Implementing Peace in Sudan?
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
On the International Day of Peace, we reflect on the challenges facing the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) in Sudan. The JPA was signed on 3 October 2020 by Sudan’s transitional government and several armed groups, and it was described as an “historic achievement” by UN Secretary General António Guterres. However, the two most powerful armed movements did not sign the accord (the faction of the SPLM-N led by Abdalaziz Adam Alhilu and the SLM led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed Nour). Progress to implementation has faced considerable setbacks.
A key concern is the delay in establishing a number of rights-focused Commissions to implement the JPA. Among these is the Transitional Justice Commission. Under the JPA, signatories agreed to progress transitional justice with utmost priority and to form a Transitional Justice Commission within 30 days of the signing of the peace agreement – however, almost a year later, its creation is still underway.
When army generals linked to former President Bashir’s regime are accused of overseeing civilian abuses including ‘torture, extrajudicial killings and mass rapes’ while holding positions such as Vice President of the Sovereign Council, it begs the critical question:
“how likely is it that justice will be served, when men accused of committing or ordering mass atrocities are key figures in the transitional government?”
The slow implementation of the security arrangements mapped out in the JPA is another significant challenge, including delays in establishing an integrated and united security force, as set out in the JPA. The announcement in June that a new joint security force would be established, including Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militiamen, who are highly mistrusted by much of Sudanese society due to their reputation for brutality and previous human rights abuses, was met with concern. Furthermore, recent tensions in Eastern Sudan - whereby supporters of the Hadandawa tribal leader Mohamed al-Amin Turk blocked the highway linking the maritime ports on the Red Sea with the rest of the country - are attributed to dissatisfaction with the "East Sudan Track" of the JPA. Turk argues that the groups that negotiated the deal do not represent the region. Even where action is being taken, often it is not conforming to inclusivity arrangements set out in the JPA. The government has been accused by women who engaged in the Darfur track negotiations of reneging on the JPA’s commitment to ensuring 40 per cent women’s representation in various committees. The effect of these delays is devastating. As the implementation of the JPA stalls, insecurity is abounding. On 14 September 2021, the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan reported ongoing and highly concerning intercommunal violence, attacks against civilians and human rights violations, including conflict-related sexual violence, being committed in Darfur. Women and girls are particularly affected in Darfur. Girls are being targeted by rebel elements for sexual violence, including abduction and gang-rape.
Competition for scarce local resources is exacerbated by climate change, leading to divisions between pastoral and farming communities. Multiple flash floods have compounded existing displacement from intercommunal conflicts. Between January and August this year, 2021, about 418,000 people were newly displaced as a result of conflicts and armed attacks across Sudan, mainly in Darfur and in parts of Kordofan and Blue Nile – a six-fold increase from the previous year.
North Darfur, Sudan: Thousands of displaced persons seek refuge in the IDP camp in Sortoni.
It is clear that the Transitional Government has a window of opportunity to implement real and lasting change in Sudan. However, the longer the JPA stagnates, the narrower this window will become. Urgent action is needed to speed up the establishment of Commissions necessary for the implementation of the JPA, to enact rights-focused security sector reform, and to ensure both the current protection of civilians and their right to a remedy and reparation for previous crimes committed.
Rights for Peace looks forward to embarking on a new project empowering survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Sudan to advocate for effective transitional justice mechanisms, including transformative reparations.
Cover photo credit: (c) Image by UNAMID via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)