Although the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement provides an opportunity for Sudanese in the north and the south to walk the path of peace and reconciliation, it does not resolve the crisis in Darfur, western Sudan. The human toll continues to mount, with 300,000 to 400,000 people dead, and more than 2.5 million displaced within Sudan or huddled in refugee camps in neighboring Chad. Violence and destruction have increased in Darfur in 2005 and there are still few prospects for resolving the crisis in the near future. The United Nations has concluded that crimes against humanity are being committed by the government, its Janjaweed and other armed militias, and by the various rebel groups. The U.S. government has decried the atrocities as genocide. Sudan presents a dual dilemma: If North and South do not implement their agreement, there is little hope for Darfur; conversely, if the crisis in Darfur continues, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is likely to collapse.
Prospects for Peace in Southern Sudan
After more than 21 years of civil war in the south, the government in Khartoum and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005. It provides for a six-year interim period during which the people of the south might create a functioning government, healthcare and educational institutions, a regional army and police, and viable economic institutions. After this interim period, the people of the south have the right to decide whether to remain part of Sudan or to declare independence. Other provisions of the peace agreement include a wealth-sharing mechanism to manage an equitable distribution of revenues from the sale of oil, representation in the national government and the parliament, and civil and religious liberties. The Sharia Islamic penal code will apply only in the north, but it is not yet clear what protections and exclusions will be provided to non-Muslims living in the north. The United Nations recently passed Resolution 1590 authorizing a peace monitoring presence in Sudan (UNMIS) to ensure compliance by all parties to the agreement.
Crisis in Darfur
The separate but related conflict in Darfur began when two rebel groups--the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)--formed to resist their longstanding marginalization by the government in Khartoum, and specifically their exclusion from the peace and power-sharing negotiations settling the civil war in the south. The government responded to the initial rebel attack by launching a war against the rebels and their kin that has included the use of both the Sudanese army and Janjaweed Arab militias. Since that time, the Janjaweed have carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing massacring thousands of civilians, decimating villages, raping women and girls, and forcing people to flee from their homelands and into the desert, where they have little hope for survival.
Responsible reports indicate that the Janjaweed militias are working with and for the government in Khartoum. Despite assurances by the government in Khartoum to rein in its armed militias and defense forces, the violence in Darfur continues unabated. The government continues to deploy Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships in its efforts to break rebel resistance. On the rebels side, there are currently four distinct forces engaged in the conflict. These include: Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A); Justice and Equality Movement (JEM); National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD); and Al-Shahamah Movement. There are concerns that the Darfur crisis is spilling over into neighboring regions (Al Shahamah in western Kordofan) and is promoting the emergence of other armed rebel movements. Both the government and rebel movements have been accused of committing atrocities against innocent civilians, including the rape of women and young girls and the abduction of young men and boys to serve as conscripts. The government and its armed militias bear the greatest responsibility for these crimes.
Efforts by the United States, the U.N., the African Union and other nations to pressure all parties to the conflict to end the violence, provide security for the people of Darfur, particularly the internally displaced, ensure safe and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and hold accountable those accused of committing atrocities have not been successful. Unless and until the parties to the conflict respect the Abuja ceasefire agreements, the violence threatens to extend to neighboring regions in Sudan and in Chad, and could undermine the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south.
The U.N. Security Council recently passed two additional resolutions on Darfur: 1591, which imposes sanctions on the government, its militias, and rebel forces for non-compliance with cease-fire agreements in Darfur; and 1593, which refers suspected war criminals named by the International Committee of Inquiry to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. In late April, the African Union resolved to increase its force to over 7,000 troops, with an expanded mandate to protect civilians, by the end of September 2005. In contrast, the African Union now has approximately 2,000 troops in Darfur with a limited mandate only to monitor the cease-fire. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, however, called for at least 12,000 troops. What is needed more generally is the international will to put greater pressure on the government in Khartoum to stop the slaughter.
The Church and Sudan
Sudan remains a priority for the USCCB with ongoing advocacy and active solidarity with the people of Sudan. We continue to work closely with the Catholic Church in Sudan so that the benefits of peace and stability might be extended to all Sudanese. Our Conference has repeatedly visited northern and southern Sudan and Darfur and has been very active in playing a major role in the U.S. policy debate. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), one of the largest non-governmental organizations operating in Sudan, has extended its services to Darfur where it is providing desperately needed food and non-food items. In addition, CRS manages the Southern Sudan Agricultural Revitalization Project, the largest agricultural development program in Sudan. In partnership with local and international organizations, CRS also supports initiatives focused on peacebuilding, health and education.
What Can We Do?
On Darfur, Urge the U.S. to:
- Apply increased and constant pressure on the government in Khartoum to disarm the Janjaweed and other armed militias; cease all attacks against innocent civilians; provide protection for unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Darfur; and bring to justice those perpetrating crimes against humanity.
- Pressure both the government and the rebels to respect the April 2004 ceasefire agreement and the November 2004 Abuja Protocols, and to cease hostilities.
- Give greater support to the African Union, including the more rapid deployment of troops and the backing of a possible international peacekeeping force to join with the African Union.
- Name a Special Envoy for Sudan and ensure that Darfur is at the top of the international agenda.
- Hold the signatories of the recent peace agreement accountable; and to honor its promise to provide substantial financial and political support to the south and the north as the parties form a new government, create new security structures, assist people returning to their communities and undertake the reconstruction of the country and its civil society.
- Follow through on its pledge to help finance the U.N. Mission in Sudan so that peace and security might be achieved. The peacekeeping force should work collaboratively with the military forces of both north and south, and with the forces of the African Union in Darfur.