Civil War

| Print |

1. Historical Background.

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, bordering nine countries, has been at war within itself for 30 of its 40 years of independence, that is, 17 years of the Anyanya war (1955-1972 and 13 years of the present war waged by the SPLA from 1983 to the present. This is too much suffering and misery for any country and for any people to go through. Obviously something must be very wrong for a human community to subject itself to generations of war! It is necessary to look deep into "what went wrong" in order to find viable solutions to the Sudanese conflict. To do this, it is necessary to present a brief historical background of the Sudan and to identity the Problem of Sudan.

The present Republic of the Sudan got its name from the word "Bilaad-el-sud" which in Arabic means "the Country of the Blacks". In the Bible times, Sudan was known as "Cush", and there are many references to it in the Bible. The 25th Egyptian dynasty (750-654 BC) was a Sudanese dynasty, when the Sudanese ruled over Egypt and beyond. This was the time of famous Sudanese kings, like "Piankhy" and his son, "Tirhakah". They were known by their subjects as the "powerful jet black rulers" admired for their fairness and justice, and equally known for their courage and successful military expeditions.

One such military expedition into Palestine by a Sudanese general involved one million Sudanese troops, and is recorded well in the Book of 2 Chronicles Chapter 14 verses 8-10 the Good News Bible:

" King Asa (had an army of 300,000 men from Judah, armed with shelds and sprears, and 280,000 men from Benjamin armed with shields and bows. All of them were brave, well trained men. A Sudanese named Zerah invaded Judah with an army of one million men and three hundred chariots and advanced as far as Mareshah. Asa went to fight him, and both sides took up their positions at Zephathah Valley near Mareshah."

In about 450 AD, Christianity entered Northern Sudan and the Christian Kingdoms of Nubia, Merowe, Mekuria, Soba and Alwa flourished for about 1,000 years. The Arab and Islamic invasion of the Sudan started in about 700 AD, and this was resisted by the Sudanese Christian Kingdoms up to 1505 AD, when the last Kingdoms were thus superseded by Sudanese Islamic Kingdom such as the Fung Sultanate in the East and the Isalmic Sultanate of Darfur in the West.

The second wave of Islamic expansion in the Sudan was the Turko-Egyptian invasion mainly in the form of military slave expeditins from 1820. This was a cruel period of the inhumanity slavery and the slave trade, when the Turko-Egyptian forces combined with Northern Sudanese Arab slave traders to conduct raids into Southern Sudan for what they called "black gold" (slaves), "white gold" (ivory) and "yellow gold" (real gold).

The slave trade continued under Turko-Egyptian rule up to 1881, when an indigenous uprising led by Mohammed Ahmed, who called himself the "Mahdi" (Messiah) defeated and killed General Gordon and overran Khartoum. The Mahdist State (1881-1897) was established and slave hunting was greatly intensified with devastating consequences to the civil population, especially in Southern Sudan where whole trives were completely decimated.

The rampant slave trade in the Sudan and the humiliation of the defeat and death of General Gordon compelled the British and Egyptians to send a combined force, under Lord Kitchner, to re-conquer the Sudan. The Mahdist forces were defeated at the end of 1897, and thus was established the so called condominium rule, known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1898-1956) which in reality was British colonial rule.

During the 58 years of Anglo-Egyptian administration, both Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan were administered separately as two different entities under the Governor General. This was similar to the case of Rhodesia, where Northern Rhodesia Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, although administered from Salisbury under one Prime Minister, yet each of the three territories was granted the right to self-determination, resulting in the emergence of the three independent states of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. This experience was ushered in political stability in this region. In fact, the emerging political and economic realities are indicating a movement towards a better unity, that is, unity in diversity.

In addition, the British introduced the concept of the "Closed Districts" which included Southern Sudan, Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan and the Fung areas of Southern Blue Nile. The intention of British rule was to close off these areas from the North to protect the indigenous African populations of these areas from the vagaries of the Arab slave traders and from Islamization and Arabisation.

