The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is not comprehensive, nor peace, nor an agreement, as I have argued in detail elsewhere (1). It is a cease-fire agreement between only two parties in only one of the conflicts in Sudan, with a framework or “road map” for peace in 2011, signed under intense international pressure. While there was a period of relative calm after it was signed in 2005, the delays in implementation and the deliberate undermining of the agreement were predictable. We are now approaching the end-game and the upsurge in violence was also predictable.
The four scenarios suggested by the Clingendael Institute and posted in this debate in summary form are a useful tool for analysing the situation, but the reality will probably be a complex mixture of any and all of these.
“CPA Hurray! (No War – United Sudan)” is the least likely scenario. The NCP failed miserably to make unity attractive (if this was ever really their goal). Virtually nobody believes that southerners will voluntarily choose unity. If unity is the result of the referendum, southerners will not believe that the referendum was free and fair. This could easily lead to “The Last War Revisited? (War – United Sudan)”.
Whether there is unity, in which case a unilateral declaration of independence by the south is possible, or whether there is secession leading to “Border Wars (War – Secession)”, the war will look similar. SPLM/A will remain in control of much of the south, with secure rear bases (including air bases) and borders with friendly neighbours. Initial fighting will be over a swathe of resource-rich territory along the north-south border, including the major towns of Bentiu, Malakal and Renk. The north will wish to maintain control of the oil fields and commercial agricultural land, while the south will wish to oust them. Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile will be key battlegrounds, as large parts of their populations wish to separate themselves from the north but, with the exception of Abyei, have not been given the chance to do so by the CPA. Khartoum will rely on the LRA and other militia to create an insurgency deep in the south. The Joint Integrated Units are already fighting each other sporadically (cf Malakal), but the outbreak of open warfare in 2011 will precipitate a battle between SPLA and SAF units in Khartoum itself. Both sides will be joined by civilians and, whatever the final outcome in terms of “victory”, blood will run in the streets of the capital. Khartoum and other northern towns may also experience visits from Antonov bombers such as those which so terrorised civilians in southern Sudan during the last war.
Whatever happens, southerners have to deal with ethnic tensions amongst themselves. They can do this peacefully or violently, but one way or the other it is inevitable. But the north too has to face divisions. Darfur is only one example of the centre-periphery dynamic, with power concentrated in the hands of a very small riverain ethnic grouping, and currently also concentrated in the hands of Islamists who do not represent northern Islam in general. One reason why the north is keen to keep the south (apart from oil) is the fear of a domino effect: first the south secedes, then Darfur, then… who knows? Will there be any “north” left for the regime to govern? Hence “Be Careful What You Wish For: Somalia? (No War – Secession)”.
The report also mentions a fifth scenario, “Stagnation”, or one might say “muddling through”. The status quo continues. This is certainly not impossible, as the Sudanese are very good at muddling through, defying attempts by the international community to impose order upon them with strategic plans and clear, simplistic, quick-fix, donor-driven solutions. However the momentum towards the end-game of the CPA might be building too quickly for a return to stagnation.
The CPA is all we’ve got, and as such it must be implemented. However it’s important to recognise the hierarchy of priorities within it. The goal of this cease-fire “road map” is peace in 2011, and that peace hinges on the referendum. All the rest of the CPA is preparation for 2011, via an Interim Period which obviously needed practical arrangements (power-sharing, wealth-sharing, security arrangements). While no part of the CPA should be sacrificed lightly, potentially playing into the hands of those who wish to undermine and delay its implementation, nevertheless neither should any part be allowed to act as an excuse for delaying the referendum. The referendum trumps all. If anything, even elections, becomes a hindrance to holding the referendum on time, then the referendum must take priority.
Of course northerners will see it differently. In many ways the only benefit they get from the CPA is elections: for the opposition, the chance to vote out the Islamist military dictatorship under which they have suffered for so long; for the regime, the chance to legitimise itself. The referendum, for all of them, is a bitter pill, potentially leading to the break-up of the nation and the loss of 90% of its oil.
The people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile might also feel that they need elections. Their only hope is a significant change of government after elections which will be sympathetic to a renegotiation of the CPA to allow them to have referenda. Sadly there is little realistic hope of this.
Clingendael rightly draws attention to the lack of serious discussion and preparation for the post-CPA period, whatever the outcome of the referendum. Southerners have not even begun to articulate the sort of society they want, nor how they will deal with real problems which secession will bring (or exacerbate). Neither side has seriously addressed the issue of relations between two newly-independent states, nor the position of southerners who choose to remain in the north (will they become citizens of the new state, or will they be viewed as alien labourers in an Islamic state without even the meagre rights which they have, in theory, now?). What will southern Sudan do with its oil – the oil may be in the south but the pipeline and refinery are in the north? How will the south settle its ethnic differences? How will the new northern Sudan deal with Darfur and other conflicts? And if unity, what will the “New Sudan” look like and how will the political dispensation change to prevent another war breaking out a few years later over the same grievances that sparked the first two southern wars?
On these issues, as on so much else, northerners and southerners have different interests. Perhaps that’s why southerners have, for so long, been demanding the right of self-determination?
(1) CPA Alert No. 1, IKV Pax Christi, 4 September 2009.
John Ashworth, IKV Pax Christi.