Friday, July 26, 2002

Sudan: Translating a Document (Machakos Protocol) into a Reality

Date: Friday 26 July 2002
Subj: Sudan: Translating a Document into a Reality
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

The Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Southern People's Liberation Movement/Army, signed at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) talks in Nairobi on 20 July 02 is, in itself, nothing short of a miracle. Reactions to the peace deal have ranged from jubilant optimism to bitter skepticism and angry rejection. Continued prayer and international leverage will be needed if the miraculous peace agreement is to be translated into a miraculous reality.


After 19 years of bloodshed, destruction and jihad (Islamic holy war) - what circumstances have produced this opportunity for peace in Sudan? One month ago, analysts were saying that both sides were intransigent, that both the government and the southern rebels had sacrificed too much and fought for too long to make compromise an option. However, the very issues that were considered the major sticking points, the issues that have derailed all previous peace negotiations - the Southerner's demand for religious freedom and their request for a referendum on self-determination - have been granted by a government that is under intense international pressure to make peace, and which indeed, needs peace if it is to develop and receive any benefit from its oil industry.

Three main circumstances have put the Government of Sudan in this position:

* Firstly - the falling-out in 2001 between President Omar el-Bashir and Sudan's chief Islamist ideologue Hassan Turabi, the primary mastermind behind el-Bashir's political Islamist program. This opened the door for a degree of moderation and engagement that was never even remotely possible with Turabi wielding power and influence.

* Secondly - the both desperate and patient, long-suffering, persevering advocacy of Christian and other human rights and anti-slavery groups, that have made human rights and religious liberty in Sudan, issues with political significance. The advocacy of these groups and individuals produced the domestic leverage necessary to encourage influential governments to exercise international leverage.

* Thirdly - the terrorist attack on USA on 11 September 2001 has forced Sudan to make watershed decisions regarding direction and allegiances.

An Associated Press article posted on Tuesday 23 July 2002 entitled, "This Sudanese agreement could be different" by Donna Bryson in Cairo, Egypt, sums up the situation well. Quoting excerpts from that article: (the full article can be found using link 1 below)

"With Saturday's announcement in Kenya, the government, which had vowed to create an Islamic state after seizing power in 1989, agreed state and religion should be separate. It also said that six years after a full peace agreement was signed, Sudanese in the mainly Christian and animist south would be allowed to vote on whether to remain part of the country.

"The government had for years resisted those rebel demands.

"John Ashworth, a South Africa-based analyst who works for Sudanese churches, said leaders in Khartoum could be yielding now in hopes peace will open the way to international aid and oil entrepreneurs and help end talk of their extremism - a label they fear could make them targets in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

"'They've been looking for international credibility and international respectability,' Ashworth said in a telephone interview.

"'After Sept. 11, things changed,' Tombe agreed (Rev. Enock Tombe is head of the Sudan Council of Churches).

"Sudan's desire to be seen as an ally by the United States gives Washington great influence. Strong U.S. interest in resolving Africa's longest war, fueled in part by U.S. Christian groups who have rallied to the southerners cause, was expressed in the appointment last year of former U.S. Senator John Danforth as special presidential envoy to Sudan.

"Hard-liners in Khartoum already have questioned whether the government was offering to give up too much.

"'Issues and established facts such as Islamic law, federal rule and unity should not be compromised,' Mohammed Hassan al-Amin told The Associated Press Sunday (21 July). Al-Amin is an official of the Popular National Congress headed by Hassan Turabi."

A Sudanese communist party member, requesting anonymity, expressed his concern that the issue of retaining Sharia law in the north is likely to undermine the peace agreement. "Sharia law is unpopular in both the south and the north," he said. "Keeping the law in the north is unlikely to bring peace to Sudan." (see link 2)

Ibrahim Elnur, a Sudanese analyst at the American University in Cairo added that the agreement needed to include other northern and southern parties, otherwise it could collapse like a similar north-south deal in 1972 that sparked a return to war in 1983. "Now we need to widen it and bring in a democratic element. This is the only guarantee of stability," he said. (see link 2)

The agreement is known as the "Machakos Protocol" because the talks have been held in the Kenyan town of Machakos.

Eric Reeves, a Sudan analyst says, "The Machakos Protocol holds out extraordinary promise, even as it is burdened by exceedingly great difficulties if that promise is to be realized in a just and lasting peace. We do no service to the peace process if we ignore either the promise of Machakos or the many and various obstacles. This is the moment of truth for peace in Sudan. We should ask - with honesty, appropriate skepticism, and moral determination - how the peace process can be supported."

Reeves continues, "Machakos means only as much as the international community forces it to mean. Unrelenting pressure must be exerted on the National Islamic Front to build on the Machakos Protocol, rather than seek ways to renege and walk away from what has been
agreed. There is no room for complacency or self-congratulation: we are at best well begun."

Mel Middleton of Freedom Quest International agrees, "Two things are certain: 1. This 'agreement' still has a long way to go before it is, in fact, a 'just peace' agreement - the fighting has not stopped yet. 2. The need for vigilance is greater now than ever before."

Talks will resume on 12 August 2002. Issues on the agenda are: power sharing, distribution of oil revenues, human rights and a ceasefire. Peter Woodward, a professor of politics at Britain's Reading University, told Reuters (see link 3), "We have got a lot more to be negotiated, and really it's very much a question of keeping the pressure on to do it."

- Elizabeth Kendal

1) Associated Press "This Sudanese agreement could be different" by
Donna Bryson, CAIRO, EGYPT 23 July 2002

2) Reuters "Sudan Hails Peace Deal, Opposition Wants Democracy" by
Alfred Taban, KHARTOUM, SUDAN 21 July 2002

3) Reuters "ANALYSIS-Sudan on path to peace but bumpy ride likely"
by Fiona O'Brien NAIROBI, KENYA 23 July 2002

Freedom Quest International

For all news on Sudan: