the SPLM/A, ended fighting that began in the mid-1980s. The war claimed 2 million lives and displaced 4 million people.

The treaty commits both sides to a permanent cease-fire, stipulates the even division of oil revenues between north and south, and allows the three southern states to hold a referendum after six years to decide if they want to secede.

In the meantime, rebel leader John Garang is to become Sudan’s vice president, and the south of the country is to be governed as a semi-autonomous region, with the right to maintain its own armed forces.

“Sudan provides a link between Africa and the Middle East, and it is a very important country for America,” said Princeton Lyman, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations. “It has lots of energy resources and could be a key front in fighting terrorism.”

Attempts to impose Islamic law on the mainly Christian and animist south triggered Sudan’s civil war in 1983.

Osama bin Laden wound up in Sudan after being expelled in 1991 from Saudi Arabia, his native land, and he was kicked out by the Khartoum government in 1994 following U.S. and Saudi pressure.

“After 9/11, the Khartoum government seemed to be saying that it no longer wanted to be associated with terrorism,” said Heather Deegan, a fellow of the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London.

Sudan’s fledgling oil industry has been a factor in the country’s north-south conflict.

“We understand that the people of Darfur [in restive western Sudan] have genuine grievances about development and discrimination, and since the SPLM is going to be incorporated into the government, we are committed to end the conflict,” said Baak Wol, a SPLM/A spokesman.

“We would like the government to negotiate with the westerners as they did with the south … for us, getting the referendum is the most important thing. Now the north has six years to convince us that unity is in our favor. This is the end to an era of war and suffering.”

U.S. and British diplomats hope the Nairobi treaty will serve as a template for future talks between the Khartoum government and the Darfur rebels.

“It does provide a framework for the sharing of power, including potential seats for east and west,” said Mr. Lyman. “Of course, who represents those regions is going to be another debate.”

However, major problems in implementing the Nairobi pact remain.

“There are lots of militias that are not covered by this peace agreement, although the provision is there for them to integrate,” said Paul Foreman of Doctors Without Borders, one of the few nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) active in Sudan throughout the war.

“After a stable government, the greatest challenge is the total lack of infrastructure. Health facilities, roads and schools are almost nonexistent. Everything has to be airlifted in, which makes it one of the most expensive aid operations in the world.

“In the city of Nasir, near the border with Ethiopia, there is not a single building of brick or concrete left standing, and 15,000 to 20,000 people are living there,” Mr. Foreman said. The expected return of refugees could strain the meager resources, he added.

Gillian Lusk, Sudan analyst and deputy editor of Africa Confidential, expects the treaty with the south will lead to an increase in attacks on civilians in the west. “The talks free up troops for use in Darfur, and perhaps more important, Western governments don’t want to upset the peace process in the south by speaking out, giving the [ruling] National Islamic Front a free hand. The NIF are very clever and consistently underestimated.”

Miss Lusk said that the forced removal of 50,000 people from the southern region of Shillukland six months ago proves the government is not committed to peace.

“The government is using Antonov 12 planes and Russian MiGs to bomb civilians in Darfur,” Miss Lusk said. “Previously, these would have been tied up in the south, where the government used the same scorched-earth policies.” China is a major supplier of arms to Sudan, including tanks, helicopters and fighter aircraft.

Mr. Garang said Sunday that before going to Khartoum to assume his duties as first vice president, he will organize the interim government of southern Sudan. Miss Lusk said she believes Mr. Garang will want to concentrate on consolidating his support base in the south rather than focus on the problems in Darfur.

“The SPLA has also been responsible for numerous human-rights violations,” she noted.

“There is no active political opposition to the government inside Sudan and no pressure on it to stop abuses in the west … . As for the international community, China is the main permanent member on the U.N. Security Council, closely followed by Russia, which consistently waters down U.N. resolutions on Darfur.”

Sudan supplies 8 percent of China’s crude-oil imports.

Mr. Lyman of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington believes there needs to be more pressure on both the government and the western rebels in Darfur to negotiate.

“The rebels have the perception that they are under the protection of the United States, and that impression needs to be rectified,” he said. “Other countries that are involved, like Eritrea [accused of arming rebel groups], should either press for negotiations or back off.”

Ms. Deegan at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London agrees: “Sudan has a history of instigating or supporting destabilizing groups in neighboring states and many of those countries have retaliated.”

Eritrea, which has provided a base for exiled Sudanese opposition groups, is accused by Khartoum of supporting insurrections in Sudan — the same charge Eritrea accuses Khartoum of employing against it.

In neighboring Chad, some of the large Zaghawa population smuggles weapons across the border for the rebels in Darfur. The Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, the two rebels groups, are largely drawn from the Fur, Massaleit and Zaghawa tribes.

The pattern of destabilization and counter-destabilization recurs: During the civil war in south Sudan, Uganda supported the SPLM/A in retaliation for Sudan’s backing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group. The LRA, which is still active in south Sudan, is notorious for kidnapping children, who are forced to become killers or lose their own lives.

Now that Uganda and Sudan have promised to cooperate to root out the LRA, a new threat to an autonomous south has emerged. “Egypt will do anything to prevent the waters of the Nile from falling into the hands of an independent, Christian south,” said Miss Lusk.

Ninety-seven percent of Egypt’s population lives along the banks of the Nile, and Cairo has repeatedly announced that it will take military action to ensure its water supply.

However, like many Western diplomats, Mr. Lyman hopes Sudan will remain unified. “A diverse country like Sudan, incorporating Christians, Muslims, Arabs and Africans is more likely to have good relations with the West than a narrowly defined country ruled by a small Arab elite,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for Darfur, this peace agreement [signed Sunday in Kenya] would have a major impact on Sudan’s international reputation. [U.S.] sanctions could have been removed, and it might have been taken off the list of states that sponsor terrorism. As it stands, Darfur must be resolved before American companies can invest.”

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