The never ending story: The Sudan and the limits of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
By: Samantha Nicholl
Protest on the CPA in the Sudan in 2009
There was mass international attention on the Sudan in the early 2000s during historic peace talks between the Government of the Sudan (GoS) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) which were designed to bring an end to the longest conflict in Africa at the time. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the GOS and SPLM/A in 2005 and was credited with bringing an end to the twenty-two year long civil war. Following the partition of South Sudan in 2011, a possible outcome accounted for in the CPA, the international community patted itself on the back for a job well done and walked away from the war ravaged Sudan without looking back. The international focus shifted to the newly independent South Sudan, a predominantly Christian and Western allied country, and the remaining agreements under the CPA were left largely unimplemented in the remainder of the country. The Sudan became a forgotten conflict, buried behind the flashy headlines of the day, despite on-going violence that continues to rage in other regions of the country such as Darfur, the Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and Abyei. According to the UNHCR, the situation in the Sudan is rapidly deteriorating with over 2 million internally displaced persons and half a million Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries. This raises the question: Was the CPA successful at managing conflict in the Sudan?
The CPA was designed to manage the conflict between the GoS and the SPLM/A and it was largely successful at reducing the intensity of violence between these two actors. Unfortunately, this peace came at the expense of broader peace in other unstable regions of the country where armed groups continue to fight against a regime perceived as illegitimate by its citizens. There were a number of challenges with the structure and implementation of the CPA. The first problem was that the SPLM/A was assumed to be representative of the opposition in the Sudan. International mediators made a conscious decision to exclude other opposition groups in the Sudan from the CPA negotiations to avoid over-complicating the process. Unfortunately, this decision separated the conflict between the GoS and the SPLM/A from the larger problems in the country and delegitimized the process in the eyes of other groups. The second issue was that process solidified power between the GoS and SPLM/A rather than creating political space for true democratic reforms to take place. The final issue was that there was no enforcement mechanisms in the CPA once the South gained independence. This meant that the remaining CPA agreements, which called for referendum votes and consultations in other regions of the country, were left unimplemented.
There is a window of opportunity under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party government to rectify the past mistakes of the international community. PM Trudeau has pledged to reengage in United Nations peacekeeping and promote international peace and security. As the Liberal government considers its strategy for re-engagement on the international stage, it should focus its gaze on the Sudan and the ongoing UN peace missions inside its borders, UNAMID and UNISFA. Stability in the Sudan is important for larger stability in the region which is threatened by continual interference of the GOS in the affairs of its new neighbour to the South. The UN Peacekeeping missions in the Sudan currently have no representation from major powers in the international community. Canadian contribution to UN peacekeeping in the Sudan sends a message that the international community is still watching and puts pressure on the Sudanese government to fully implement the CPA.