Fresh Sudan peace pact builds off of deeper efforts
Northern Sudan signed a peace deal with forces allied to South Sudan on Tuesday. The agreement builds off of earlier peace-making efforts, including trips to Indonesia's war-torn Aceh Province and Kenya to study ways to resolve entrenched conflict.
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From the moment Nero Philip, an SPLM member from Kadugli, touched down in the Acehnese capital of Banda in 2009, he felt an odd camaraderie with the Indonesian rebels who had fought for decades for independence. Fighting between rebels and the government ended only after the December 2004 tsunami destroyed Banda, and the Army's and rebels' ability to fight. After a round of popular consultations – akin to a referendum – both sides agreed that Aceh would get autonomy over its internal affairs while remaining under the Indonesian flag.Skip to next paragraph
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Most impressive to Mr. Philip is Aceh's ability to negotiate 70 percent of the oil and gas in the area, and 20 percent of the natural resources for the next 20 years, an inspiration for South Kordofan, which has rich oil resources itself. "That, for us, was a great achievement," says Philip.
Even more inspiring, says SPLM parliamentarian Saeed, was the way civil society forced former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi to allow multiparty elections. Mr. Moi didn't give in easily, but civil society continued to put pressure on the president. In 2002, Moi was voted out by an alliance of opposition leaders.
Missing in Sudan: civil society
South Kordofan does not have the strong society that Aceh and Kenya possess, says Saeed, but unless citizens take an active role in decisionmaking, they will always be subjected to the decisions of politicians. "We have to be prepared to pay the price for our freedom."
Yet for Ibrahim Balandia, the speaker of South Kordofan's state assembly and an NCP participant in the trips, the lessons of Aceh and Kenya are limited because of the weakness of an educated and organized civil society in his state. In the end, he said, "The body which has the right to speak for the people is the elected assembly. If there are gaps to be filled from the [2005 peace deal], the people should tell us, and that gap will be filled."
This might seem intransigent, yet Mr. Balandia is one of the few NCP leaders willing to discuss the matter of popular consultations, says the UN's Ahmed Sabiel. Compared with the SPLM and NCP hard-liners who hadn't taken the trip, participants like Saeed and Balandia were much closer together in their mind-set; they were negotiating while their colleagues were preparing for war.
"At the end of this trip, the thinking between the SPLM participants and the NCP participants wasn't that far apart," says Mr. Sabiel. "But when they took these ideas to their parties, they didn't give attention to what their colleagues had learned."