|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5840th Meeting (AM)
SUDAN PEACE AGREEMENT ON TRACK, BUT LEVEL OF TRUST BETWEEN PARTIES LOW,
FOUNDATION FOR DURABLE PEACE ‘REMAINS FRAGILE’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
The head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan told the Security Council today that, while the recent resolution of a stand-off between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), meant implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the Sudan’s long-running north-south civil war remains on track, it could still be undermined by lingering mistrust between the two sides.
The leadership of the National Congress Party (NCP) and the SPLM had reiterated their commitment to implementing the CPA and pledged never to return to conflict, but “the level of mutual trust is still low and the foundation for durable peace remains fragile”, said Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan.
He also warned the Council of other troubling perceptions that persisted throughout the country: that the North and South were each following their own agenda’s, regardless of the CPA’s requirements; and that the international community’s overwhelming concentration on Darfur had distracted attention from the need to see peace dividends, which was especially real among the Southern Sudanese.
Briefing the Council for the first time since he had assumed his position of head of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) this past October -- “when the CPA was in serious crisis” because one of its partners, the SPLM, had suspended participation in the Government of National Unity at the cabinet level due to differences over the implementation of key outstanding issues -- Mr. Quazi said overall implementation, though behind schedule, remained on track.
He said by December 2007 the impasse had been overcome through dialogue between the leadership of the two CPA partners. SPLM Ministers had resumed their functions in the federal cabinet. The parties had also set up high-level committees to resolve the outstanding issues that had led to the impasse. “The peace process has reached the halfway mark and a number of critical benchmarks are fast approaching,” he said, noting that, while the working relationship between the two partners is relatively cordial, it suffered form a significant lack of mutual trust and confidence.
The mutual perception that the other side was following its own agenda had made UNMIS’s mandate to “make unity attractive”, a challenge. He said that the NCP saw the SPLM committed to secession through the referendum of 2011, no matter what concessions were offered, and that perception acted as a constraint on making compromises. The SPLM, on the other hand, saw the NCP as unwilling to make essential compromises and, accordingly, willing to write off the prospect of preserving the unity of the Sudan.
There was also the Northern perception of persistent and motivated external interference, which precluded compromise solutions. “Modifying these perceptions in order to facilitate political progress towards zero-sum outcomes will be the fundamental challenges for UNMIS as it assists both parties in the implementation of the CPA,” he said, adding that he had received assurances of support from both President Omar Al-Bashir and First Vice-President Salva Kiir. The CPA provided the framework for the aspirations of both parties to be fulfilled within the context of political reconciliation. It also guaranteed the right of self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan through the exercise of a free and informed choice in 2011.
The overall security situation in the ceasefire zone remained relatively stable, although tensions between the SPLA and the Sudanese Armed Forces had increased along the borderline. Nevertheless, there had been no clashes between the two armed groups. At the same time, he said that inter-ethnic clashes between farmers and herdsmen along migratory routes and water access points, grazing lands and pastures in Southern Sudan resulted in considerable loss of life and property. “This has had a corrosive effect on the security situation in Southern Sudan,” he said, adding that the Government had announced plans for the disarmament of armed tribesmen and demobilization of former militia.
He went on to say that the Abyei area had not changed materially since the last update and that area remained a potential flashpoint for the resumption of conflict. In December 2007 and January 2008, violent clashes had erupted between SPLA units and Misiriya tribesmen. Those encounters resulted in the reported death of more than 75 persons, while several others were wounded. He said that First Vice-President Kiir had made timely intervention by directing all Governors of Southern States to ensure the free movement of traditional pastoral tribes in that region.
He said the people of Abyei had been denied the dividends of peace since the signing of the CPA. They had been deprived of an administrative structure and, thus, of basic services related to the provision of security, education, health and employment. The issue of Abyei had emerged as the biggest stumbling block between the two partners. The SPLM’s position was that the Abyei Boundary Commission report was final and binding according to the CPA and should be fully implemented. The NCP had rejected the Commission’s Report saying that the Commission exceeded its mandate by basing its findings on the 1965 border instead of identifying the 1905 boundaries of the Dinka chiefdoms, which was the mandate specifically given to the Commission.
However, both sides had recognized the urgent needs for working together towards a mutually acceptable compromise. He said that the Mission had advised the parties to consider a two-pronged approach: providing basic services to the people of Abyei and encouraging reconciliation on the ground; and ensuring that the CPA partners resolved their differences at the national level on a number of issues, especially on sharing oil revenues from the area. He added that the United Nations and its partners were working in a coordinated manner with UNMIS to scale up delivery of basic services on the ground.
