Peace talks between the interim Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) concluded last week on June 15 after nearly three weeks of negotiations in Juba, South Sudan. SPLM-N El Hilu is one of two powerful rebel groups that did not sign the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020, making their participation in this round of negotiations a critical step towards inclusive peace in Sudan. Notably absent from the negotiations was the other nonsignatory of the October agreement, mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid Mohamed al-Nour (SLM-AW).
To ensure compliance with the Juba Peace Agreement, a six member delegation from the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) was present for the majority of the talks. The SRF delegation did not include the October signatories SPLM-N Agar, the breakaway faction SPLM-N under the leadership of Malik Agar, nor the SLM faction under the leadership of Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), the recently appointed wali (governor) of all Darfur. Both SPLM-N Agar and SLM-MM have sustained particularly tense relations with SPLM-N El Hilu in recent years.
Despite positive reports, the South Sudanese delegation adjourned negotiations indefinitely without signing a final framework agreement. SPLM-N Secretary-General Ammar Amoun, the head of the SPLM-N delegation, said that the “will and determination” of the two parties allowed for agreement on “75 to 80% of the draft framework agreement.” Humanitarian access for the first time in a decade in SPLM-N El Hilu-controlled regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile echoes the promising tone of the negotiating parties. However conflicting reports relay that ten, not four, of the nineteen points remain in contention. Unresolved differences include the extent of the separation between religion and state and participation of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in joint military forces. The separation of religion and state is essential to addressing one of the root causes of fighting between Arab and non-Arab tribes throughout Darfur and the Two Areas.
The adjournment comes amidst the implementation of the October Juba Peace Agreement. On June 13, Prime Minister Hamdouk appointed new governors of the North Darfur, West Darfur, and Blue Nile states. Each of the new governors are leaders of armed movements and their integration into the transitional government is an important development towards ridding the government of remaining vestiges of the old regime. The Darfur joint force, a 12000-troop force, will be established in the coming days to consolidate rebel and state armies into a unified national army to protect civilians. While DWAG welcomes the long-awaited implementation of the Juba provisions, we caution the inclusion of untrained RSF militiamen in civilian protection. Civilian protection must be at the forefront of the joint force agenda as the ongoing insecurity has triggered intercommunal violence across Sudan.
The people of Darfur cannot afford to put a pause on peace. Dangerously high numbers of acute food insecurity, nearly ten million people, are rising across Sudan. As the rainy season progresses through September, food insecurity and intercommunal violence is expected to rise. The situation in Tigray has driven more than 63000 Ethiopian refugees into Sudan’s resource-limited refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. We urge the interim government and SPLM-N El Hilu to speedily reach a holistic agreement that can truly address the needs of the people of Darfur. Effective implementation of peace agreements and the end of the genocide rely on stability between all armed groups involved.
DWAG calls on the interim government and SPLM-N El Hilu to reach a comprehensive agreement which can protect the people of Darfur and hold the perpetrators of such crimes accountable. DWAG also calls for the inclusion of more women in the implementation of peace and the mainstreaming of women’s issues into all aspects of the peace agenda. Women must be involved in all levels of decision-making in order for inclusive and sustainable peace to be realized. Additionally, we urge the interim government to address SLM-AW’s concerns and respond to their demands for greater security of the Fur people and affected communities.
Lastly, we call on the international community and regional actors overseeing the peace process in Sudan to ensure that civilian protection is at the forefront of the inclusive peace agenda and accountability measures are put in place to hold all parties accountable if they fail to uphold the agreement.