A Chronology of the Sudanese Peace Process 1989-2001




Chapter 1
The Search for Peace

Chapter 2
A Chronological History



The 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement
The 1986 Koka Dam Agreement
The 1987 National Islamic Front Sudan Charter
The 1992 Abuja Peace Conference Communiqué
The 1993 Abuja Peace Conference Statement
The 1994 Declaration of Principles
The 1997 Sudan Peace Agreement
The 1997 Nuba Mountains Peace Agreement
The 1997 Fashoda Peace Agreement
The 1999 Wunlit Covenant
The 1999 Homeland Call
The 1999 Blue Nile Peace Agreement
The 2000 Liliir Peace Conference
The 2000 Libyan-Egyptian Peace Proposals
The 2001 Comboni Missionaries Declaration

COMESA East and Southern African Common MarketCOMESSA Community of Sahel-Saharan States
DUP Democratic Unionist Party
EU European Union
IGAD Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Formerly Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development, IGADD)
IPF IGAD Partners Forum
IRIN Integrated Regional Information Network
KUNA Kuwaiti News Agency
NDA National Democratic Alliance
NIF National Islamic Front
NSCC New Sudan Council of Churches
NUP National Unionist Party
OAU Organisation of African Unity
PDF Popular Defence Force
PDP People's Democratic Party
PNC Popular National Congress
RCC Revolutionary Command Council
SANU Sudan African National Union
SPDF Sudan People's Defence Force
SPLA Sudan People's Liberation Army
SPLA United Sudan People's Liberation Army
SPLM Sudan People's Liberation Movement
SRRA Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency
SSIM South Sudan Independence Movement
SSLM South Sudan Liberation Movement
TANA Blue Nile Citizens Front
TMC Transitional Military Council
UDSF United Democratic Salvation Front
UN United Nations
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund
USAP Union of Sudanese African Parties






There has been civil war in Sudan off and on since 1955. The first phase of the conflict was brought to an end by the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement signed between the government and southern rebels led by General Joseph Lagu. Civil war re-ignited in 1983. The principal rebel protagonist since then has been the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) led by John Garang. It is estimated that there have been two million deaths as a result of the conflict as well as over four million refugees. There have been numerous attempts, both internationally and from within Sudan itself, to bring the war to an end. The longest running forum has been that sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body consisting of Sudan and several of her neighbouring states. However, peace-making was made all the more difficult in the 1990s by United States policy and regional conflicts involving Sudan and some of her neighbours.

Sudan in 2002 is at a cross-roads. There are several reasons to believe that the chances for a peaceful solution to the Sudanese conflict are better now than they have ever been. Firstly, it would appear that there are constitutional and political offers on the negotiating table, up to and including an internationally-monitored referendum on southern Sudan's status, that address the issues central to the Sudanese conflict. Secondly, there has been a distinct international shift in opinion and policy with regard to Sudan. Whereas in the mid-1990s Sudan had in effect been isolated by the policies of the United States and its regional allies, by the end of that decade Sudan had broken out of political and diplomatic isolation. In 1999, for example, the European Union entered into a political dialogue with Sudan, noting improvements within the Sudanese situation. A peaceful solution to the war is now at the top of the international community's Sudan agenda. The international community has also become increasingly resistant to demands to continue providing humanitarian aid to countries wracked by civil war. Thirdly, there has also been a similar regional shift in attitudes towards Sudan and the Sudanese conflict. In 2001, for example, Sudan held the presidency of both the Intergovernmental Authority on Development as well as the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (COMESSA), a body which brings together eleven north African states. Fourthly, it would appear that the Bush Administration in the United States wishes to distance itself from the Clinton Administration's discredited attempts to militarily, politically and economically destabilise Sudan. Fifthly, it is also clear that the political situation within Sudan has changed significantly. The opposition coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has fragmented with the departure of pivotal parties such as the Umma. The former Prime Minister, and Umma Party leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, declared in 1999, for example, that: "There are now circumstances and developments which could favour an agreement on a comprehensive political solution."

