Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sudan Peace Agreement between Comprehensive Revival and Comprehensive Collapse

By John A. Akec

It all sounds like an act by the ‘authentic’ SPLM – launching a pre-emptive strike on its coalition partner (the National Congress Party) where and when it is least expected. That is, suspending its participation in the coalition government on the Eve of Eid Al-Fitr. The clever old Movement, the SPLM, still has its wits about it; I thought to myself with extreme amusement while scanning the SPLM press release in utter disbelief.

The SPLM press release dated 11 October 07 and signed by the head of GOSS Mission in the US must have taken Sudan and the world by storm. The press release announced the decision by the SPLM to suspend its participation in the government of national unity (GoNU) "until contentious issues are resolved" and appealed to international community to intervene to resolve the ‘national crisis.’ The issues cited were: the stalled implementation of Abyei Protocol, non-withdrawal of troops from Southern oil states, continued support by the NCP of militia groups in the South, and refusal by President Bashir to approve a reshuffle proposed 1st Vice President Kiir Mayardit that would have affected only the SPLM’s ministers in the government of National unity.

Why should anyone be surprised?
The trouble has long been coming. Refusal by the National Congress to relinquish either the ministry of energy or ministry of finance in the coalition government was the first sign of a troubled relationship with SPLM. President Salva Kiir was quoted saying: "we cannot go back to war because of one ministry." Many fellow South Sudanese, this author included, criticised him brutally for climbing down after weeks of standoff. In retrospect, I believe this was painful but wise decision – not to enter a battle when the Party was least organised and prepared and when its contender was still powerful and well organised. Recently, however, and apart from above issues, it seems NCP has been consistently and systematically waging ‘cold war’ on the SPLM. While starving the GOSS of financial muscle it needs to effect development through equitable sharing of oil revenues, its media has been singing song of "comprehensive failure by SPLM government to bring development to the South." This is not to mention the psychological war. The latest included the alleged air crash and disappearance of president Kiir’s plane after taking off from Juba on his way to Khartoum in September this year. No one could miss the visible efforts by the NCP to strangle, frustrate, and ultimately fail the GOSS. Andrew Natios, the US Sudan’s envoy has recently warned of a "poisoned relationships" between coalition partners. President Carter, one of the Committee of Elders, who visited Sudan, recently has expressed "anxiety" about the state of CPA. NCP media found no cause for concern and accused Natios of alarmist gestures, concerns that has now been confirmed by the recent deterioration of relationships within coalition and subsequent temporal withdrawal by SPLM from the coalition.

Penalising SPLM Position on Darfur
Eric Reeves’ assessment of NCP trustworthiness is summed by his almost prophetic statement: NCP has never honoured any agreement. Not once, not ever. And that assessment still hangs over CPA’s implementation like a curse. Professor Reeve’s judgement is a result of a long history of NCP habit of signing agreements with opposition parties and then later working to undo them successfully and with flying colours. CPA is not exception.

Yet one could add that SPLM’s position on Darfur that describes the war as genocide, and supports the deployment of UN hybrid force in the region has been a major source of tensions between Naivasha’s signatories, and has given NCP the ammunition and excuse to undermine its partner in a game of tit-for-tat. Worst, any suggestion by the SPLM leadership that comes anywhere close to changing the minister for foreign affairs with a person not in NCP’s liking, represents (for the NCP) the last straw.

Who Heads SPLM?
It is ironic to pose such a question. Yet if we are all honest enough, we need to admit that the decision reached by the SPLM Party to suspend participation in the government of national unity (GoNU) is a mature one. And unless we still live in the era of mental totalitarianism and oppression, such a move is completely legitimate and falls within the realm of what I may call the ‘exercising’ of democratic right. While the exercise of such right by many Sudanese sectors in the North has often been met with police brutality, the consequences of bullying SPLM are there for all to count. Even before the result of week-long deliberation by SPLM political bureau were unveiled, NCP powerful media has been singling out individuals such as party secretary General, Pagan Amum, as heading extreme elements that aim to topple National Salvation Government (or Inqaz, as NCP prefers to be called). Hence, we hear this question of who heads SPLM? Ironic as it is, it reveals state of shock and disbelief amongst the ruling cliques. This elite is accustomed to the notion that they, and only they, are smart and everyone else a fool. And of course we all know that Salva Kiir heads the SPLM. That president Kiir is seen ruling by consensus ought to be a good thing for the Party. In the like manner, president Bashir, who makes his decisions after consulting leading members of his party, heads NCP. Only diamond cuts diamond. Simple.

Still there is more. Nowadays, it is an open secret that the NCP is living in state of divisions. There is clearly no consensus on the best strategy for resolving the conflict in Darfur, and on whether or not to literally implement all the protocols in Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

No one can be certain for sure about different opinions within NCP. But observers say the anti-CPA faction now holds the upper hand and is headed by Dr. Nafi Ali Nafi. According to this faction, what counts is the NCP agenda. Anything standing on its way must be removed. Vice president Ali Osman Taha, on the other hand, leads a second group. This group, observers reckon, is more committed to literal implementation of CPA. However, the faction is somewhat marginalised. Finally, a third group occupies the centre-Nafian ground and is led by president Bahsir himself. This camp sees some sense in the importance of implementing the articles of the CPA in selective manner. And most importantly, it cares more about the unity and future of the party and hence tries to maintain links between two opposed camps (Taha and Nafi factions) while moderating the balance of power between them in such a way as to keep NCP’s ship afloat.

Concluding Remarks
SPLM could not have chosen a better spot to put pressure on its coalition partner. It knows it is much more organised, and its army better equipped and trained. The international community is sympathetic and interested in CPA implementation. The NCP is divided over resolution of Darfur conflict, the deployment of UN forces, and literal implementation of CPA.

Furthermore, one suspects the decision by SPLM Party to pull out of the government of national unity may lead to the revival of CPA if the senior partner, the NCP, chooses to reverse its current policy. Failing that, the situation can quickly spiral out of control and could lead to the complete collapse of CPA as confrontation escalates, and as SPLM pursues its "further measures." If SPLM and NCP go down the latter route, the consequences could be grave for the whole nation.

Indeed, we live in worrying but equally interesting times. Let’s pray and hope that commonsense will reign supreme.


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