The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation must be commended for seizing this very moment to strongly and unequivocally identifying the precarious state of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by suspending participation in the Government of National Unity. The overall outlook on the CPA as a national project endorsed and supported by millions of peace loving Sudanese is bleak at this moment because of the deliberate obstructionist mode that the National Congress Party (NCP) has maintained since 2005. As the crisis precipitated by the SPLM’s decision brews, there are signs that the NCP and its devious allies are trying to debase the whole issue into a meaningless squabble over cabinet posts. The SPLM and all concerned parties must guard against these dishonest machinations by keeping the focus on the root issue of CPA violations and obstructions.
The laundry list of unimplemented provisions affects almost all the protocols of the agreement, and exceeds even the direst predictions from fellow Sudanese who know about the NCP’s record in dishonoring agreements. The Abyei issue remains stuck at the very stage it was in since the outline of a resolution were signed in May, 2004. Meanwhile, the citizens of that region remain excluded from even the meager services that a local administration could provide, all thanks to the refusal of the NCP to abide by the conclusions of the experts panel as it pledged to do.
The SPLM remains un-integrated into the management structures of the oil sector contrary to the letter and spirit of the wealth sharing protocols. This deliberate obstruction took the form of many obstacles, from dragging out the funding and establishment of the National Petroleum Commission, to wrangling and misinterpreting the mandate of this very Commission in its oversight of the marketing, sale and equitable distribution of the income from the oil producing wells in Southern Sudan. It does not take a raging conspiracy theorist to argue that the South is being cheated out of its share of the oil revenues since it cannot credibly ascertain the exact price and number of barrels sold. Moreover, it is the height of dishonesty for the NCP to claim that the transfer of funds to the South, alleged to be the 50% share, is proof enough that the relevant CPA clause is being implemented to the letter. The crux of the complaint here is that the percentages are irrelevant so long as no one but the NCP-controlled Ministry of Energy knows the exact aggregate numbers of barrels sold.
Tied closely to the above mentioned issues is the demarcation of the border between the North and the South per the existing boundaries on January 1st, 1956. Predictably and unfortunately, the NCP sees a direct link between the border issue and the broader questions of the continued exploitation of the resources in the South. To wit, The NCP removed the bulk of their forces from areas in greater Equatoria and Bahr ElGhazal, but it has cynically redeployed most of these soldiers in the oil producing regions of greater Upper Nile. This very act manages to violate multiple clauses of the CPA, from the border demarcation provisions, the Security Arrangements Agreement and its Implementation Modalities and the aforementioned wealth sharing agreement. More tragically, it is contrary to spirit of the landmark Machakos Protocol which promulgated the concept of two armies within one country during the 6-year interim period.
Not withstanding the critical items listed above, and they are just some of the graver issues, the CPA carries within its contours the great promise of ushering a democratically transformed Sudan from the ruins of more than two decades of war. The NCP has looked at the agreement and saw within its complete implementation the necessary end result, and that is the long hoped for conclusion of more than 17 years of a despotic one party regime. Their leadership must be commended for pragmatically realizing that the INGAZ regime was untenable as an imposed ruler, and must be phased out as part of a national project of political liberalization. The CPA was reached to achieve what even the NCP conceded was necessary, and that is the establishment of a system that ensured the peaceful and democratic competition for political power. However, that same pragmatism has now cynically reemerged in the form of the NCP backtracking on the basic rights and protections ushered in by the CPA and the Interim National Constitution. Their rationale is that the international and domestic political scene can absorb a certain retrenchment on their part on civil liberties. So they decided it was ok to resort to arresting and indefinitely detaining dissidents and journalist, censoring speech in all its form, and generally finding ways to maintain their police state within the legitimacy of the beleaguered Government of National Unity. In the meantime, they use the apparatus of government to grind down to a crawl all the necessary steps needed for the census and voter registration process to commence.
All these serious violations of the CPA and the Interim National Constitution combine to compel all peace loving Sudanese, regardless of political orientation to collectively join in to rescue the country from imminent collapse. Nonetheless, compelling the NCP to responsibly play its role as the partner that signed the agreement will not be an easy task because of the resistance of some of its leaders to the virtue of respecting agreements. The challenge for the SPLM is to maintain the same level of openness and steadfastness in explaining the core reasons for the crisis since the recall of its Ministers and Advisers, and to proactively counter the NCP’s scheming ways in shaping the debate and negotiations over this current crisis.
As I write, the Chairman of the NCP and the President of the Republic, Marshall Omer ElBashir, just issued a decree reshuffling the cabinet and replacing some Minister’s portfolios per the demands of the SPLM. While that is a welcome concession to the demands of the SPLM on one single grievance raised during this crisis, it must not be accepted as the token resolution to the crisis. The problem of the NCP refusing to acquiesce to the demands of the SPLM Chairman on the makeup of his party’s nominees should not be allowed to overshadow the more critical issues addressed above. The SPLM should therefore refuse to resume its seats on the cabinet until immediate and short term steps are taken on the major provisions under contention.
In the immediate term, the following conditions should be met by the NCP:
The government must immediately release all political detainees of the SPLM and other political parties, or charge them with the crimes it claims they committed. This is should be a non-negotiable major requirement, and no real SPLM cabinet member should step foot in the council of Ministers while Yen Mathew and other SPLM detainees languish in jail uncharged.
The Government of National Unity, in the form of the majority partner, the NCP, should immediately release all the logistical and monetary resources needed to affect the integration of the Joint Integrated Units (JIT), and subsequently deploy all their troops North of the 1956 border, save for the 12,000 members in the JIT. The SPLM, as a responsible partner, should immediately reciprocate by moving any remaining troops south of the 1956 borders.
The Government should immediately call an emergency session of the National Petroleum Commission, and proceed to outline all the revenue and production records from all Southern oil wells since Jan, 9th, 2005.
The Government should immediately disburse and make available all the resources owed for the Census process in all regions of Sudan as part of the preparation for the 2009 mid-term elections.
Once this trust building measures are concluded should the SPLM instruct its members to resume their duties within the Government of National Unity. The next immediate step should be to extract a formal commitment from the NCP to resolve the Abyei stalemate per the provisions of the ABC report, or resort to international arbitration. The complex interests that are compelling NCP to act so intransigently on the Abyei are beyond the political will of its leaders, and it is high time we brought the international community as a partial arbiter on the singular issue of Abyei. The SPLM rightfully understands that the CPA will not be completely implemented without consistently shining the spotlight on it, and sensitizing the broader citizenry and the world at large about its health. My hope is that the NCP will not wiggle out of this standoff by reducing it into a meaningless argument over one cabinet member, or a list of Ministers.