Another significant factor is that the Sudanese peace process has been re-energised by a new regional attempt to find a peaceful solution. Egypt has vigorously thrown itself into finding a peaceful solution to the Sudanese conflict. The Libyan-Egyptian initiative has emerged over the past two years and seeks to secure a comprehensive political settlement of the Sudanese conflict including an all-party constitutional conference and a permanent cease-fire. Unlike the similarly regionally-based IGAD process, which only involved the Sudanese government and the SPLA, the Libyan-Egyptian peace plan called for the involvement of all other parties to the conflict, including the northern opposition parties. Sudan immediately accepted the Libyan-Egyptian proposals. The Egyptian government has stated with regard to the Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative:

We are launching this mediatory initiative on consent by the legitimate government and the northern and southern opposition.I believe that if they sit down together at the negotiating table, the two sides will certainly reach agreement.

In August 2001 the chairman of the National Democratic Alliance, Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani, reiterated that the NDA supported the Libyan-Egyptian proposals.

Repeated Calls for Cease-fire

In addition to having made unprecedented political and constitutional offers, the Sudanese government has also repeatedly called for a comprehensive cease-fire. Throughout 2001, the Sudanese government once again called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. In April and in mid-May 2000, Khartoum continued to affirm its readiness to enter into "an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire" and to restart negotiations for the achievement of a lasting peace. It called upon the SPLA to do the same. For several months the government adhered to a humanitarian cease-fire in Bahr al-Ghazal: this lasted until the SPLA abandoned the truce in 1999. Khartoum appears to have sought out every possible peace forum. It has also repeatedly requested international assistance in securing a peaceful end to the conflict. And while there are those who have claimed that the flow of oil from Sudan's oil fields from 1999 onwards would make the government intransigent, Khartoum has offered numerous calls for cease-fire since then. It is difficult to see how much further towards a comprehensive solution the Sudanese government can go. There clearly has been a considerable shift in policy and position towards opposition aspirations. The seriousness of the government's willingness to negotiate was clearly underlined by the fact that the biggest Sudanese opposition party, Sadiq al-Mahdi's Umma Party, has left the opposition alliance, declared a cease-fire and entered into domestic politics within Sudan.

Obstacles to Peace in Sudan

Ambivalence Towards Peace in Sudan

It is clear that the SPLA has been an obstacle to peace in Sudan. This is perhaps best illustrated by John Garang's statement, for example, regarding the SPLA's participation in the crucial November 1997 round of IGAD peace talks in Nairobi (the first meeting after the government's historic offer of an internationally-monitored referendum on self-determination) that "[w]e intended not to reach an agreement with the [Sudanese government]. This is what we did and we succeeded in it because we did not reach an agreement." There is clearly growing frustration within the international community at the SPLA's intransigence. This frustration has been highlighted as a result of the positive shift in international opinion with regard to Sudan. The United Nations, for example, has pointedly called upon the SPLA to accept Khartoum's offers of cease-fire. In September 2001, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan observed that: "sources.pointed out that among most of SPLM/A leaders there is no serious commitment to peace". The SPLA would appear to be either disinclined or unable to seriously enter into peace negotiations. This may be for any or all of several reasons.

Firstly, there is a clear question as to whether or not the SPLA can function, or even define itself, politically. The Economist has stated, for example, that "the rebels have always, in theory, been a political movement as well as an army. In practice, the army was the movement". The British Independent newspaper has observed: "Unlike most rebel movements, the SPLA makes little attempt to formulate a vision for a future society. The rebels pay lip service to the creation of civil structures. But they and their leader, John Garang, show little sign of making that commitment real." The ostensible political complexion of the SPLA movement has varied from professedly Marxist, at one stage even fighting to keep Ethiopia's Mengistu regime in power, through to now opportunistically politically identifying with Christian fundamentalist American conservatives. The fact that the SPLA is first and foremost a military machine may explain its inability or reluctance to embrace anything other than a military process. Accusations of "warlordism", fighting for the sake of fighting or for self-aggrandisement rather than for any specific political objectives, may also be disturbingly close to the mark. In October 1998, SPLA leader John Garang told a UN delegation investigating famine and relief operations in Sudan that "[t]he SPLA has decided to continue the war.It is up to the international community to provide humanitarian aid." This was two months after the Roman Catholic Bishop of the starvation-affected diocese of Rumbek, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, stated that the SPLA was diverting 65 percent of the food aid going into rebel-held areas of southern Sudan. This at the height of an acute famine in southern Sudan. Agence France Presse also reported that: "Much of the relief food going to more than a million famine victims in rebel-held areas of southern Sudan is ending up in the hands of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), relief workers said." This diversion runs to the value of millions of dollars per year.