The Northern Sudan was thus ruled as a colonial territory along Islamic/Arab lines with its future and cultural orientation towards Egypt and the Arab World, while Southern Sudan was ruled as an African colonial territory where African culture, language and Christianity were all encouraged to flourish in exclusion of anything Arab or Islamic, and with its future and cultural orientation towards Africa. Indeed pass permits were required for travel between the North and South (and other Closed Districts).

However in 1947, the British abruptly reversed their policy of "Closed Districts" and separate futures for North and Southern Sudan, and instead decided that the South and North would become independent as one country. The failure of the colonial authorities to allow the people of the "Closed Districts" to exercise their right to self-determination is one of the main factors that contributed to the first civil war in the Sudan (1955-1972) Indeed when Southern units in the (colonial) Sudan Defence Force learned of the impending independence of the Sudan as one country under Northern domination, these units rebelled in August 1955 in Torit, four months before independence (January 1, 1956) and that was the beginning of the first war!

The avowed aim of first civial war was "independence of Southern Sudan" and it was led by the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) and its military wing the "Anyanaya" guerrilla army. Generally, Southerners felt that what happened at independence was a mere replacement of one set of colonial masters for another and of a worst type, and thus the Anyanya called for full independence of Southern Sudan. This war was successfully resolved by the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972, which was meditated by Emperor Haille Selassie of Ethiopia, the All African Council of Churches and six African countries. But the was high it is estimated that between 750,000 and 1,500,000 Southern Sudanese died in the Anyanya war.

The Addis Ababa Agreement granted Southern Sudan regional autonomy, with its own legislature, executive and judiciary, worked out interim security arrangements by which 6,000 Anyanya guerrillas were absorbed in the national and another 4,000 in the Police and Prisons services. Relative peae lasted for 10 years, although this was punctuated by instances of isolated mutinies by disgruntled former Anyanya soldiers and a growing realisation by most Southerners that the peace would not last. Thus while North worked to undermine the Addis Ababa agreement, Southerners prepared for war.

The Addis Ababa Agreement failed to satisfy the aspirations of the peoples of the "Closed Districts" as the agreement neither put them in the centre of power in parity with the North nor did it allow them the right of self-determination. At the same the North continued with its project of Islamization and Arabization of the country, and thus President Numeiri started a process of eroding whatever gains Southerners achieved in the Addis Ababa Agreement, and finally abrogated the Agreement altogether in June 1983 when he divided the South into three separate mini-Regions. Worst still President Numeirie attempted to annex the newly discovered oil fields in the South to the North, and proceeded in September 1983 to establish Islamic Sharia as the supreme law of the Land.

Numeiri's abrogation of the Addis Ababa agreement and Southern frustration and dissatisfaction with it, coupled with the increased pace of Islamization and Arabization of the South, led to the outbreak of hostilities. On May 16th 1983, the Sudanese Army attacked one of its own units of the former Anyanya guerrillas absorbed in the national army, Battalions 105 and 104 that were stationed in Bor and Ayod respectively on the accusation that these units had rebelled or were about to rebel. This incident led to the formation the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA), as these units took to the bush and were subsequently joined by students, intellectuals, government officials and the peasantry, and the SPLM/SPLA has been leading the struggle since then to the present.

II. Presenting the Problem of Sudan

The basic problem of the Sudan is that its reality, both in its historical perspective and in its contemporary context conflicts fundamentally with the policies that have been pursued by the various governments, whether military or Islamic dictatorships or based on multi-partism , that have come and gone in Khartoum since independence in 1956. What characterises the Sudan is its rich diversity in its history, geography, people and culture.

The historical background in Section I, above, shows the diversity and richness of Sudanese history and the present reality. We have presented glimpses of the Sudan from Biblical times, Christian kingdoms, Islamic Arab invasion and establishment of to its present identity. We refer to this character of our country as "historical diversity". This reality of history must e reflected in our present attempts to resolve the issue of civil war in the Sudan. This historical outlook has always been reflected in the political struggle by the SPLM/SPLA since its establishment in 1983 to the present.

