In-depth: Sudan Peace Process

SUDAN: The Road to Peace - Part IV

Zones and periods of tranquillity allow vitally important humanitarian interventions to be carried out
NAIROBI, 2 December 2002 (IRIN) - US efforts

Although many point to the terrorist attack on the US on 11 September 2001 to explain heightened US engagement in the Sudan peace process, President George W Bush's special peace envoy, Senator Danforth, was appointed five days before that event.

Interest in Sudan among the Congressional Black Caucus, the influential Christian right, liberals, human rights activists and American humanitarian agencies - combined with a new concern with international terrorism after 11 September - contributed to the increased engagement of the US on Sudan.

And there is little doubt among analysts that increased US involvement made clear to both Khartoum and the SPLM/A that the peace process could not be pursued in the same manner as before.

Indeed, although the IGAD peace initiative had some genuine accomplishments - an agreed DoP, workable relations with the parties, an institutional focus in the Sudan Secretariat and international legitimacy - it had become apparent to most analysts that by late 2001 the process needed invigoration, and that this would be most effective through international engagement led by the US.

Senator Danforth proposed a series of confidence-building measures, including: a ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains; zones and times of tranquility in which vaccinations and other humanitarian interventions could be carried out: a commission to study and report on the issue of slavery; and an end to attacks on civilian targets - all of which achieved general, but not complete, compliance.

Whether or not these measures did increase mutual confidence between the government and the SPLM/A is arguable, but it did suggest that there could be movement in the Sudan peace process. Despite appeals from various sources that it formulate its own peace initiative, the US administration repeatedly made clear that it supported regional efforts led by IGAD.

And it was the combination of the countries of IGAD - together with Britain, Norway, Italy and, particularly, the US - that proved crucial in making the most significant breakthrough on the Sudan peace front in the last 19 years of civil war.

Return to the IGAD Peace Initiative

The perseverance of the mediators has produced tangible results, which is noteworthy after so many failed attempts in the past, but analysts have emphasised two caveats.

First, there could have been no progress without the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government making the necessary compromises, and they were made as a result of a close assessment of their own particular interests.

Second, there is still a long way to go from the Machakos Protocol to a comprehensive peace agreement.

With that in mind, in accompanying articles IRIN will consider some of the most important issues that the GoS and SPLA will be considering in their future negotiations.