Can the new Government deliver a lasting peace for Sudan?
After a long hard talks and bitter wrangling over who should run the ministry of energy and mines, the two parties-the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan people's Liberation Movement (SPLM) finally reached an agreement on Thursday, 22 September 2005 and announced the formation of what so-called a "government of national unity"
This new cabinet was formed in accordance with Naivasha Agreement and as stipulated in the agreement, signed by the two parties in Kenya on 9th January 2005. As far as power sharing is concerned, the agreement granted the National Party (the ruling party) 52 percent of power, the SPLM 28 percent, the northern opposition parties 14 percent and the southern parties allied to the government granted 6 percent. On this basis, the new cabinet was formed and composes of 30 ministers plus 34 state ministers. Out of the 30 ministers, 17 of them were National Congress Party and nine SPLM. The National Congress Party gained most key ministries, including energy and finance ministry. The SPLM gained only one key ministry, which is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the SPLM was marginalized in this new government.
The opposition parties reacted quickly and criticize the formation of this new unity cabinet, and many Sudanese were disappointment. The new government falls short of representing the truly broad-based government. "It is a continuation of the … government that has been in power since 1989 coup deta with limited improvement", said "Ali Mahmoud Hassanain, deputy chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Hassan al-Turabi, leader of Popular Congress Party said, "It was "false" to describe the new government as one of national unity. The so-called national unity government does not deserve this name, said Turabi. The Justice and Equality Movement said, "This is not a true unity government that expresses the will of the people of Sudan"
This shows that the parties have not learned the lessons or even listen to the words of IGAD Chief Mediator, Lt. Gen. (rtd) Lazaro Sumbeiywo who said, " Politically, the new government has to be inclusive and offer the olive branch to former adversaries....The government has to show the people that there is a tangible peace dividend".
It was clear as from the beginning of the long peace process, which took place in Kenya that the two parties were not serious about the participation of the opposition members in the IGAD peace talks. As the National Democratic alliance (NDA) tried hard to join the IGAD but it was blocked by both parties.
Therefore, it was not surprised to see the opposition parties and marginalised groups excluded from participation in the writing of the constitution, which in fact written by the two parties only. There were no independent national constitutional lawyers or international experts on constitution. It is therefore, this constitution reflects the desire and the well of the NPC and the SPLM/A only.
Clearly, the new cabinet cannot be called a government of national unity, as many of stakeholders, particularly those who took up arm struggle were denied the right of participation. The Sudanese people have waited so long all these years for a true peace settlement and a partial one. Certainly they wanted a true government of national unity that can embrace all the people of Sudan and bring about a just and lasting peace to Sudan. There is a desire for a true broad government of national unity to address the interests and concerns of all Sudanese people. Government of national unity is not about words or promises but it is about capturing the hearts and the minds of all of the Sudanese people and above all meet their aspirations.
Looking at the formation of the new cabinet, which announced two months ago, it is clear that the two parties have learnt nothing to embrace all the Sudanese people and meet their demands and aspirations. One of the striking features about the so-called government of national unity that it does not represent the majority of the Sudanese people, as it has excluded the main traditional political parties and the marginalized areas in northern Sudan. This clearly shows that the two parties who are now in power have failed to convince these major parties and groups to join them in the formation of this first post-war government of unity.
Similar attitudes were shown by both parties when forming a constitution commission where the majority of the stakeholders were denied the right of participation in the drafting of the constitution, which decides the shape and the future of the country.
This new cabinet clearly indicates that the NCP is determined to hold on to the power even if this carries the risk of the South to opt for separation. The government brought back the same faces that dominated their totalitarian regime by which they ruled the country for the past 16 years with total exclusion of the entire Sudanese populations. By insisting on holding to all key ministries to itself and leaving less important and troublesome ministries to the SPLM demonstrates the selfishness and total greediness.
This surely, has been the reason for resentments and frustrations among many southerners, who argued that the ministry of energy and mining industry should have gone to the Government of the South because the oil field belong to the south and it is their oil. Many believe that the late Dr. John Garang would not have settled for what Silver Kiir had. Because of lack of real power sharing in this new post-war cabinet of unity even between the two parties let alone with other members of opposition. The SPLM under the leadership of Vice President Silver Kirr and his group now find it difficult to coupe with well-experienced and sophisticated NCP team. In addition, it has a mechanical and in-built majority in both houses, which will enable them to pass any legislation they want.
