Celebrating the bureaucratisation of peace: the Addis implementation matrix – By Aly Verjee
March 2013: another Addis negotiating marathon, another document heralded as the “˜breakthrough‘ agreement between Sudan and South Sudan. The 68-point implementation matrix (not counting sub-points), signed on March 12 by Idris Mohamed Abdel Gadar for Sudan and Pagan Amum for South Sudan, follows the meeting on March 8 of the defence ministers of both states, who agreed again to withdraw their forces from the previously defined Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ).
Or as South Sudan’s negotiating team put it, with a first sentence tongue-twister for bored diplomats and journalists covering the next meeting in Addis: “On March 8, 2013, after months of negotiations, the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan’s Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) came to an agreement on the content of a framework for implementing the commitments made in the bilateral September 2012 security arrangements agreement. This important development should result in the creation of a safe demilitarized buffer zone along the two countries’ shared border. Both sides have already ordered their armed forces to withdraw to their side of the buffer zone.”
Point seven of the March 8 document tells of the delays suffered after the last supposed breakthrough agreement, the cooperation accords of September 2012. It subtly ignores that failure of implementation and just says: “the original D-Day for the implementation plan matrix was 19 December 2012. The matrix has been reviewed and the JPSM have set D-Day at 10 March 2013.”
Three months delay could be forgiven if the intentions of the parties were now honourable. Unfortunately, there is reason to be sceptical of that being the case. Orders by Khartoum and Juba to withdraw their troops from the border are encouraging, but are just as easily reversed. Resuming oil production is welcome, until the next crisis comes. We celebrate the matrix, because even modest progress is better than the alternative. Our faith is in this new bureaucratisation of peace: the idea that if only there are or were enough technical benchmarks, processes, committees, mechanisms and modalities, on paper and on the ground, all that underlying emotional antipathy and mistrust and suspicion could be controlled if not eradicated entirely.
Turning on the oil taps averts economic annihilation for both sides. But having initially shut down production in a bold attempt to show Khartoum that seizures of oil cargoes would not be tolerated, Juba has no guarantee of future good behaviour. That, for example, there will be an end to aerial bombardment by the Sudanese Armed Forces on South Sudan’s territory; that Khartoum will lose interest in the various rebel militias of Jonglei; that Khartoum’s share of oil revenue isn’t used to finance future military action against South Sudan. For its part, Khartoum hasn’t ensured that South Sudan will really expel the SPLM-N officials who frequent Juba, cut off access to South Kordofan from Unity State, or stop exploring alternatives to the Port Sudan pipeline through Kenya and/or Ethiopia.
Plenty of official allegations of bad behaviour have been made by both sides. For the most part these fall to the JPSM to address. In almost every case, the security modalities document says one of the following: “refer to Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission (JBVMM) for investigation,” “refer to Ad-hoc Committee for investigation,” or, “on receipt of evidential detail it is recommended JPSM form Committee…to determine veracity of the concern/complaint.” In the unlikely event a thorough investigation is conducted, neither side is likely to be satisfied with the findings: each side believes it is the victim of the other.
With no end in sight to the war in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan makes a guest appearance in discussion of border arrangements. More than a year and a half after UNMIS left South Kordofan, and a decade after the successes of the Joint Military Commission (JMC), international monitoring returns to Kordofan: the JBVMM will move from Assosa, Ethiopia, to Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s presently most troubled state.
As the meeting minutes state: “Kadugli was accepted as a suitable temporary JBVMM HQ before moving to final location in Abyei. There was acceptance that there would be no move of the JBVMM HQ to Abyei until the Temporary Arrangements were implemented and accommodation provided by UN.”
The JBVMM borrows the successful joint monitoring team concept from the JMC. Teams made up of SAF, SPLA, and police and NISS personnel from both sides are joined by international monitors to investigate agreement violations, report on security in the border zone, arbitrate local disputes and report unlawfully held weapons. But whereas in 2002 the JMC monitored violations of a genuine ceasefire in South Kordofan while the war continued in southern Sudan, today’s JBVMM deals with the inverse: international border management between two states legally at peace while civil war continues in the Nuba Mountains, a few towns away.
