With the declaration of the peace agreement and a six-year interim period culminating in a referendum to settle the future of South Sudan, the country has entered a critical phase with the potential for profound change, either for better or for worse. The task of construction in the south – ‘reconstruction’ suggests a previous infrastructure – is immense, and fraught with pitfalls. Provision for humanitarian needs will have to be matched by action to improve safety. Between 500,000 and two million landmines are believed to have been planted across the country, with the large majority of those in the south.
In the wake of the peace agreement, returning refugees have in some cases clashed violently with IDPs occupying land which was formerly theirs. In late 2005, hundreds of Bor Dinka and their cattle from Jonglei province, displaced by war to Yambio and Mundri in Western Equatoria, found themselves forced onto the hazardous and mine-strewn road home. (Khartoum Monitor: The unfortunate Dinka Bor relocation (Editorial) - 4 December 2005)
A major concern is that southern and northern Sudanese have entirely different expectations of the six-year interim period. South Sudanese are primarily interested in preparing for separation from the north, and do not concern themselves with the plight of northern Sudan. When the SPLM/A leader and newly-appointed Vice President John Garang was killed in a helicopter crash in July 2005, the long-established mutual mistrust between South Sudanese and northerners was exposed in clashes on the streets of Khartoum, Juba and other major towns. The loss of Garang at such a delicate stage has placed a huge burden on his successor, Salva Kiir. With Kiir, however, there may be a better chance of successful accommodation with a wider constituency of former antagonists, such as the largely Nuer South Sudan Defence Force.
Northerners generally know little about the real situation in the south, but have a strongly proprietorial attitude towards the territory. For them, the idea of the preservation of the unity of the country is often paramount, but little has been done to bring southerners round to this point of view. The northern democratic opposition is dismayed by the prospect of losing southern support – especially the SPLA’s military muscle - for a change of regime in the north, and the continuation in power of the Islamist dictatorship (albeit under a different name).
Successful transition will require the equitable deployment of oil wealth for development, the creation of an inclusive and transparent democratisation process, and the introduction of effective, accountable government. Fundamental human rights, systematically violated for so long, must be restored. Those who currently feel left out of the peace deal so far must also be involved and must benefit from the process. The intelligent support of the international community will be vital.
The international community and international NGOs have sometimes let enthusiasm about the prospects for peace blind them to factors that could derail the process. Their own weaknesses include a lack of coordination and too little involvement of local independent civil society groups and local NGOs, whose capacity they should be strengthening.
Political wrangles over IDPs and their futures are inevitably complex, not least because both north and south recognise them as a swing factor in the eventual referendum. While many northern politicians would wish to see the departure home of South Sudanese IDPs, the same people often have vested interests in some remaining in the north, both because of the cheap labour they provide and the foreign aid they attract.
There are stark contrasts between the responses of the central government (now the Government of National Unity) and the newly formed Government of South Sudan. The latter is willing to support the return and reintegration of IDPs, but desperately lacks the resources. The government in Khartoum has the resources, but lacks the will to put them at the disposal of the populations it has played a role in displacing. It set up a Humanitarian Aid Commission in 1995 with the declared aim of protecting and assisting IDPs. This has not had any positive effect, as the forced demolitions of IDP camps in Khartoum and the continuing assaults on IDPs in Darfur clearly illustrate.
The government’s treatment of humanitarian workers, both from local and from international organisations, is highly disturbing. Doctors and aid workers have been obstructed, assaulted and threatened by security forces. Aid agency offices in Darfur have been raided, and the documentary material collected by these agencies seized and declared to be ‘fake’ by Sudan government-controlled media. This pressure, combined with militia attacks on aid convoys, has been so great that some agencies have been obliged to suspend operations - or to pull out of Darfur altogether. There are UN no-go areas in Darfur, and the government can halt aid when it chooses.
In the south, the SPLM/A has not shown much aptitude for the transition from military to civil administration. Although it set up the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) in 1985 to coordinate and facilitate aid work in the areas under its control, its effectiveness was poor. In 1994 the SPLM/A began moves to improve its own accountability, but progress has been slow.
Now the embryonic Government of Southern Sudan has neither the means nor the capacity to respond adequately to the needs of hundreds of thousands of people returning to the south, devastated as it is by decades of warfare.
In April 2005, international donors meeting in Oslo pledged $4.5 billion to assist Sudan. If the opportunities allowed by the peace agreement are to be built on, and further disaster is to be averted, this money will have to be disbursed with both urgency and insight.
- African Security Analysis Programme (ASAP), The South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF): A challenge to the Sudan Peace Process, Institute for Security Studies, 8 April 2004 - http://www.iss.co.za/AF/current/2004/sudanapr04.pdf
- Forced Migration Review, No. 24, Special Issue on Sudan, November 2005 http://www.fmreview.org/mags1.htm
- Jooma, Mariam, Feeding the peace: Challenges facing human security in post-Garang South Sudan, , Institute for Security Studies, 23 August 2005 - http://www.iss.co.za/AF/current/2005/050823Sudan.pdf
- Justice Africa http://www.justiceafrica.org/
- Rogier, Emeric, ‘Designing an integrated strategy for peace, security, and development in post-agreement Sudan’, CRU Occasional Paper, The Hague: Clingendael Institute, April 2005 - http://www.clingendael.nl/publications/2005/20050400_cru_paper_rogier.pdf
- Skorupski, S–arah, ‘Sudan’s Energy Sector: Implementing the Wealth Sharing Agreement’, Africa Notes, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), August 2004 - http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/anotes_0408.pdf
- UN Sudan Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) Volume 1: Synthesis: Framework for Sustained Peace, Development and Poverty Eradication, 18 March 2005 - http://www.unsudanig.org/JAM/drafts/final/JAM-report-volume-I.pdf
- UNDP STARBASE Sudan Transition and Recovery Database - http://www.unsudanig.org/STARBASE/index.jsp