"Unique opportunity for viable peace process in Sudan"

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afrol News, 30 January - In a new report, "God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan", the International Crisis Group (ICG) argues that there is now a unique opportunity to construct a viable peace process to end one of the world’s longest running and complex conflicts. 

Religion, oil, ethnicity and ideology drive the fighting, up to two million people have died, while bombing, rape, enslavement and starvation have left a trail of devastation and misery, says ICG, a Brussels based internartional think-tank. "The conflict has often left the international community looking painfully ineffectual - as competing regional peace initiatives have allowed the warring parties to play one off against the other, never addressing fundamental grievances." 

In its new new 250-page book-length report, released on Tuesday, the ICG however finds the timing better than ever to embark on a viable peace process in Sudan to end to Sudan's 19-year civil conflict. "The shock effect of the 11 September terrorist attacks on global foreign policy has affected debates in Khartoum," the analysts hold. 

A weakened oil market and increased defence spending had also focussed the Sudanese government’s mind, with the military threat posed by the insurgent Sudan People’s Liberation Army, leaving lucrative oil fields in the south of the country dormant. The appointment of US Special Envoy John Danforth further had indicated a greater willingness by Washington to get involved. 

- The peace efforts made until now, by the northeast Africa regional body IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development], by Egypt and Libya jointly, and by Eritrea and Nigeria, have all been of a piecemeal character, ICG President Gareth Evans said in a statement, introducing the new report.

In January, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi at an IGAD summit meeting was charged with merging IGAD's own peace initiative with the joint Egyptian-Libyan initiative. After his first trip to Sudan as US peace envoy in November, former Senator John Danforth wrote to both Moi and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, urging them to work together on a peace effort which would reconcile the two regional peace initiatives, according to regional analysts.

ICG’s Africa Program Co-Director John Prendergast adds: "Progress towards peace will require deeper, more direct international engagement in a process that the Sudanese parties take seriously. A new peace effort must also meaningfully involve Sudan’s neighbours and address the traffic jam of competing peace initiatives, which must be united on a single track." 

ICG hold this is "a far more complex war than is commonly portrayed." The stereotype of an African Muslim north battling an African Christian south was only part of the story. "It is increasingly a contest between a non-democratic centre and other groups from across the nation."

- God, Oil and Country provides a contemporary analysis of the players and politics as well as a detailed agenda for addressing the difficult issues of civil war, terrorism, oil resources, human rights abuses, religion and self-determination in Sudan, the ICG introduces its report. 

Evans holds there had never been a single, multilateral, high level, sustained international exercise to put it all together. "The time to do that is right now, with active engagement by the US and key Europeans [the UK and Norway], a mediator that is taken seriously by the Sudanese parties, a mindset intolerant of diversion, circumvention and prevarication, and a process that is backed with significant leverage in the form of a robust package of both carrots and sticks," Evans states.

Sources: Based on ICG and afrol archives

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