In the aspirational matrix, where three of the 68 points are marked “˜complete’, and work on most other issues is yet to start, there are the usual bugbears:
“1.4 Obligation: Determination of the final status of Abyei and consideration of formation of the Abyei Referendum Commission (Art 4.2). Timing: Date to be agreed. Responsible: The Presidents.”
“5.4.3. Obligation: Completion of non-binding opinion of the AU Team of Experts (AUTE) on the status of the 5 Disputed Areas. Timing: 5.4.1 [D-Day + 66] + 60 [translation: 126 days from March 10, or July 14]. Responsible: AUTE. Remarks: Parties have commenced cooperation with the Experts in line with draft Terms of Reference for the AUTE. Timeline subject to change by Parties pursuant 5.4.2.”
Indeed, nothing sums it up better: “˜responsible: the Presidents’, and “˜subject to change’. The end of matrix modifications has not yet arrived. But spreadsheets are better than embargoes and air strikes. One hopes the need for urgent breakthroughs does not return too soon.
Aly Verjee is senior researcher at the Rift Valley Institute.
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Typical Western “Sudan Watchers” community glass-half empty take on all things Sud-So-Sud; e.g. just look how many Sudan activist groups and so-called Sudan gurus have ignored the signing of the March agreement. Seems like Aly Verjee and other ‘Sudan watchers’ are happier (or at least more comfortable) when the Sudanese and South Sudanese govts are at each other’s throats as it suits their shallow group-think paradigm about Sudan and South Sudan – even though none of them – Mr. Verjee included – have never likely met any members (let alone regularly or had detailed conversations with) of the Sudanese government that they write reams and reams on; then again their audience is not ordinary Sudanese, but other (largely US and other Western) Sudan watchers – none of whom have more than a milk-skin understanding of Sudanese government or societal dynamics; e.g. hardly speak – let alone read or write Arabic; somewhat of a handicap, no??
In sum, Mr. Verjee’s ‘analysis’ on the recent agmt is just snarky in extremis: FACT – No agreement is ever perfect and this one isn’t, but to deny that it is anything other than auspicious for both the people of Sudan and South Sudan, their govts, neighbours, and indeed the international community, and is a huge step forward (Mr. Verjee remember how long it took to build Rome, bumps on the road and all) to creating a prosperous and stable Sudan and South Sudan living side-by-side in peace (harmony hardly occurs between ANY neighbouring countries) as Mr. Verjee has done, is, Iâ€™m afraid, just plain churlish.
Those that genuinely care about Sudan (in which I include myself) do not want to see the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments forever “at each otherâ€™s throats,” as you suggest. Nowhere do I say such a thing. I would agree with you that it is not useful to knee jerkingly deride the matrix agreement: it is progress, and as I wrote, it is much better than the alternative of conflict and war. To imply I say otherwise is false. I have met a wide variety of people in the Government of Sudan and the NCP over the years. I might add that their preferred analogies generally do not involve building Rome and all that…
Important point on writing and addressing ordinary Sudanese in such matters: part of the problem of the ‘bureaucratisation’ of such processes is their increasingly inaccessibility to citizens concerned: do you think either government in Khartoum or Juba has or will communicate or explain the details of the matrix (or for that matter, previous agreements) in any sort of detail to ordinary people? I fear not.
Thanks for your comment.
“part of the problem of the â€˜bureaucratisationâ€™ of such processes”.
Instead of “bureaucratisation”, Aly, how about just plain ole “institutionalisation” and the “new institutionalisation of peace” rather than the “new bureaucratisation of peace” as you put it in your op-ed above??
That’s what I meant as being the typical glass-half empty lens beloved of ‘Sudan watchers’ – using the negatively loaded term of “bureaucratisation” rather than “instutionalisation” – the latter of which is no bad thing, right??
