After a careful review of the Communiqué of the 754th meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), particularly paragraphs 8 and 10, I feel obliged to make the following comments.
First, I wholeheartedly welcome the AUPSC’s determination to achieve sustainable and lasting peace in Darfur, and all of Sudan, sooner rather than later. I also absolutely agree with the AUPSC that the peace process has thus far taken far too long to produce results. This unwarranted delay in peace has contributed to the continued loss of life and unduly prolonged the suffering of the people of Darfur and Sudan.
Before hastily assigning blame, however, it is critical to first understand the full range of factors that are holding back the peace process. Below is an account of a non-exhaustive review of many challenges to peace, illustrating the broad scope of issues that must be overcome.
(1) Negotiations on the Basis of the DDPD
While the UNSC and the AUPSC frequently ask Justice & Equality Movement Sudan (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) to negotiate with the Government of Sudan (GoS) on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), there has not been a clear and agreed upon interpretation as to what that really means. Each party to the “Sudan Conflict in Darfur” (as aptly defined by President Mbeki) has its own interpretation of the phrase “on the basis of the DDPD.”
For the GoS, it means that the Movements shall sign on to the DDPD first, and then engage in negotiations on protocols related to the future of their forces and the jobs the Movements might ask for. For the Movements, however, such an interpretation does not fulfil the requirements of lasting peace that addresses the root causes of the conflict. Moreover, the Movements do not agree that the DDPD alone is capable of bringing lasting peace to Darfur, and they seek to resolve the root causes of the conflict through a comprehensive and objective approach. They are thus not ready to merely sign on to a document to which they were not original parties to, especially as the terms of the DDPD do not provide for a means of accession.
The DDPD expired on 13 July 2015, and GoS renewed it by its own choice for one year and subsequently dismantled the institutions created by the DDPD to ensure its implementation on 9 July 2016. As such, the DDPD has practically become a historical peace document, similar to the CPA and the DPA. Further, the DDPD has objectively failed to bring about sustainable peace. Instead, it delivered Darfur to the Rapid Support tribal militias, who are wreaking havoc in the region.
This reality is, I trust, the very reason why the AUPSC and its supporters are pressing for lasting and sustainable peace in Darfur. On this point of interpretation of the phrase “on the basis of the DDPD”, I would particularly like to express the deepest gratitude for the United States and Germany, which have exerted tremendous efforts with the parties to the conflict to find a common ground and an acceptable interpretation to the phrase to bring about the resumption of talks.
(2) The Status of the Mediation
For the peace process to move forward and produce results, it needs a full time mediator with a dedicated and experienced staff. While the Joint Special Representative (JSR) of UNAMID has been a critical actor in Darfur, the asking of the JSR to be the Joint Chief Mediator (JCM) was an unfortunate mistake for two major reasons.
First, leading UNAMID with its more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel is in itself too heavy an administrative load to add to it any further time-consuming duties, such as mediating a hugely complex peace process, like the one in Darfur. In fact, UNAMID’s prime mandate is a two-pronged one of peacekeeping and stabilization. That makes its mediation role a peripheral one with no human or material resources specifically allotted for it. Trying to include effective mediation as one of the many important tasks facing UNAMID further becomes a “mission impossible” with the added burden of UNAMID’s ongoing reconfiguration process.
Second, the Status of the Forces Agreement (SOFA) of February 2008 that governs the relations between UNAMID and the GoS makes it impossible for the JSR to be a fair mediator that maintains relations with the parties on the principles of equity and parity while simultaneously achieving the smooth and effective operations of UNAMID. This is because UNAMID must work with the GoS under the SOFA in a capacity that goes beyond the relationship between UNAMID and the Movements in the mediation context. Specifically, the SOFA calls for “The Joint Special Representative, the Force Commander and the Representatives of the Government of Sudan shall take appropriate measures to ensure close and reciprocal liaison at every appropriate level.”
(3) Misunderstanding of the Movements’ Commitments to the Peace Process
As far as the commitment of JEM and SLM-MM to the peace process is concerned, the AUPSC seems to be misinformed. The Movements are the ones who first declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities in October 2015 and who have renewed it to the point that the GoS was forced to reciprocate with their own unilateral declaration. The Movements have remained fully committed to the peace process and have been the ones who have been regularly coming up with initiatives and making concession after concession to help the process move forward. Meanwhile, the GoS has only a military solution to the conflict to offer. JEM and SLM-MM have not declined any invitation by the Mediation to come to the table to talk peace. In fact, at this very moment in which I am writing these comments, our delegation is in meetings with the Mediation in Addis.
In light of the importance of achieving a timely and durable peace for Darfur and Sudan, and given the remaining challenges to peace, the AUPSC is respectfully urged to revisit its Communiqués 456 and 539, as well as the AUHIP Roadmap Agreement, to identify who and what is truly obstructing the peace process in Sudan and how the process might be moved forward. The GoS refused to come to the stipulated preparatory meeting of the National Dialogue, and it went ahead with its own monologue that concluded on 10 October 2016. Every objective regional and international observer agrees that Khartoum’s dialogue was not an inclusive or credible national dialogue, and that it has precluded efforts to achieve a truly inclusive and comprehensive dialogue that could help achieve peace. Thus, the GoS has been the one obstructing the peace process and closing the doors to an inclusive political settlement in Sudan.
We look forward to diligently cooperating with the AUPSC, the Mediation and our international partners to bring about a just and quick end to the plight of our people in Darfur and the whole Sudan.
By Gibril Ibrahim