The Sudanese government has signed a peace deal with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of nine political and armed groups from different parts of the country including the conflict-torn states of Blue Nile, Darfur and South Kordofan.
The agreement followed ten months of negotiations in Juba, South Sudan. However, some armed groups have not signed the agreement, which could be an obstacle to its success.
The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army-Abdul Wahid Nur (SLM/A-AW), one of the key armed groups in Darfur, refused to participate in the peace talks from the outset. Agreement has also not been reached with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, which controls parts of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.
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Still, the deal was commended by human rights activists who said it must deliver on people’s quest for dignity and justice.
“The peace agreement presents a ray of hope for millions of Sudanese people in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, whose human rights have been systematically violated by the government of former President Omar Al Bashir and who have endured horrific violence at the hands of all parties to the conflict,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
“All parties must ensure that the peace agreement brings an end to nearly two decades of suffering inflicted on civilians. People must be able to return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives in dignity.”
Muchena called on the parties to the peace agreement to make all efforts “towards a sustainable peace that will deliver justice and stability to the country.”
“The Government of Sudan must also strive to include and involve other interest groups, including internally displaced people and civil society so they too can provide solutions to the multiple challenges the country faces.”
According to Amnesty International, high on the list of priorities is redressing the historical absence of accountability and justice for human rights violations committed during deadly conflicts since independence, and most recently during Omar Al Bashir’s tenure, which nurtured pervasive impunity in the country.
“Now that most conflicting parties are on board with the agreement, the Government of Sudan must ensure, thorough, effective and impartial investigations into allegations of serious violations of both international humanitarian and human rights law committed by members of the country’s armed forces and their allied militias, as well as those committed by armed opposition groups,” said Deprose Muchena.
“This Government of Sudan must deliver stability, justice and accountability in order to set Sudan on a solid recovery trajectory.”
Background of Sudan crisis as per AI
Sudan is a socio-culturally diverse country that has been characterized by chronic and complex interwoven internal conflicts since independence in 1956. The government of former President Omar Al Bashir came to power in 1989 and exacerbated the situation by brutally clamping down on human rights using armed militias, some of which have since morphed into militarized political parties fighting for ethnically marginalized communities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
The conflict in Darfur began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), then united, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), waged war against the government. Government armed forces together with its allied Janjaweed militia responded with ruthless brutality, killing about 300,000 people and displacing more than 2 million others over a period of 17 years.
In 2005, the UN Security Council referred the Darfur crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC) following an investigation undertaken by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur. The Commission found that crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur. The ICC issued arrest warrants for four Sudanese government officials including former president Omar Al Bashir.
Al-Bashir is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity – murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape; two counts of war crimes – intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population or against individual civilians not taking part in hostilities, and pillaging; and three counts of genocide, by killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction. These crimes were allegedly committed between 2003 and 2008.
The recent conflict in South Kordofan started in June 2011 and spread into Blue Nile in September 2011 as government forces fought the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army North (SPLM/A-N), forcing at least 200,000 civilians into South Sudan as refugees, while some 1.5 million people have been internally displaced within the two states in the past nine years.
A Roadmap Agreement signed between warring parties in March 2016 calmed down the fighting allowing a High-Level Africa Union Panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki to steer peace negotiations to no avail after several attempts. The efforts of this panel were overtaken by the popular protests in December 2018 that resulted in the removal of President Omar Al Bashir from power in April 2019.