As for “part of the problem of the â€˜bureaucratisationâ€™ of such processes is their increasingly inaccessibility to citizens concerned: do you think either government in Khartoum or Juba has or will communicate or explain the details of the matrix (or for that matter, previous agreements) in any sort of detail to ordinary people?”
Do you think. e.g the citizens of Northern Ireland understand all the intricacies of the Good Friday agmts or the Israelis and Palestinians understanding all the details of the Oslo accrords matrix – and many other exmaples along this line that can be cited??
What concerns ordinafry Sudanese and South Sudanese is that the Addis agmts signify that the Sudanese and South Sudanese govts have chosen a path of peaceful co-existence and that, for all intents, and purposes, they can can go about their daily lives as if Sudan and South Sudan are one.
Post AA signing, I think most ordinary Suds and So-Suds get that, right?
That’s what I meant about the thrust of your op-ed being churlish; few, if any, peace agmts are subjected to such forensic pulling apart and idealism as those signed between Sudan and South Sudan that is the bread-and-butter (lietrally $$) of Western ‘Sudan watchers’.
To reiterate my main point: the A A agmts are auspicious – recognise that fact – not begrudgingly as you have done – e.g. “until the next crisis comes”. If that’s your version of “celebrate” – I’d hate to see what you consider as “mourning”.
I donâ€™t think institutionalisation has yet happened, which is why I didn’t use the word, and without trying to be pedantic, there is a deserved difference in the terms bureaucratisation and institutionalisation. Will the mechanics of the 2012 Addis Ababa agreement, for example the JPSM, become truly institutionalised: ie. part of the accepted way of doing business, trusted fora where both sides can and do consistently resolve the issues at hand? Perhaps, but itâ€™s still early days, and for now we donâ€™t know. Will logjams be broken without the need to resort to extraordinary meetings outside the structure, like a presidential summit or equivalent, to get things done? Hopefully yes. If not, all we have is a bunch of new committees – hardly institutionalisation. Time will tell.
You are certainly right that the intricacies of many agreements, Northern Ireland, Palestine and others as well were not necessarily well understood by their citizenries. But I don’t think that means it becomes less important for Sudanese and South Sudanese to understand the details. Peace agreements are not and should not only be matters for the elite. And your assertion that other peace agreements were not subject to comparatively detailed analysis is wrong – plenty has been written about, for example, the cases you cite: Good Friday, Oslo. I would hazard, in fact, that a lot more has been written about those two processes than on Sudan and South Sudan’s various agreements. You don’t have to agree, but I don’t see commentary on the merits and the risks of the Addis Ababa process as churlish; if anything the process needs more transparency and analysis, not less.
Thanks again for your comments.
You remarked: “I donâ€™t see commentary on the merits and the risks of the Addis Ababa process as churlish” and then add “but itâ€™s still early days, and for now we donâ€™t know”. Precisely. And somewhat of a contradiction, too, (no?), underlining the gist of my comment about churlishness.
” all we have is a bunch of new committees”. Are these not institutions and thus = “institutionalisation” of peace even if they get ‘layered’ by a new timetable etc??
Yes I agree – peace deals are not the preserve of “elites” – but think you’re underestimating the Arabic-language outreach of Sudan TV/Blue Nile TV Radio across Sudan for disseminating the key points of the deal to the wider Sudanese public (e.g press briefings given by I A Gadir and Defence Minister Abdul-Rahim to those media), let alone dissemination by the Arabic-lang newspapers in the capital and other major cities.
It would certainly be interesting to see surveys or anything similar on what people do know or understand about the agreements. I haven’t seen anything like that yet. On your adjectives of choice, you’ve made your point. I don’t agree that there is a contradiction: yes, it’s too early to conclude whether the JPSM etc. etc. will succeed, but that doesn’t mean that the issues that challenge it can’t be identified now. One can hope for success and still be analytical about the risks.
Thanks for reply, Aly.
“[Sufficient] Time will tell” – agree with you there.
Ibrahim Adam: An African with an Argument 😉