By Deng Machol
Juba – Peace talks between the Sudanese transitional government and armed and non-armed opposition groups begun in South Sudan’s capital on Monday with parties showing eagerness to ending the country’s long civil war.
South Sudan’s President Kiir is hosting the peace talks, where the transitional government and rebel groups signed a draft agreement last month that detailed a roadmap for the talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in place, represents a turning point in ending war and bringing about peace to Sudan.
This followed former president Omar al-Bashir’s successful mediation of the South Sudan peace talks in Khartoum last year, September, before overthrow in April, 2019.
The peace initiative was also built into a power-sharing deal between Sudan’s army groups and its pro-democracy movements. That deal was reached after the deposed of longtime tyrant President Omar al-Bashir in April. The transitional authorities have six months to make peace with the rebels, according to the agreement.
Ethiopia and the African Union mediated the power-sharing agreement in August which ended months of violence and faltering talks between Sudan’s generals and protesters following the uprising against al-Bashir.
South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011 after decades of civil war. But in the 2000s, Sudan was most known for al-Bashir’s brutal repression of an uprising in the western Darfur region.
Attaining peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. It has counted on ending the wars with rebels in order to revive the country’s dilapidated economy through slashing the military spending, which takes up much of the national budget.
However, Sudanese military councils have introduced good-will signals. They dismissed death sentences against eight rebel leaders and released more than a dozen prisoners of war. They have also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors to allow time for the rebels to come on board.
President Kiir is trying to look for the best ways to end the war that has been raging in Sudan for the last 63 years – that’s to say since independence.
The peace solutions brokered in the past, starting by Addis Ababa 1972, Khartoum 1997, CPA 2005, Abuja, Cairo, Asmara and Doha agreements, failed to achieve a just, comprehensive and permanent peace.”
Sudanese warring parties accepted the mediation of president Salva Kiir and Juba as a venue for peace talks when the AUHIP failed to settle the conflict in Sudan in eight years and twenty-two rounds of talks.
Addressing the launch of the peace talks at the Freedom Hall in Juba, President Kiir called on the Sudanese parties to make compromises during the negotiations.
President Kiir said negotiations and compromises are ushered to settle any political conflict and reach a peace deal that will end the country prolong conflict.
He added that peace could not come to any country through armed conflict adding that it was possible if parties come together, discuss and find possible solutions.
President Kiir reiterated that lack of peace in his former country would lead to instability in the whole Africa and South Sudan particular.
“Time has come for us in Africa and in our region to rise up to the challenge of addressing our differences and conflicts,” said Kiir in the event graced by regional heads of states, including Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Premier Dr Abiy Ahmed.
“I have no doubt that we have the capacity, the ability and the required competence to do so if we have a strong political will. “Now for the Sudanese delegations for the peace talks, I wish them successful dialogue, negotiation and compromise so that we celebrate the achievement of peace in the Sudan,” said president Kiir.
Symbol of peace
The chairperson of the IGAD, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, also Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, called on the region to exert more efforts for peace building to create a safe environment for investment, adding that the horn of Africa should always address its challenges through inclusive dialogue.
The IGAD countries consist of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan. But Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan have been ruined down by years of conflict as a result of political and communal wrangles.
Dr. Abiy say the region has the potential to become a symbol of peace and economic in Africa as well as in the global.
“I believe there is nothing that we cannot achieve as a region. We have witnessed a peace between the Ethiopia and Eritrea; the silence of the guns in South Sudan and the successful Sudanese reconciliation; we are also hopeful that Kenya and Somalia will have to resolve their problem through dialogue. What we have achieved together are building-blocks for our region’s shared goals and collective prosperity,” said Dr. Abiy.
Dr. Abiy urged the leaders to engage youth in addressing the economic challenges in the region rather than recruiting them for civil war.
“It is time for our regions to focus on the inevitable journey of a robust economic integration,” said the 2019 Noble Prize Winner. “The time has come to give a better chance to our youth through pooling our cooperative advantages to common goals and developments – this, we can only do when all the stakeholders in each of our countries commits to peace.”
