Historical archive

Prospects for peace in Sudan: The road ahead

Historical archive

Published under: Regjeringen Bondevik II

Publisher Utenriksdepartementet

Minister of International Development Hilde F. Johnson's speech at the 75 th> Anniversary of Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, the 15 March. (15.03)

Minister of International Development Hilde F. Johnson

Prospects for peace in Sudan: The road ahead

Chr. Michelsen Institute, Peace symposium on Sudan, Bergen, 15 March 2005

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Let me start by congratulating the Christian Michelsen Institute on 75 years of outstanding research. Your engagement in policy issues has made you an invaluable partner in development. Your work is widely respected, both nationally and internationally. I am honoured to have been invited to this symposium, and to speak on a topic you know is close to my heart: the future of Sudan.

The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Nairobi on 9 January was a historic event – for Sudan, Africa’s largest country, and for the world. It marked the end of one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil wars – a war that has resulted in the death of approximately 2 million people, and has driven another 4 million away from their homes, to neighbouring countries and to the rest of the world. Except for the period 1972-1983, Sudan has been at war with itself since 1955, the year before it gained independence.

Close to 40 years altogether. This agreement could well be the most important event in modern Sudanese history.

Because, in the words of Elie Wiesel: Sudan has over the years become the “world capital of human pain, suffering and agony”.

Solutions have been hard to find, as have the necessary international attention and solidarity. The Sudan conflict is in many ways Africa’s Middle East. It is that complex and difficult. But it has never received that kind of attention from the international community.

The peace agreement that has now been signed is the result of a process that has ebbed and flowed during more than a decade. The Norwegian engagement in the peace process started in 1993 with informal, exploratory talks between the government and the SPLM. A year later, in 1994, the regional organisation IGAD became involved in the negotiations through an initiative that resulted in the Declaration of Principles between the Sudan government and the SPLM. The talks were on hold for many years but resumed in 1997, when the government accepted the Declaration of Principles.

My own involvement with the peace process started in 1998, when I became chair of the Sudan Committee of the IGAD Partners’ Forum. Together with the USA, UK, Italy, the UN and the African Union, Norway participated in the “rejuvenated IGAD talks”, which began in May 2002. We have also supported the IGAD secretariat in Kenya since its establishment in 2001. A troika of the USA, the UK and Norway followed the negotiations closely and were represented at the talks. The rejuvenated talks resulted in the signing of the Machakos Protocol, which was a significant breakthrough that paved the way for direct negotiations between the parties at the highest level.

Since August 2003 the negotiations have been conducted face to face by First Vice President Ali Osman Taha of Sudan and SPLM Chairman John Garang. Their talks were conducted in Naivasha, Kenya, and were followed closely by political leaders in Washington, London and Oslo, with some of us taking a strong personal interest in the negotiations. This made for a process that was fully “owned” by the Sudanese leaders, but conducted with both the pressure and the security of a supportive international community.

I have come to know the Sudanese parties to the peace negotiations very well, and have a great admiration for what they have done. They have managed to negotiate an impressively detailed agreement – face to face – without mediation. They certainly consulted with some of us, but they were the ones who did the job. They have found – and accepted – solutions that can serve as a blueprint for all the disenfranchised areas of the country, not least Darfur. This is important, particularly since the situation in Sudan does not lend itself easily to the usual dichotomies like North versus South, Arab versus African, Muslim versus Christian.

The crisis in Sudan is a national crisis, rooted in a classic centre-periphery conflict over the distribution of power and wealth in a poor and underdeveloped country. A workable solution requires a new form of nation building based on the sharing of power and wealth between the centre and the regions. On top of this, a lasting solution must take into account a large number of cultural, ethnic, religious and historical issues. This is a tall order – but one I believe has been filled by the parties to the Naivasha agreement. Now it needs to be applied to other regions in the country as well. The sustainability of the peace agreement will depend on this.

The peace agreement is in place, but food, shelter and support for the millions who are returning to their devastated homes is not. The promise inherent in the peace agreement will only be fulfilled if the Sudanese people experience two things: The speedy implementation of what has been agreed, and the concrete support of the international community. This means immediate action to alleviate the current humanitarian crisis.

