Thursday, July 11, 2002

Sudan: Must Peace Remain Elusive?

Date: Thursday 11 July 2002
Subj: Sudan: Must Peace Remain Elusive?
To: World Evangelical Alliance - Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

Once again the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is attempting to broker peace in Sudan. The five-week long talks commenced on Monday 17 June in Nairobi Kenya.

The Government of Sudan's determination to impose Shari'a (Islamic) law and its extremist interpretation of Islam on the whole nation, including the African Christians and traditional religionists in the south, remains a key factor in the continuance of the war. It is amazing that, in spite of severe suffering, discrimination, persecution and a jihad that has claimed more than two million lives, the Sudanese Church has grown at a phenomenal rate, especially in the south. Many more Sudanese are spiritually hungry and living under Shari'a law that charges apostasy as a criminal offence in spite of a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.

The present round of peace talks aimed at ending Sudan's 19 year long war are being touted as the best chance for peace in decades. Yet analysts such as John Prendergast, the co-director of the Africa programme of the International Crisis Group, fear that negotiating peace in Sudan is beyond the scope of IGAD alone, and will require greater commitment, effort and leverage on the part of the broader international community, in close partnership with regional states, if it is to succeed. Prendergast told the US Congress on 5 June, "In the absence of such a commitment, the best chance in years to end a generation of war will surely slip away."


A United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) report entitled "SUDAN: IGAD under fire over conflict escalation" 4 July 2002 states, "Mwandawiro Mghanga, the coordinator of the Kenya-Sudan Friendship Society told IRIN on Thursday (4 July) he doubted IGAD's ability to 'bring peace' to Sudan if it was 'unable to bring pressure to bear on the Khartoum government to halt the killing of civilians.'

"Analysts had hailed the talks, which began on 17 June 02, as a decisive opportunity for negotiators to push forward the peace process between the Muslim-dominated north of the country and the mostly-Christian south. Sticking points, such as self-determination for the south and the separation of religion and state, have hitherto held up the process."

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): Report on Sudan April 2002, President Jaafar al-Numeiri's declaration of an Islamic Republic and the imposition of Shari'a law, done in total contravention of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972, was most certainly the trigger for conflict.

Quoting from the USCIRF report, "In 1983, Sudan's President Jaafar al-Numeiri renounced the Addis Ababa Accords, which had given the south a degree of regional autonomy and religious freedom, and decreed that Shariah 'be the sole guiding force behind the law of the Sudan.' The September Laws, as the decree was called, instituted an Islamic penal code. Popular and political discontent with Numeiri's rule mounted following the promulgation of the September Laws and led to the civil war that continues to this day."

A report by the Brussels based International Crisis Group (ICG), entitled "God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan" 10 January 2002, portrays the war this way: "It is a struggle, to be sure, between a northern government that is largely Arab and Muslim and a southern insurgency that is largely black and significantly Christian, but it is also increasingly a contest between a non-democratic centre and hitherto peripheral groups from all parts of the country. It is a contest over oil and other natural resources, but also one about ideologies, including the degree to which a government's radical Islamist agenda can be moderated and a rebel movement's authoritarianism can embrace civilian democracy."

The war has indeed become very complicated. What is not complicated however, but clear as day, is the obscene terror and inhumanity associated with this war that is openly referred to as a jihad by those in authority in Khartoum. Atrocities are committed on both sides, but there is really nothing on earth that compares with the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Government of Sudan. These include systematic slavery conducted in the context of war, starvation - orchestrated as a silent killer of masses, and the almost daily aerial bombardment and gunning down of humanitarian aid workers and starving, wounded, war-weary, distressed civilians.

According to the ICG, the choice now is for either dialogue or destruction. The ICG released a report entitled, "Dialogue or Destruction? Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan Escalates" 27 June 2002.

Quoting that ICG report: "Sudan's civil war, already one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II, has entered its most destructive phase to date. Oil revenues have allowed the government to purchase increasingly lethal weapons, more effectively pursue population-clearing operations, and expand the use of its greatest comparative advantage, air power.

"Many issues divide the Sudanese parties, not the least of which are religion and the distribution of power. But self-determination for the South stands above the others for its potential to be the ultimate spoiler of the peace process.

"With battle lines and negotiating positions so clearly drawn, the efforts to energise the IGAD peace process have so far been useful, but not sufficient. The window of opportunity for peace in Sudan is beginning to close. A much more robust effort must be undertaken both by the IGAD states and, in their support, by the international community if peace is to be made.Absent this, the Sudanese people will be condemned to increasing death and destruction, and a wide swathe of Africa will remain subject to the destabilising consequences."

Elizabeth Kendal

Primary sources:
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
IGAD under fire over conflict escalation IRIN 4 July 2002
War at its deadliest phase, ICG warns IRIN 28 June 2002

International Crisis Group
God, Oil and Country - Changing the Logic of War in Sudan ICG 10 Jan 2002
Dialogue or Destruction - Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan
Escalates ICG 27 June 2002

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom -
Report on Sudan April 2002

For more information
Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College, a Sudan expert and advocate. His most recent article, entitled "The Terror In Sudan", published in the Washington Post on 5 July 2002, can be found at

World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission prayer
RLP 176 Sudan the desperate need for peace 9 July 2002
RLP 171 Sudan Revival Amidst Unspeakable Horror 5 June 2002
RLP 158 Sudan 'Religious Freedom' Not Really! 6 March 2002