As for now, the Mission had received positive indications that the parties might be close to agreement on setting up an interim administration within temporary borders without prejudice to a final settlement of the issue. The UNMIS had encouraged both parties to pursue a final settlement on that same spirit of dialogue and compromise. He went on to say that the demarcation of the 1-1-56 border might impact on many other critical benchmarks, like the national census, elections, sharing of oil revenues and redeployment of forces. Unfortunately, the process remained considerably behind schedule. Accordingly, those other benchmarks might have to be pursued on the basis of the current borderline.
He said that last December, the Presidency announced that the Technical Ad Hoc Border Committee would begin delineating the border on maps, and was expected to present its findings in the first quarter of 2008. While the Presidency would have to approve the recommendations before actual demarcation could begin, the SPLM had already indicated that it was likely to contest the anticipated report in several locations along the borderline. “This could further delay the process,” he said, adding: “We are encouraging the parties to start the demarcation of the border in uncontested areas as soon as possible.” That should kick start the process and assure local communities that the demarcated border would not act as a barrier to their traditional movements and lifestyles.
Along with conducting a national census, he said that another important benchmark of the CPA was the holding of national elections, which was supposed to lead to the democratic transformation of the Sudan. Interaction with other parties by both the NCP and the SPLM in that context had been a positive development. Under the CPA, the elections are mandated to take place in 2009. However, Parliament had not yet passed the electoral law, following which the National Election Commission (NEC) would be established and its commissioners appointed.
“I have urged the Government to expedite the passage of the electoral law and the establishment of an independent and fully financed NEC, which would be our main interlocutor in the electoral process, including in the coordination of international assistance,” he said. At the same time, he said that the conduct of elections in Darfur in a deteriorating security environment and in the absence of a peace agreement “remains problematic”.
Mr. Qazi said the redeployment of forces remained incomplete and the parties had missed the 9 January deadline. There appeared, however, to be political will on both sides to resolve the issue. Eighty-eight per cent of the Sudanese Armed Forces had redeployed to the North and about 9 per cent of the SPLA forces had redeployed to the South. Problems had arisen where forces had redeployed to contentious areas. In addition to redeployment, security sector reform was critical to sustainable peace. The Joint Integrated Units were expected to fill the gap created by the disengagement and to provide a basis for a new national army should the 2011 referendum favour unity. UNMIS had established a Joint Integrated Unit Support Cell.
Little progress had been made on the issue of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, largely owing to political mistrust and lack of capacity, he said, adding that he had raised the issue at the highest levels both in the North and the South. UNMIS had worked closely with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration commissions in both regions to devise a framework for United Nations support and had secured agreement of the Government for a high-level mechanism to coordinate support with donors. A complicating factor was the lack of an agreed framework for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration implementation in the transitional areas, where the bulk of the North caseload was located.
The UNMIS police component has successfully established a close relationship with the police services in Northern and Southern Sudan. A just-issued Presidential decree had appointed a new chairman for the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC), one of the most important CPA institutions, he said, adding that working closely with the AEC would be a high priority for UNMIS.
Addressing the humanitarian situation, he said that Southern Sudan and transitional areas continued to progress towards early recovery. The Government of Southern Sudan focused on the implementation of decentralized development and included policies and programmes designed to consolidate peace and deliver tangible peace dividends to the population as a whole. Resources from the international community had been slow to arrive.
The Multi-Donor Trust Fund was now supporting longer-term recovery and development projects, but there was an urgent need for delivery in the short term of visible peace dividends. He hoped that the donor community would respond in a timely manner to the urgent early recovery and development needs.
As for the Council’s request in resolution 1784 (2007) for an assessment of whether any changes to the mandate of UNMIS were needed, he said the Mission had undertaken a strategic assessment and structural review of its mandate and configuration. The process would be completed by a technical assessment mission which was now being undertaken. Recommendations would be included in the Secretary-General’s April report.
Summing up, Mr. Qazi emphasized that the Sudan was one country with two systems for the duration of the CPA. The United Nations had one integrated and one hybrid Mission. It also had a Joint Mediation Support Team for Darfur. Nevertheless, the predominant fact remained that peace in the Sudan was indivisible. Should the CPA unravel, the prospects for a peaceful outcome in Darfur would largely disappear. Should the implementation of the CPA succeed, the prospects for an end to the humanitarian crisis and a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Darfur would brighten. The perception that the overwhelming concentration on Darfur had distracted attention from the need for peace dividends was especially real among the Southern Sudanese.
He said that perception must be changed through a better focus on recovery and development in the rest of the Sudan, so that its people could experience the prosperity and international assistance that resulted from peace. The need for better and more effective engagement with the Government of National Unity must also be recognized. The experience of the last three years strongly suggested the need for engagement, rather than sanctions.
The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 10:55 a.m.
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