The current crisis in Darfur has come on top of the grave situation in the south. More than half a million internally displaced persons and refugees have returned to poor communities in the south, where they are struggling to survive. External assistance has been limited, and the pledges of support from many wealthy nations have not so far been honoured. UNSG Jan Egeland last week called for an immediate response from the international donor community. Only a handful of the many countries that pledged substantial amounts to assist Sudan in this phase have actually paid what was promised.

Most of the humanitarian relief in Sudan now goes to Darfur, leaving the south in an even more precarious situation. The war in the south has caused immense suffering; it has had many of the same features as Darfur, although of a different intensity. The humanitarian situation in Darfur has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and perhaps as many as two million people fleeing their homes. The international community has recently given a huge amount of support to the tsunami victims in Asia – and rightly so. But we must not forget that an even larger number of people are suffering in Sudan. We must all do what we can to keep the world focused on this – to prevent millions in Sudan from becoming unintended tsunami victims as well.

Sudan has an agreement – now it must be translated into action. Words on paper are only the beginning. The true value of the peace agreement will lie in its implementation, word by word, letter by letter. This task will be even more challenging than the negotiations themselves. The people on the ground must experience the benefits of the agreement - or their patience will soon run out. They must not be victim to what someone in Sudan once said: that the words of the agreement “fly away, like beautiful birds in the sky”.

The success of the implementation will depend on the parties. It will require political will and determination. But it will also depend on the level of support from the international community – an active and firm international community. Because there are certainly enough challenges to go round. I see three immediate ones for the Sudanese leadership:

First, making the Comprehensive Peace Agreement truly national. This means widening the political ownership of the agreement. The agreement must be owned by everyone. This can only be done by including other political parties and forces in Sudan in the constitutional process and the new government of national unity. This means South-South dialogue. It means involving militia and civil society groups in the implementation process and the new political set-up. It means focusing on local reconciliation and acceptance of the agreement. Lots of work has to be done here – and soon. And it means using the framework of the agreement as a basis for solutions to other conflicts in Sudan. I will come back to that.

Second, implementing the peace agreement. Here the first stage is the most critical.

Swift implementation will strengthen both support for the agreement and its sustainability. After a few delays, new institutions have now been established in accordance with the protocols. The Joint National Transition Team of the two parties has been constituted and is now representing Sudan at a donors’ meeting in Rome. The team will also represent Sudan at the donors’ conference in Oslo in April. Other joint government bodies have been formed and are now operational.

What still remains undone is the National Constitutional Review Commission, which will include other political forces in the country. Broad consultations must be undertaken, and this is urgent. This week the SPLM is sending an advance team to Khartoum and other key cities and areas both to consult with other forces and to start working with government authorities.

The Government of National Unity will be formed towards the end of the pre-interim period, in May or June. July marks the start of the six-year interim period, during which both the national coalition government and the Southern regional government will have to prove that they can and will deliver basic services to the population. This will require far-reaching reforms:

  • At the national level – lifting the state of emergency, normalising political life, and reforming the various governmental institutions now under the control of the National Congress Party and the current government in Khartoum. It will also call for increasing local autonomy, decentralisation, the sharing of power and wealth, good governance. As the agreement says, respect for human rights and democracy must be the foundation for a Sudan where all disenfranchised groups are included. This is the two parties’ national responsibility.
  • At the regional level – in the South: establishing the Government of Southern Sudan. This will mean transforming the SPLM from a rebel movement into a civilian government, establishing new government structures in the South, building capacity for civilian management in devastated areas. Key elements will be service delivery, decentralisation, inclusion of other armed groups, transparency and accountability.

Third, taking responsibility for building peace in all parts of the country. This is of particular importance for Darfur, the East, and also in the extreme north (among the Nubians there). It is the marginalisation of these areas that has led to the problems. The Naivasha agreement provides solutions for the conflicts, but the primary responsibility rests with the current government of Sudan. It is certainly also in the interest of the SPLM to ensure that these problems are solved. And they may assist in these efforts. If they do not, these tensions and conflicts may have a negative impact on the overall implementation of the peace agreement.

For Darfur, the most serious conflict, the African Union negotiations are currently on hold. This is partly because of the unstable situation on the ground, partly because the humanitarian and cease fire-protocols have not been implemented, and partly because the negotiators need to be better prepared. There is no easy shortcut to a political solution for Darfur: the solution must address vital political, security and economic issues, as well as environmental and ethnic problems. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been accepted by both sides as the framework for a solution. Thus the autonomy and sharing of power and wealth granted in the peace agreement to the people of the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile could serve as a model for Darfur, the East and possibly other areas. A Nuba-plus arrangement is one alternative.