What is it that the SPLA is actually fighting for? This question is clearly in the minds of many of those concerned about events in southern Sudan. In January 2001, for example, the Roman Catholic Comboni missionaries in southern Sudan publicly condemned the civil war as "immoral and a tragic farce". They stated that "the number of victims is escalating, especially among women and children. Spiritual, human and cultural values are getting lost. Corruption, tribalism and fratricidal hatred are fostered. Degradation, underdevelopment and anarchy increase". The Comboni missionaries also pointedly stated that: "[t]he word 'liberation' is abused" and that the civil war was "not any longer a struggle for freedom of the Sudanese people and for the defence of human rights". Concerns by the mission society that "the Comboni missionaries now in southern Sudan are in grave danger" for having spoken out so publicly appear to have been borne out by the SPLA's destruction of the Comboni mission and church in Nyal the following month.

Secondly, the SPLA's claim to represent southern Sudan is, in any instance, questionable. After growing discontent with John Garang within the organisation, the SPLA fragmented in 1991 into several factions. This splintering has made negotiating a peaceful solution all the more difficult. Politically, John Garang would appear to be out of step with a considerable number of southern Sudanese politicians, including several of his former colleagues, in that he refused to come into the internal Sudanese peace process. Several of these southern politicians were parties to the Sudan Peace Agreement signed between them and the government of Sudan in April 1997, an agreement which built upon several political charters signed in 1996. These leaders had included former senior SPLA commander Dr Riek Machar and his South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM), Commander Kerubino Bol Kuanyin and the SPLM/A (Bahr al-Ghazal Group), the late Arok Thon Arok and the SPLM/A Bor Group, Commander Mohammed Haroun Kafi and the Nuba Mountains United SPLM/A, Dr Theophilus Ochang Lotti and the Equatoria Defence Force, Samuel Aru Bol and the Union of Sudanese African Parties (USAP), as well as Dr Lam Akol and the SPLA-United group, all of whom are or were articulate southern Sudanese political leaders. Indeed many southern intellectuals and political leaders who represented southern Sudanese political interests both within and outside of the SPLA were either murdered or imprisoned by Garang. These include the SPLA's March 1993 murder of Joseph Oduho, southern Sudan's most respected political leader and the SPLM's founding chairman. Human Rights Watch has also recorded the murders of other key leaders such as Martin Majier, Martin Makur Aleu and Martin Kajiboro.

It would appear that most if not all of the objectives that southern Sudanese have fought for since before independence appear to have been secured already or are guaranteed in the 1997 Peace Agreement and the new constitution. The present government has introduced a workable federal system, decentralising and devolving government down to 26 states, with southern states governed and administered by southerners - another long-standing southern Sudanese request. (Five of the ten elected governors in southern Sudan are former SPLA commanders.) And furthermore, while Dr Garang may not agree with the result, there is no doubt that in so doing there has been what the SPLA has long called for, "a radical restructuring of the power of central government". It is also clear that the SPLA has not explored any of the offers that are on the negotiating table.

Thirdly, the SPLA has clearly failed in a leadership role for the southern Sudanese. Leaving the lack of a political capability or orientation aside, even on central issues such as unity or separation the SPLA has been ambiguous. The SPLA's claim to represent southern Sudanese aspirations can only but be questioned. The SPLA, for example, has repeatedly declared itself to be in favour of a united Sudan. Garang, for example, has publicly stated that: "(A)s we have said many times before, we are not secessionists. And if anybody wants to separate even in the North, we will fight him because the Sudan must be one. It should not be allowed to disintegrate or fragment itself." The SPLA's ambiguity, however, is clear. In the SPLA's proposed agreement with the SPDF in 2001, for example, the stated objective is said to be the "independence of South Sudan". In other statements the SPLA has called for a confederal state.