Meanwhile, the Ugandan President cautioned leaders against the use of religion and tribes to advance their political interests.
Yoweri Museveni says leaders in Sudan and South Sudan have sought leadership positions by turning their people against each other.
He says since 1962, Sudan has failed to address the underlying causes of wars and poverty because of lack of political ideology.
In 2011, Sudan split following 39 years of civil war between South Sudanese and the Sudanese government over lack of services and poor system of governance.
Museveni argues that the problems of Sudan and Africa can be attributed to the misguided use of tribal and religious identities as a means of resolving issues.
“People who are ideologically bankrupt have no alternative but to use opportunism of religion, tribe, and of race. This is a crime against Africa,” said the leader who has been the Uganda’s president since 1986. “If you don’t know what to do, go back home and mismanage your home. Don’t come to a public office to cause suffering for the people.”
While they applaud President Kiir’s efforts to help restore stability in the Sudan, critics and activists say the President should start the charity at home by ensuring that the revitalized peace agreement is fully implemented.
For his part, the President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Gen. Abdul Fattah Al Burhan, expressed hopes that the Kiir-mediated peace talks will bring to an end years of conflict in the Sudan.
“We come to negotiate in good faith for the sake of the Sudan. This time is different from the past, in the past there was a government wanted to divide the country with armed groups, though the oppositions are in the country,” said Al Burhan. We are reiterating our full commitment that this round of talks will be the end to the problems of our Sudanese people – to put an end to the suffering of our people,” he promised, his government want comprehensive peace such that over five million Sudanese displaced both internally and externally return to their homes.
According to Juba’s government, Kiir’s mediation efforts is aimed at finding an end to the civil war in Blue Nile and Darfur regions.
The states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan – which both have large ethnic minority populations that fought alongside the South Sudanese during the two decades of scorched – earth civil war.
Over nine different armed and non-armed opposition groups are taking part in the talks including main opposition movements of Revolutionary Front and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – North.
Dr. Alhadi Idris Ahmed, Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) Leader has expressed his willingness to cooperate in good faith with the interim government to bring solution to the conflict in Sudan.
“Time has come for us to stop war and killings in the Republic of Sudan. It is time for beginning of stability, peace, respect of human rights and economic development in Sudan,” said Ahmed, adding that they want to see a new Sudan with a democracy and equal opportunity to all the Sudanese people.
Cdr. Abdul-Aziz Adam Alhilu, SPLM-N, emphasized that they have come to the talks with a firm will and determination to achieve a new Sudan of freedom, justice and equality.
“We also believe that the success of the negotiations to bring an end to the war in Sudan depends on addressing the root causes of the problem that can be summarized in the two issues of national identity and relationship between religion and state,” said Abdul-Aziz. The two points of identity and theocracy are at the top of the contentious issues that divide the Sudanese people. We have to look for the commonalities that provide the basis for a just unity and permanent peace,” he added.
Despite the secession of South Sudan, there is racism in Sudan today. It is racial and religious double apartheid that resulted in 63 years of civil wars, where the state exterminated over 3 million of its own citizens in [then] South Sudan, Nuba Mountain, Blue Nile, Beja of the East, far North Nuba and Darfur.
“We, in the SPLM-N believe that the failure was due to the complicated nature of the conflict on one hand, and the insistence of the subsequent Khartoum governments to deal with it as a security problem on the other, while the conflict is basically political. We also believe that success of the negotiations to bring an end to the wars in Sudan depends on addressing the root causes of the problem that can be summarized in the two issues of national identity and relationship between religious,” said Abdul-Aziza.
The official launching ceremony of Sudan peace talks being mediated by president Kiir was attended by The president of Sudan Sovereign Council, Gen. Abdel AlFattah Al-burhan, the president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed and the Prime Minister of Arab Republic of Egypt, Mustafa Kemal Madbouly.
The presidents of Kenya and Somalia were not in attendance they have busy schedules in their respective countries.
Several peace talks have failed to end the internal conflict in Sudan and bring in a comprehensive justice and permanent peace, however, this is litmus – test for president Kiir whether to bring final solution to the Sudanese crisis or not. This peace talks will go on for two months.