|MAJOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS|
Sudan: New mission deploys, provides assistance to the
African Union in Darfur
Three important events dominated the political landscape of Sudan in 2005: the signing of the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending a 21-year civil war in the southern Sudan between the Government and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A); the establishment of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to assist in implementing the Agreement; and the unexpected death of SPLM/A leader John Garang, three weeks after he was sworn in as Sudan’s First Vice President.
The news of Garang’s death in a helicopter crash on 30 July sparked off violent riots that left dozens of people dead and destroyed property in Khartoum and several other areas including Juba and Malakal in southern Sudan. The riots threatened to undo not only the gains made since the signing of the peace accord in January, but also the stability of the Government. The SPLM moved swiftly to confirm Salva Kiir as Garang’s successor, and as stipulated in the peace accord, he also became Sudan’s First Vice President and President of the semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan.
Under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the South will be autonomous for six years after which it will hold a referendum to decide whether to secede or remain under a unitary state. Oil revenues and other resources will be shared equally between the Government and the South. The political system of the Khartoum government will be restructured on principles of democracy and respect for human rights. And the two armies will merge if the South decides against secession in six years. These are no doubt enormous challenges that will require full mobilization of the institutional capacity, human resources and political will by both parties.
A Government of National Unity finally took office on 22 September, after delays in implementing the Peace Agreement caused by Garang’s death and disagreements over the allocation of cabinet posts between the Government and the SPLM. In December, the Government of Southern Sudan was established after the adoption of the interim constitution of Southern Sudan.
The establishment of the Government of National Unity and positive developments in Southern Sudan despite Garang’s death gave momentum to the implementation of the peace accord. Yet, UNMIS faced mounting challenges in launching such a large and complex operation in a country roughly the size of Western Europe, and as of 13 December, it had deployed about 4,300 military personnel out of its authorized strength of 10,000 troops.
While UNMIS worked to increase its peacekeeping presence in Sudan, the mission also started, along with UN agencies, assisting the country to resolve ongoing conflicts, promoting social reconciliation and encouraging dialogue as well as identifying the needs of the new Government. The UN and its international partners agreed to provide technical support to help in setting up key commissions to assist with the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. In August, the Government set up the Ceasefire Political Commission to supervise, monitor and oversee implementation of the Agreement, as well as to provide a political forum for discussions between the parties and the international community.
UNMIS was also providing good offices and political support to the numerous efforts being made to resolve the ongoing conflicts in the country. The Sudanese Government, with the support of UNMIS, UNDP and UNICEF, was finalizing plans to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants under a programme tailored to pay special attention to the needs of child soldiers, women and the disabled associated with the various armed groups. There has also been a steady flow of funds for the disarmament programme from several donor countries.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, however, did little to ease the crisis in the Darfur region where two local rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese Liberian Movement/Army, were still fighting Government forces and allied militia groups. The rebels took up arms in 2003, claiming neglect and marginalization in the country’s political and economic life.Mass killings, attacks on villages and rapes had left tens of thousands of people dead and more than 2 million fled their homes into refugee camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad.
Outraged by the continued killings and mass displacement of whole villages, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), supported by logistics from the UN and funds from the European Union, the United States, NATO and other donors, increased its deployment of ceasefire monitors to more than 6,300 troops to help end the crisis in Darfur. UNMIS assisted the AU monitors in planning and providing technical advice through the UN Assistance Cell to the AU, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The UN was also working closely with other international partners to facilitate the AU Commission’s efforts to get resources and other needs for AMIS.
In addition to monitoring the fragile ceasefire in the Darfur region, the AU also stepped up efforts to broker a deal to end the fighting between the rebel groups. However, despite several rounds of talks in Abuja, Nigeria, a solution remained elusive as divisions within the rebels widened. To give backing to the AU’s mediation efforts, UNMIS met with political and military commanders of both armed movements to encourage political flexibility in the negotiations and greater political will to reach an agreement at the Abuja talks. UNMIS has also been supporting the reconciliation process in Darfur by maintaining contacts with local civil society groups and encouraging them to support the Abuja negotiations. As part of the reconciliation drive, UNDP and academic institutions in Darfur have been running a series of seminars on the rule of law and on conflict resolution. However, in late 2005, the situation in Darfur has became more complex with the proliferation of armed groups and bandits and the entry of Chadian rebels and army deserters assembling in Darfur to attack Chad.
As 2005 came to an end, the Government of National Unity continued to face several challenges. It had to end conflicts in the east, south and west of the country, particularly the ongoing instability in Darfur, which remained a threat to the overall security situation in Sudan and the region. Both parties to the peace accord would need to show the necessary political will required to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as they were already falling behind schedule in meeting its timetable. Sudan also faced serious challenges in delivering the dividends of peace that would convince its people, particularly the Southerners, of the merits of peace and unity.
Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.
© United Nations 2006