Current events in South Sudan (and Addis Ababa) continue to grab the headlines, and preoccupy the attention of most analysts, including this author. But that should not imply there have been no recent notable events north of the border. Here are three, mostly un or underreported developments in Sudan, and some thoughts on their implications.
1. The Doha peace agreement for Darfur continues to disintegrate, international donors are complicit in its failure, and local circumstances in Darfur remain mostly unchanged (if not worse), even as UNAMID chief Mohamed ibn Chambas has made more (albeit modest) progress in negotiating with the non-signatory movements than has been achieved in years. Some excerpts of the UN Secretary-General’s Jan. 15 report on UNAMID (emphasis added):
On 20 November, the Government and LJM informed UNAMID that they had entered into a bilateral agreement on security arrangements outside and separate from the Doha Document. The agreement, which was reached without consultation with the Ceasefire Commission, provides for the integration of between 3,000 and 4,000 LJM combatants into the Sudanese Armed Forces and government police. The remaining combatants, the number of which has yet to be specified by the parties, are expected to undergo a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. UNAMID has urged the parties to adhere to the security arrangements set out in the Doha Document and is assessing the appropriateness of providing support under the new agreement.
On 16 December, the Implementation Follow-up Commission held its seventh meeting in El Fasher to review progress against the implementation of the Doha Document. Participants expressed concern about the slow rate of progress and delay by donors in fulfilling pledges made at a donor conference in April 2013. To date, none of the $1 billion pledged has been delivered.
…progress by the signatory parties to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, the Government of the Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement, towards its implementation had been limited in terms of its impact on the ground. Unfortunately, this has remained the case over the past three months, with the progress made limited mainly to planning and administration, as opposed to action that directly benefited the general population.
Parallel security arrangements to those outlined in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) are not necessarily bad if they work, despite the UN’s concerns in the first quote. The trouble is they probably will not. What such arrangements definitely demonstrate is the DDPD’s continuing slide into irrelevance, which effectively appears to be the position of international donors (the lack of money described in the second quote), although the public position of most countries remains that the DDPD is a viable framework for peace. They just don’t want to fund it. The third quote needs no further comment.
2. The ICRC has been forced to suspend its operations in Sudan, but perhaps not all of government is pleased with HAC’s decision or its timing.
As quoted in the New York Times, HAC told SUNA: ‘The I.C.R.C. has not met the state’s guidelines for humanitarian work, which has made us suspend its work until we reach an understanding.’
Ali Karti, the foreign minister, made an interesting observation in November last year. Speaking to the National Assembly about the 2009 decision to expel international NGOs from Darfur, he said: ‘These humanitarian groups should have been contained and put to optimal use rather than having them ejected from the country thus harming Sudan’s relations with the international community.’ The decision was ‘wrong.’
Having recently obtained debt relief from the Netherlands and France, and with Switzerland and Germany also mulling relief, blocking what is arguably the world’s most respected non-governmental organisation seems pretty stupid for a government trying to rehabilitate its image and garner further support. I suspect HAC didn’t think through the possible implications, much like in 2009. A cynic might conclude that Sudan, having obtained what it wants, feels even less constrained to act with impunity, or believes that stopping the ICRC won’t really affect its case for debt relief, but in this case I’d wager government coordination is more at fault.
3. The one who just won’t disappear: Hassan al Turabi, it seems, could no longer resist the NCP’s overtures to talk, with the effect that the NCP has managed, once again, to split the opposition. Does the NCP really think Turabi is the solution to their problems? I doubt either Bashir or Bakri feels that way. Turabi won’t easily be played but that doesn’t mean the classic approach of weakening opposition solidarity will not be fruitful for the NCP.