The SPLM members are now frustrated due to the domination of their partner and If such domination by NCP continues as it was over the formation of the new cabinet, the people of the Southern Sudan will find it good excuse to vote for separation, claiming that the northerners did do enough to make them to remain within the united Sudan. The view that Sudan is to be divided widely expressed by many Sudanese people, including leaders of opposition. Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, leader of People Congress Party raised his concern and he described the formation of the new cabinet of unity as a "dangerous step" that will make the separation of the south inevitable.
We know that the implementation of CPA is not going to be an easy task, since there are many loopholes in the agreement and the devils in the details of the agreement begun to show. Therefore, there bound to be some obstacles that will need to be overcome. However, the exclusion of many stakeholders and the lack of democracy in the whole process are likely to hinder the implementation of this agreement. The dispute, which took place over ministry of energy and mines and caused long delay of the formation of the cabinet is one of many obstacles, the two parties are likely to face. For example: the dispute is likely to arise over the interpretation of each article of the six agreements. The contested issues such as Abyei question, the demarcation, the oil fields that run across the borders of Southern Kordofan and the South region, the wealth distribution and the funding of joint integrated army units etc. all are likely to be problematic and difficult issues to resolve.
It is clear that the new cabinet did not include representatives from Darfur and Beja in the eastern Sudan. These two regions have taken up arm struggle fighting for equal power and wealth sharing and to be ignored it is a big mistake. The parties therefore, should not ignore the rights of these people, including the rights of the people of Nuba Mountains who did not have fair settlement at Naivasha Agreement.
The success of CPA will depend not only on the recognition of the political rights of the marginalized people but also on their inclusion in all the process geared to establish a new Sudan. By so doing this will ensure the establishment of broad government of a true national unity that will take every body on board during the interim period and makes CPA more attractive not only to the people of the South but to the frustrated people of the marginalized areas in the Northern Sudan. Otherwise, what was agreed by the parties in Naivasha cannot be considered a government of national unity.
The Sudanese people would like to see a new united democratic Sudan based on a true citizenship, civil rights and equal share of power and wealth. The new governments of national unity need to be broaden and inclusive, otherwise it will have enormous and daunting task to implement the Naivasha Protocols. It is obvious that the pressure by the international community on the negotiating parties was great and as a result, some of the issues in the protocols have not been thoroughly worked out. Therefore, disputes over some of these issues will need intervention by IGAD and the Troika to safeguard the success of this bilateral peace agreement. It is true that a comprehensive peace settlement is not about words but it is about commitment, sincerity and meeting the aspirations of all people of the Sudan.
Although many people had supported Naivasha Agreement since it brought peace to the people of Southern Sudan. However, equally many are sceptical that this agreement may not bring a comprehensive peace settlement for the whole of the Sudan, as many would wish. There is fear that this agreement has opened up a window for the country to be divided. This division of the country into two states North and South state has been looming in the air for many years. However, since the signing of the agreement separation of the South has become strong on card. The studies and analysis made over the past two years by the two US institutes for strategic studies confirm this point.
Many believe that the division of the country could happen, judging by the fact that the people of the South are receiving great sympathy and support from the international community for their cause. The domination of NCP over may of the issues and the treatment the South is receiving will all encourage the people of the Southern Sudan to opt for separation. This perhaps what the NCP wants since the South is a great obstacle for implementing its Islamic programme. Many believe that the SPLM at this stage is not keen about establishing a permanent government of national unity in Sudan, hence they are making no arguments on most of the issues. This suggest that they are building their cause and looking for evidence to justify their claim for separation at the end of six-year interim period, on the basis that the North is dominating everything.
We believe that the National Congress Party will do everything possible to remain in power even if it has be at the risk for separation of the South. Equally, the SPLM is determined to prepare the Southern people for their destiny which is going to be through referendum. Therefore, the so- called new government of national unity will have little chance if not all to deliver a just and a lasting peace in the Sudan, judging also by the fact that the conflict in Darfur, Beja, other areas and even the South still needs to be resolved.
Suleiman Musa Rahhal