The maxim that the test of any agreement is in its implementation is familiar to those who follow Sudanese politics, even from a distance. This article reviews the latest agreements reached between Sudan and South Sudan on September 27 in Addis Ababa, brokered by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The full text of the protocols is available here.
Both Sudan and South Sudan were under threat of UN sanctions if a deal was not reached. In time, the new agreements may be seen as the start of a more productive relationship between the two states, heralding the “brighter future” Ahmed Badawi describes. But it could easily be a false dawn, in a relationship still beset with mistrust.
Either way, the latest agreements add another eighty pages of text to the long list of historic commitments made by Khartoum and Juba. Forty years after the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972, ending the first Sudanese civil war, Addis Ababa 2012 comprises a general cooperation agreement and eight specific protocols on oil, security arrangements, mobility rights for citizens of both countries, post service benefits for civil servants and pensioners, trade, banking, assets, debts and cultural property, as well as that holdover of agreements past: management and demarcation of the border.
Opposition to Agreement
There has been some local opposition to the deal, on both sides of the border. The South Sudan Law Society criticized the agreement, suggesting that the primary motivation was survival of the ruling SPLM, and that ordinary citizens were ignored. Governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal Paul Malong had more specific criticism, rejecting the commitment to withdraw SPLA troops from the disputed 14 Mile area, and in Aweil protests have taken place.
In Sudan, President al-Bashir’s uncle, Al-Tayeb Mustafa, publisher of the hard-line daily newspaper Al-Intibaha, predictably criticized elements of the deal, provoking the security services into censoring his planned editorial on the matter.
A number of advocacy groups have voiced concern: Global Witness decried the lack of public accountability on the oil protocol. Waging Peace called the agreement “depressingly familiar…the new peace will look awfully and horrifically like business as usual.”
Diplomatic success at the top
Without question, these agreements are less monumental than the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) they now supersede. While it is common to hear criticism of the CPA today, particularly in light of the renewed conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and ongoing impasse in the final resolution of control of the disputed territory of Abyei, in 2005 criticism of the CPA was a minority opinion, and there was certainly little significant discontent being voiced only days after the agreements were signed.
Today’s expectations are different. Khartoum’s invasion of Abyei in May 2011, just weeks before South Sudan’s declaration of independence, and the sequence of events that has followed showed that the details of divorce were more immediately consequential than the latter-day failures of an optimistically transformative peace treaty (the CPA).
One encouraging success for the Addis mediation is the return (and success) of presidential diplomacy. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and President of South Sudan Salva Kiir know each other well, through the years of the CPA’s triumvirate presidency. That both men stayed in Addis for five days, much longer than was originally planned, and managed to cut a deal, is good news.
Unresolved issues: Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Abyei
The continued failure to make progress in resolving the distinct, but clearly related, conflicts in Blue Nile and South Kordofan is more sobering. But Juba-Khartoum negotiations can no longer be the forum for such discussions, notwithstanding the implications here for South Sudan’s broader border security. It’s important that pressure on Sudan to engage in meaningful negotiations with the SPLM-North continues, as UN Security Council resolution 2046 makes clear.
For Juba, there is no choice but to focus on South Sudanese interests, which by definition no longer include South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Of course, Abyei is another matter, where South Sudan’s basic interests have not changed, despite independence from Sudan. With Sudan’s earlier decision, on September 25, to “categorically reject the [AU’s Abyei] Proposal in its entirety,” it would seem that the mediators are back to the drawing board in finding agreement on the future of the disputed territory. The new cooperation agreement does, however, reaffirm the June 2011 Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area.
Oil gets the headlines, but the agreements cover a much wider range of subjects. The new agreements establish a timetable for implementation across the eight specific protocols, as well as a host of new joint committees and initiatives (and accompanying acronyms).
Cooperation, security and border issues
The Cooperation Agreement references and incorporates nine older agreements between Sudan and South Sudan, some dating back to December 2010, before the end of the CPA era. Most of these concern general security arrangements. The CPA is not specifically mentioned in this section, and is left to the penultimate page of the Cooperation Agreement’s text. When mentioned, it is referenced in only two specific respects: the Sudan-South Sudan border, and prior agreement on post-secession arrangements. While the patient has been in terminal decline for some time, this is the effective death notice for the rest of the CPA (barring perhaps the Abyei Protocol of 2004).
The first step in the Cooperation Agreement is ratification of the agreement by the national parliaments of Sudan and South Sudan within 40 days of signature, i.e. no later than November 6. However, the security protocol calls for actions, which read by the language of that particular document, are immediately due even before ratification of the overall set of agreements. The parties must:
- “immediately cease all hostile propaganda and inflammatory statements in the media,” (preamble of the text)
- “immediately issue instructions to their forces to withdraw unconditionally” to the January 1, 1956 borders
- “immediately operationalize the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission (JBVMM) and the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ).” The JBVMM is to be implemented according to two 2011 agreements (July 30), (September 18), and is to follow the map developed by the AUHIP in November 2011.
- immediately activate a committee (the JBVMM Ad-Hoc Committee) to receive and investigate complaints about violations of the demilitarized zone
- immediately reopen the 10 agreed border crossing corridors, as per the September 18 agreement (link above).
While most of these border commitments have been made before, Khartoum’s prior rejection of the AUHIP map has been massaged by the promise of “additional special arrangements” for the 14 Mile Area. How these arrangements will work in practice is not entirely clear, and the agreement is explicit that such “additional measures are temporary whilst the parties resolve the final status of the boundary.”
In the Agreement on Border Issues, Sudan and South Sudan officially adopt the idea of a “soft” border, with an “integrated border management approach.” Demarcation of the border remains as it was under the terms of the CPA, that is, based on the border as it was on January 1, 1956, at the moment of Sudan’s independence from the United Kingdom. Demarcation is to be conducted by a joint committee, to be formed within two weeks of ratification of the agreement, and the committee is to meet no later than two weeks after it is formed. Within two weeks of its first meeting, the committee must come up with a plan and budget for the demarcation exercise, and actual demarcation is to start no later than 60 days after the agreement is ratified. Once the committee starts its work, it has three months to complete the demarcation exercise, although the parties may agree to extend the demarcation period.
Another entity, the Joint Border Commission (to which the demarcation committee is subsidiary), is to be formed to manage the border. It too is to be formed within two weeks of the agreement’s ratification.
The adoption of “other agreements to facilitate the movement of members of border communities across the international boundary,” is not ruled out. On the one hand, this is a practical acknowledgment of the reality of the needs and movements of nomadic and pastoralist communities. On the other, it demonstrates that the subtle details of how the border will operate are yet to be determined, and that season by season, year by year, negotiations will continue to be needed.
Both the border and security protocols describe specific, time-bound obligations for both parties, so it will be easy to measure progress (or the lack thereof). Like the CPA before them, the Addis agreements will require just as much monitoring post-agreement as was required in mediation effort to get to the signing ceremony. And it is not enough for people of good will and competence to be appointed to this flurry of new committees and commissions, if appointees and secretariats do not have political backing from the highest levels to endorse and implement whatever it is they decide.
There are spoilers on both sides. But those in Khartoum generally have greater influence on the government, and much depends on what these hardliners ultimately determine: to accept to implement the letter and spirit of the deal signed by the president, or as so often has been the case before, to stall, frustrate and undermine this agreement and its subsidiary protocols.
Part two to follow.
Aly Verjee is senior researcher at the Rift Valley Institute.