Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Sudan Peace Process Risks Entrenching Injustice

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Khartoum has been massing its forces in the border regions between North and South Sudan with the horrific results that one has come to expect. The US is preparing to push through a UN resolution for Ethiopian peacekeepers to be deployed in Abyei. Yet the two-state approach to managing Sudan's civil wars is close to completion. The South is due to succeed in early July and relations between the states are set to be normalised.

Sudan's history of overlapping nationalities and intertwined identities does not lend itself well to the transition proposed by the peace agreement of 2005. The long civil war itself was not set along distinct North-South pisions, yet the peace agreement centralised power between just two warring factions: the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan in Khartoum. This negated the interests of a number of groups, in particular the complex relationships between the people of the Blue Nile region, South Kordofan and Abyei with the Governments in Juba in the South and Khartoum in the North.

Such ambiguities on the ground, invisible to the peace agreement between 'North' and 'South', are now being exploited by Khartoum's armies and militias operating in the region. These final weeks before borders are finalised are a rare window for lucrative land grabs that are killing hundreds, displacing thousands and radically re-determining land ownership. What makes them so lucrative is that the spoils of this month's battles are next month set to be ordained as the legitimate status quo for the future states of North and South Sudan. For the people of the region the inequalities and crimes that have resulted from May and June's raids and displacements will be quickly entrenched as the international community rallies to restore peace and government control of their respective countries.


While the unaddressed conflicts are fought over along the geographic borders of these states they are also being experienced at the social and ethnic margins of Sudan's society. Through the institutionalisation of Arab dominance in the North and Dinka privilege in the South, Sudan's internationally-supervised peace process is freezing in place this injustice and marginalisation. With oil fields, rich soil and demographic dominance to be gained from these final weeks before borders are drawn, few should be surprised at this onset of military violence. These further inequalities, displacements and discriminations will need to be dealt with within the new Sudanese states if their peace is to hold. But if seeking justice for these 'original sins' of the new Sudanese nations undermines the state-building project, then Sudanese people may have to look beyond the state-centric peacebuilding model offered by the international community.


Comments

Great article, highlighting the fact that the situation in Sudan is not as clear cut as 'North / South'