However, we know that atrocities are still taking place. The MSF report on the abuse of women and children is of particular concern. It is imperative that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that the agreed protocols are implemented without delay. We want to see delivery in some of these areas before the donors’ conference in Oslo in four weeks’ time. The Khartoum government and the SLA/SLM and the JEM in Darfur have the responsibility here. Dr John Garang of the SPLM could also play a role, which he is willing to do.

But the Sudanese people cannot succeed in building peace in their country without international backing. The devastation of the war, the widespread poverty, and the international implications of the conflict make peace in Sudan a joint challenge and a joint responsibility.

Sudan’s nine neighbouring countries have been experiencing the spillover from the civil war for many years, and there are Sudanese refugees all over the world, as far away as Greenland and Australia. The global dimension also includes links to international terrorism, trade in oil and arms (including landmines), the situation in the Middle East, inter-faith issues, questions of international development and debt relief, and environmental issues, including the sharing of scarce resources such as the waters of the Nile. A peaceful solution for Sudan will have to draw heavily on international engagement for many years to come.

We know from experience that peace is fragile. It needs attention, protection and nurturing. We also know that history overflows with examples of promising peace efforts gone awry, opportunities missed and mistakes made.

In fact, more than half of all peace agreements fail, and the parties slide back into war.

We know that we will pay dearly if we make those mistakes in Sudan. And the stakes are high. Very high.

This is why the Norwegian Government last year launched a new, comprehensive framework for peace-building. The framework draws on the results of studies undertaken by the Christian Michelsen Institute and other academic institutions, such as last year’s CMI paper on “lessons learned” from previous engagements in post-conflict situations.

The framework for peace-building is in effect a list of dos and don’ts for building long-term peace solutions through assistance, based on our past experience of peace processes around the world.

We believe that peace-building is a necessary supplement to peacemaking processes and peacekeeping operations. Peace-building through development can strengthen peace processes, provide the extra support that makes peace sustainable, help rebuild societies and prevent violence from recurring.

Peace-building has three mutually reinforcing dimensions: 1) security, 2) political development, and 3) social and economic development.

Peace-building includes measures like disarmament, demobilisation and security system reform. It includes measures designed to fight poverty and to empower women and other marginalised groups in the process of rebuilding a country.

It may include reconciliation, good governance measures and support to independent media and civil society.

Every situation is different, and the measures must be tailored to the circumstances. What works in Sri Lanka may not work in Sudan. What is beneficial in Latin America may spell disaster in Africa. There is no “one-size-fits-all”. Each country, each crisis, demands its own solution.

But what they have in common is the need for joint efforts, for keeping donor’s eyes on the end result, for avoiding the traps set by those whose interests will be served by applying the principle of “divide and rule”. If we as donors do not have a clear and co-ordinated plan for our assistance in war-torn countries, we risk becoming pawns in a game we cannot control.

There are some universal features that apply to all people, in all countries – features that are non-negotiable: fundamental human rights, human dignity. Here there is no room for compromise – not in Sudan, not anywhere else.

Now the challenge for the international community in Sudan is not only to do the right things, but also to do things right – the first time around. We must learn from our experience in other post-conflict situations, where the anarchy of conflicting international policies and uncoordinated initiatives has hampered rather than promoted peace-building. And we must remember the history of Sudan, where the lack of international engagement and guarantees contributed to the re-eruption of the war in 1983. The international community will be instrumental in building peace and making it sustainable.

We need to act along all three dimensions here. First, in security – where monitoring of the cease-fire is key. We are now waiting for the Security Council. The UN will monitor the cease-fire, which means that the international community will commit itself to sending a large number of military personnel to Sudan over the coming six years. The mandate of the mission (UNMIS) has yet to be agreed upon and formalised by the Security Council. UNMIS must be deployed as soon as possible. It is now important to prevent the ICC/Tribunal issue from holding up the resolution and delaying the deployment of the monitoring force. The returnees urgently need its protection. Other security-related programmes are also crucial, such as DD&R, demining and the inclusion of other armed groups and militias in the two standing armies.