Fourthly, there also appear to be ethnic and tribal cleavages which would undermine the SPLA's claim to leadership within southern Sudan. The 1991 split in the SPLA was essentially along ethnic lines. Human Rights Watch has stated, for example, that "the Nuer and Dinka, the two largest tribes in the south, were on opposite sides of the war since 1991 when the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) split." In September 2001, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan observed that: "sources.pointed out that.SPLM/A, far from being a genuine liberation movement for the southern tribes, only represents the Bor Dinka and has imposed its presence in the south thanks to the support of external actors." The

Economist, for example, also summed up at least a passing international perception of the SPLA when it stated that: "[The SPLA] has.been little more than an armed gang of Dinkas.killing, looting and raping. Its indifference, almost animosity, towards the people it was supposed to be 'liberating' was all too clear." Given that the Dinka tribal grouping is one amongst nineteen major ethnic communities within southern Sudan, the implications are clear. That there has been considerable inter-ethnic conflict in southern Sudan is sadly all too well documented. Following splits in the SPLA, Amnesty International stated that the two groups which emerged attacked each other and civilian groups "for ethnic reasons". Thousands of southern civilians were killed and tens of thousands more displaced in these clashes. Lieutenant-General Joseph Lagu, the leader of the southern Sudanese rebels in the first civil war, has himself stated that the SPLA "broke up on ethnic lines". The observations of a Washington-based Africa interest group, no friend of the Khartoum government, are instructive:

The largely Dinka, mostly southern SPLM/A is the main rebel organisation, although there has been significant fragmentation and rivalry, within the South. In 1991 the SPLM/A split roughly along ethnic lines, with most Dinka remaining in the SPLM/A and most Nuer breaking away to form a separate faction called the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A).The war is being fought largely in the South, with devastating consequences for the southern Sudanese. Because the various factions use guerilla war tactics and target civilians, and because the factions are split along ethnic lines, rivalry and discord amongst southern Sudanese non-combatants flourish in the South. In fact, factional fighting in the South is responsible for a greater number of deaths than direct clashes between Sudanese government forces and southern rebels. Villages and villagers have become pitted against one another, competing for scarce resources, made scarcer through the many years of war. (emphasis added)

Even the Clinton Administration's Sudan specialist, John Prendergast, a former development aid expert in the Horn of Africa, has confirmed the existence of ethnic tensions between the largely Dinka SPLA and the Nuer tribe as well as communities in Equatoria in southern Sudan ever since the SPLA came into being in 1983, with the SPLA showing what he termed an "absolute disregard for their human rights" :

The SPLA has historically utilized.counter-insurgency tactics against populations and militias in Equatoria considered to be hostile. This has exacerbated relations between certain Equatorian communities.The common denominator between the attacks was the destruction or stripping of all assets owned by the community, creating increased dependence and displacement.

He cites one observer as saying that: "The overwhelmingly 'Nilotic' character of the early SPLA was.enough to alienate many Equatorians" and personally states that the SPLA is seen in Equatoria as "an army of occupation". SPLA ethnic cleansing continues to this day. Throughout 1999, for example, the BBC, and other reliable sources, reported on SPLA violence towards non-Dinka ethnic groups, groups which also "accused the SPLA of becoming an army of occupation". In 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan reported that "credible reports were received whereby SPLA, mostly Dinka, was behaving as an occupying army in Eastern Equatoria".

Fifthly, it is also clear that the Dinka community is itself politically diverse: Dinka political leaders who have been opposed to John Garang and the SPLA have included Commander Kerubino Bol Kuanyin, a former deputy commander of the SPLA, Arok Thon Arok, another senior SPLA commander, and Samuel Aru Bol, a past deputy prime minister of Sudan. Dinkas also hold numerous political offices within the Sudanese government. Given the inability of the SPLA to even establish itself as either politically or ethnically representative of southern Sudan or the southern Sudanese, its claim to be a national liberation movement is clearly unrealistic. Nevertheless, Dr Garang appears to wish to cling to the fiction that the SPLA is a national organisation. Given the fact that the SPLA is at best representative of one political and ethnic minority within southern Sudan itself, any demands which would infringe upon northern Sudan are clearly questionable.

The question is for how much longer must Sudan be held hostage by a militaristic faction unrepresentative even of its own tribal grouping, one amongst southern Sudan's numerous tribal and ethnic groups, let alone Sudan as a whole?
Get Acrobat Reader
Please note the pdf version may take a few moments to download
Back to Media Main  Back to Top

Espac Published by The European - Sudanese Public Affairs Council Copyright © David Hoile 2005
powered by