The Fragile Peace

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For Kiir, an agreement would solidify his regional legitimacy and improve access to hard currency — both through boosted oil revenue and, he expected, donor support for peace. If he were to obstruct talks, on the other hand, South Sudan would face further financial difficulties and international ostracism. Some African Union AU officials believe that threats to impose sanctions, agreed to in July by the five African countries known as the C5 and designated by the AU to support peace efforts, also convinced Kiir to shift his strategy.

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Khartoum had also started assembling a critical mass of opposition officials in Khartoum ahead of its negotiations with Juba. One opposition leader living abroad said Khartoum tried to entice him over with a first-class ticket at this time. Crisis Group interview, senior South Sudan opposition official, Nairobi, For their part, rebels also feared alienating regional leaders and losing access to neighbouring countries. Returning to some form of power sharing would give them a portion of oil revenues and a chance to regroup.

Machar, in particular, was desperate for political resurrection following his detention in South Africa, which many close to him believe took a big emotional toll. Bashir offered to host Machar while talks proceeded, and retains great influence with the Nuer leader, who tells fellow oppositionists that the Sudanese president is his only friend left in the region.

Hide Footnote Machar is less keen to advertise that he remains effectively a political prisoner even in Khartoum, with severely restricted movement and speech. The South Sudan file in hand, Khartoum moved quickly to strike a deal.

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Bashir first proposed a radical but thin outline for a new power structure in South Sudan — involving spreading government officials across three national capitals — but Machar rejected it. As proposed, Kiir and Machar would share power but not occupy the same city. Others bristled at a perceived attempt by Sudan to divide South Sudan for its own interests.

Crisis Group interviews, South Sudan opposition officials, Khartoum, Hide Footnote Instead, the talks produced a stream of smaller-bore agreements from June to August The declaration had three primary provisions. Hide Footnote Secondly, it committed the parties to a new three-year transitional government, with the same parameters as the peace agreement. Thirdly, it provided for Sudan to coordinate with South Sudan on oil field security and rehabilitation in the former Unity state, with independent verification of the costs.

After signing the ceasefire agreement, the parties began discussions on security arrangements and power sharing — in essence revisiting select chapters of the agreement while leaving the rest of that pact more or less intact. On 6 July, the parties agreed to new security arrangements, including a special role for Sudan and Uganda in monitoring and enforcing the ceasefire. An original draft omitted a South Sudanese role, but the government and opposition banded together to demand one.

On file with Crisis Group. Hide Footnote This model was appealing to the Sudanese and Ugandan governments, since at this point they thought they would contribute all the troops, and they were happy to have the West subsidise the deployments. But many South Sudanese, including senior military officials, viewed it as an affront to their sovereignty. Other regional countries, particularly Ethiopia and Kenya, also objected, fearing that such a force, if all Sudanese and Ugandan, would undermine their influence in South Sudan.

On 7 July, Bashir, Kiir and Machar flew to Entebbe, Uganda to meet with Museveni, hoping to agree on the final terms of the power-sharing deal. The deal initially had a first vice president Machar and three vice presidents, two from the incumbent government which would allow Taban and the other current vice president, James Wani Igga, to stay in office and a woman from the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, an assembly of smaller groups which formed after the collapse of the first peace deal in Hide Footnote Machar reportedly demanded that Taban be barred from serving in a future government and that the agreement resolve the contentious issue of state boundaries in South Sudan.

At times during the talks, Bashir, Kiir, Machar and Museveni reportedly were the only people in the room, prompting protests from the Opposition Alliance and other groups. After returning to Khartoum, the mediators eventually settled on appointing Machar as first vice president and designating four other vice presidents, with the government nominating two and the Opposition Alliance a third.

IGAD had initially agreed that the talks to finalise the accords would move to Nairobi, but Bashir decided to keep them in the Sudanese capital. His success in doing so frustrated the Kenyan government, though some diplomats privately questioned whether it was prepared to take up the mediation role. Hide Footnote Of these issues, the disagreements over Juba security and the number and boundaries of states remain the most critical. Rather than bring the parties together in one room, the Sudanese security and intelligence officials who acted as the mediation team met with each party singly, bringing their own proposed language, and attempted to coerce agreement.

Another worrying cost of the strong-arm tactics is that some opposition leaders abandoned the peace process out of frustration. Sudan treated many of the Opposition Alliance groups dismissively, knowing that they were wildly overstating their military strength.

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This approach backfired when former deputy South Sudan army chief Thomas Cirillo, the Opposition Alliance leader with the largest rebel force, fled Khartoum and withdrew from the talks. Cirillo eventually formed a new alliance of groups that refused to sign the accord. In another instance, when the Opposition Alliance refused to sign one of the agreements, Sudanese mediators peeled off one representative to sign on behalf of the group anyway.

