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Sudan Peace Deal Brings Challenges Along With Hope


Sudan’s peace deal was signed Sunday under bright, sunny skies in Nairobi - and featured thousands of people celebrating the end of more than 20 years of war. But analysts say for the agreement to fulfill hopes and dreams, there’s much work yet to be done.

The price of the peace agreement has been high. The civil war killed over two million people and displaced hundreds of thousands. What happens over the next six years will determine whether southern Sudan remains a part of the country or chooses to become an independent state.

David Mozersky – an analyst for the International Crisis Group in Nairobi – says the transition from war will be long and slow.

"The government of southern Sudan that is to be built is basically starting from scratch – both in terms of physical infrastructure and in terms of institutions. So, it’s going to be a slow process whereby on the one hand the SPLA, the rebel group that signed the peace agreement, tries to transform itself into a political movement and government, while at the same time becoming a part of the national government, as well as including the other southern groups, which were outside the peace process," he says.

He says there needs to be an “immediate and clear” benefit of the peace process to the people of southern Sudan.

"The first demonstrable step is going to be the drafting of the interim national constitution. And it’s expected hopefully by mid-March. And it will be an amalgamation or a document based on this peace agreement as well as the existing government constitution. I think discussions are beginning to try to form a skeleton negotiations between the SPLA and the government. And then in two weeks that skeleton will be brought to a larger body, including opposition groups and hopefully will be agreed on by mid-March as the basis for the national constitution for the six-year interim period," he says.

Herman Hanekom of the Africa Institute of South Africa says the success of the Sudan peace deal has benefits for all involved.

"From my side, I’m thinking positively in that the south of Sudan is really offering, not only for the country itself but also for foreign investors, a fantastic opportunity to bring development through investment to the area," he says.

Mr. Hanekom says for that opportunity to be realized, the Sudanese government must prove itself to the people of southern Sudan.

He says, "The government of Khartoum is going to be placed before one fantastic test. And that is they must, according to the peace agreement, allow a referendum or plebiscite in six years time for the South to decide whether they want to retain the unity of Sudan or whether they opt for secession. The only way to counteract that part of the agreement is that Khartoum must definitely, as a matter of utmost urgency, start with the development of schools, the infrastructure, hospitals, and other social services in the South so that there is the political will existing in the North to make the South feel welcome back home and that they will not be neglected."

But David Mozersky of the International Crisis Group says Khartoum will not be able to do it alone.

"The international community has a lot to contribute in terms of development aid and humanitarian support to help support the reconstruction process in the Sudan – and help support the building of new structures and just recovery from years of war. But more pressing, I think, in the short term is trying really to stabilize the situation in Darfur, which remains unaffected by the signing of the peace deal. It’s separate rebel movements that are fighting the government there. The situation continues to get worse on the ground and fighting is ongoing," he says.

The United States and others have described the situation in Darfur as genocide. And fighting and banditry have hampered a large humanitarian effort in the western region.

Herman Hanekom thinks the peace accord could affect the situation in Darfur, with rebel SPLA leader John Garang now joining the government.

He says, "However, in the central government, especially with John Garang holding the position of vice-president, they could perhaps exercise quite some influence into the mindset of the government itself to change its approach toward the situation in Darfur."

Another problem facing southern Sudan, says David Mozersky, is the transition of the rebel movement into a political movement.

"I think it will be a very difficult transition. Some work has already taken place and the SPLM (Sudan peoples Liberation Movement) has begun the process of transitioning itself into a political party. They have structures in place, a democratic system of rule. Actually, turning those into functioning bodies will be a challenge in and of itself because right now they exist on paper but are not fully operational," he says.

But why now, why a signed peace deal after 21 years? Mr. Hanekom, of the Africa Institute of South Africa, says both sides have come to the same realization.

He says, "Two opposing parties I think after 21 years they’ve reached the psychological level of battle fatigue. And they both realize that there is no possibility to win unless it’s a win-win situation."

About 10,000 UN peacekeepers are expected to be deployed in southern Sudan to help ensure peace does not slip back into war.