The African Union monitoring mission in Darfur (AMIS) must continue, but it needs more support from the UN and other stakeholders. The AMIS has been very successful so far, considering the limited resources at its disposal. This has almost been a “mission impossible”, but the African monitors have done an excellent job. The right combination of African Union and UN forces and their mandates now needs to be worked out. There are several different solutions, including the possibility of making different arrangements for different periods.

Second, the political processes. Here the role of the international community is primarily to help finance South-South processes and broaden political ownership, as well as to participate actively in monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement. The Assessment and Evaluation Commission will be a valuable instrument in these efforts. According to the agreement, the commission will have significant international representation, from the UN, IGAD and individual countries. It will monitor the implementation of the agreement and report on its findings. This will be an additional international guarantee for the Sudanese people.

We hope Norway will be able to play an important role in the commission. This will depend partly on the expertise of the Norwegian “Sudan network”, on the expertise here, at CMI, at the University of Bergen, and at other academic institutions. We have worked with several of you in the past during the negotiations, and are eager to continue working with you in the future.

Thirdly, the socio-economic aspect – aid. This is where the peace dividend comes in. The international community must come up with the resources necessary to bring peace and progress to all of Sudan. I believe the political will is there, but we need to keep up the pressure and make sure that Sudan remains a priority for world leaders during the time it takes to rebuild the country.

But here, too, we must learn from previous mistakes, from the donor circus that has appeared in post-conflict situations in no time at all, of the mess that goes with it. This must be avoided in Sudan – at all costs. The Sudanese will pay a high price if bad and uncoordinated donor practices prevail. Indeed this may cost them the peace.

This is why we have urged donors to do it differently this time, and we are now working actively to set up the necessary frameworks. Our programmes must be closely co-ordinated and harmonised. Joint development programmes, joint donor offices, and joint policies must be the norm. Our financial support should be channelled through multi-donor trust funds, where NGOs and UN agencies can help with service delivery “on contract” for the new government. The Sudanese government, both in Khartoum and in the regions, will need capacity building and training in taking the lead in this wide-ranging development effort.

In about a month, on 11-12April, Norway will host the first international donor conference for Sudan. I will call on the international community to pledge generously and to pay promptly. We know the resources are there.

The total costs of the reconstruction and rebuilding in Sudan are estimated at 8 billion dollars just for the first two years. Sudan is prepared to cover most of these expenses. We, the international community, have been asked to supply 2.5 billion dollars. At the end of the Oslo conference, I hope we are close to this goal.

I have come to several conclusions during these past few years, and would like to mention two. One has to do with the role of expertise and the other has to do with the role of individuals.

The Sudan peace process is an interesting example of how the Norwegian government has benefited from Norwegian expertise and experience of Sudan in the academic world, among our NGOs and in our administration. We have cooperated closely with many of you during the negotiations - some of you directly, others indirectly. Academics have been hired as Sudan experts. Others have been used as advisers. We have been able to capitalise on years of academic investment in historical, anthropological and sociological studies on Sudan. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for your contributions. You have made it possible for Norway to play a significant role as facilitators in the process. And you have proven that a field of study that might have seemed - shall we say - slightly obscure to some, in the end has become highly relevant to Norwegian policy - and to the promotion of peace.

I have also reflected on the role of individuals, on their potential for change.

In 1989 Dr Francis Mading Deng said here in Bergen that “what is not said divides us”. The Sudanese have finally started to talk about the issues that divide them. I believe the words they use will form the basis for a future in unity. This is now becoming more common among the Sudanese in general, following what their two most important leaders, Ali Osman Taha and John Garang, have been doing for over eighteen months. They have talked and talked and talked – about what unites, but even more about what divides. Compromises have been meticulously carved out. Bridges have been built, differences have been overcome. It is a story about the potential for change, change through commitment – commitment to deliver peace, but change through understanding the other point of view, change through seeing the divisions – but then bridging the gaps. I have seen from close up how these two people have changed, how they have grown from being extremely sceptical about each other to becoming friends and partners in peace.

Peace is not built by a signature on a piece of paper, peace is built by actions – day by day. But there is hope in the fact that this is a Sudanese solution, brought about by two changed Sudanese leaders and their teams. Their job, and our job, is to broaden that ownership to include all Sudanese, to build more and stronger bridges, to build a lasting peace – in all of Sudan.

Thank you.

VEDLEGG