This manoeuvre led to further infighting in the Opposition Alliance, which later fractured still more. Copy of internal suspension letter, 26 July , on file with Crisis Group.

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Hide Footnote Khartoum also sidelined the Former Detainees, many of whom Bashir disdains as anti-Khartoum acolytes of John Garang, though most of this group later backed the accord. In so doing, the regional body reasserted its own role as custodian of the peace process. Yet, along with stamping its approval on the Khartoum deal, IGAD was also supposed to bridge the four remaining divides.

It succeeded with two — decision making and constitutional process — but failed with internal boundaries and Juba security. The final version of the agreement lacks satisfactory provisions on the latter two issues; it also omits the special security guarantor roles carved out for Sudan and Uganda in Khartoum without any clarity on what would take their place. The real grievance is the manipulated boundaries: several groups are unlikely to lay down their arms until the peace process addresses this matter to their satisfaction. Some outside policymakers have thus been confused into thinking that groups are fighting over the number of states, when in fact it is the contested boundaries of the new states that is driving local conflicts, particularly in former Upper Nile state and former Western Bahr el Ghazal state.

The number of states is important to some South Sudanese elites, but not a driving factor for most fighters. IGAD and the parties punted as well on security arrangements for Juba.

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Even though negotiations frequently centred on this question, the final peace deal made no reference to these arrangements or to a regional security force. Neither did it assign special roles to Sudan and Uganda as the parties had agreed in July. Hide Footnote In November , two months after the final deal, the Sudanese foreign minister was still insisting that Sudanese and Ugandan troops would oversee training of the new national army in South Sudan despite no clause to this effect in the final deal.

Attended by Crisis Group. Hide Footnote The rushed merger of the Khartoum talks and the longstanding Addis Ababa process marred the accord in other ways, leaving contradictions and ambiguities in the final text that some see as sloppy. The implementation matrix includes an earlier provision that Sudan and Uganda lead the ceasefire monitoring body. Instead, an Ethiopian general chairs this body; he has a Sudanese deputy.

Lawyers advising the peace oversight bodies have determined that the main text supersedes any others.

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Other grudges linger. Kenyan officials were conspicuously absent from a Juba peace celebration on 31 October attended by Bashir, Museveni and other regional heads of state. As of March , with just two months of this period remaining, the parties had made little progress on key issues, particularly on unifying the national army and resolving the questions over the number and boundaries of states for local power sharing.

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The parties will not finish these provisions by May as scheduled. Thus, the peace deal will likely head down one of two paths. In the first scenario, the government is delayed, either unilaterally or by consensus, because Machar refuses to return to the capital saying that critical issues, especially security arrangements in Juba, are unresolved. Publicly, Machar is committed to the eight-month timeline. Hide Footnote Privately, however, both he and his confidants hint at delays, speaking of the need to achieve progress on security and state boundaries. Hide Footnote Some regional and Western officials doubt that Sudan would allow Machar to threaten the accord with such a move; others are sceptical that Machar himself would let the agreement stall.

A senior Opposition Alliance official stated, however, that a minimum delay of six to eight months is likely necessary to finish the tasks of the pre-transitional period. It is not clear whether other opposition leaders would agree to form the government without Machar.

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The UN has already formulated an approach aimed at avoiding the first scenario by achieving a version of the second. It focuses on two key goals: finalising the transitional security arrangements in Juba and forming the national unity government. Hide Footnote While a vote may not occur on schedule, the looming spectre of elections can raise tensions and trigger conflict — as it did in when polls were planned for The risk is particularly acute if the two parties share armed control of the capital, as they did in At present, fearing being labelled spoilers, the South Sudanese parties are playing along with the fiction that the peace deal timeline is doable.

This approach has suppressed the difficult dialogue necessary to save the peace process and will result in brinkmanship as crises mount. Meanwhile, foreign diplomats are resigned to the fact that the peace accord will not be rolled out fully or on time. Hide Footnote But the likelihood of delay is no excuse for apathy on their part.

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Rather, it should be a reason for extra vigilance, for it means that the fragile political deal will be subject to messy, ad hoc bargaining and at constant risk of collapse. They should acknowledge that the deal needs amending and urge the parties to revisit the security and boundaries provisions sooner rather than later.

They should not sit back while Kiir and Machar negotiate shared control of the capital but instead propose a third-party force to protect opposition leaders on a transitional basis. They should not hold the parties tightly to the May deadline if the necessary security and political deals remain unresolved.

Rather, they should urge the parties to reach consensus on whether to delay formation of a unity government — and, above all, to eschew unilateral decisions.

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