The second diversity is the "contemporary diversity" of the Sudan which consist mainly of ethnicity and religion. Ethnicity basically defines two groups in the Sudan, the African and the Arab nationalities. The fact that colonialism encouraged the dichotomy of an African Christian/animist South and Arab arabicized Moslem North has added to more diversity and mistrust among all Sudanese and added to the complex situation in the Sudan.

The last reliable (non-political) census was conducted by the colonial authorities just before their disengagement from the Sudan in 1956. That independent census showed the demographic breakdown of the Sudan as 31% Arab, 61% African, and 8% others. The 8% others were mostly West Africans who got stranded in the Sudan on their way to or from pilgrimage in Mecca. Therefore ethnically, 69% of the population is African Sudanese and in the majority while 31% is Arab Sudanese, and a minority. And within each of these two broad groupings of Africans and Arabs, there are many different tribes. Generally there are more than 500 different ethnic groups in the Sudan speaking more than 100 different and distinct languages.

Hence while the northern Sudan may be predominantly muslim (perhaps 65%), it is certainly not predominantly Arab. Religion is the other component of Sudan's contemporary diversity. We have Moslems, we have Christians, and we have those who believe in their ancestral African religions.

The real situation is that the Sudan is characterised by these two diversities, "historical diversity" and "contemporary diversity" But this reality has been ignored, swept aside, by all governments that have come and gone in Khartoum since independence. Instead of using the historical and contemporary diversities to evolve a Sudanese commonality a Sudanese commonwealth to which all Sudanese pledge undivided loyalty and allegiance irrespective of their race or tribe irrespective of their religion and irrespective of gender, all the governments of post-colonial Sudan have emphasised on only two parameters of our reality Arabism and Islamism.

This is the central problem of the Sudan; the Sudanese state is essentially an alien political system with a institutional framework that excludes the vast majority of its citizens. The African Sudanese have been excluded from the centre of state power since 1956 while they constitute 69% of the population! How can there be peace? And after the 1989 NIF coup the system further excluded non-fundamentalist moslems, while women have always been excluded at all times. We call this political dispensation the "Old Sudan" based on religion (Islam) and race (Arabism). Some analysts have described the problem of Sudan as "Double Apartheid" or racial and religious apartheid.

The present National Isalamic Front (NIF) government is the culmination of the policies of the Khartoum-based governments that have come and gone since independence. In 1989 the Old Sudan split in two the "NIF" Sudan of the Fundamentalist National Islamic Front (NIF) of Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, and the "Old Sudan" of the traditional parties that had ruled the Sudan since 1956.

When the SPLM/SPLA was formed in 1983, the movement critically analysed the Sudanese reality, and came to the conclusion that it must struggle for a united Sudan; but a unity on a new basis a Sudan that is pluralistic, democratic and secular, a new Sudanese political dispensation that is based on the realities of the Sudan, on both our historical and contemporary diversities. We call this new political dispensation the New Sudan, as opposed to the NIF Sudan and the Old Sudan both of which between them have cost the country 30 years of war out of 40 years of its formal independence.

In summary the present situation in Sudan is characterised by the concurrent existence of three Sudans: The NIF Sudan, the Old Sudan and the New Sudan all competing for determination of the identity and future of the Sudan.

III. The SPLM/SPLA Evolution and Struggle for the New Sudan.

Since its inception in 1983, the SPLM/SPLA has struggled tirelessly and has gone a long way towards the achievement of the New Sudan. By 1991 the SPLA was poised to capture Juba, the principal town in Southern Sudan, an event which would have ended the war in favour of forces for the New Sudan.

But in the late 1980s the world was literally moving from one historical era, characterised by the cold war, to a new one whose dimensions are still emerging. This epochal and global change had serious repercussions on and in the SPLM/SPLA. The NIF took full advantage of the situation in the Movement and for the first time in eight years of its existence the SPLM lost the military initiative in 1991 when there was a split in the movement, between those who responded to the changing circumstances by opting for a political solution with the NIF regime within the framework f the NIF Sudan and those who responded to the changing circumstances by opting for a political solution with the NIF regime within the framework of the NIF Sudan and those who chose to continue the armed struggle to achieve the objective of the New Sudan despite the odds and changed circumstances.

The SPLM/SPLA resolved to initiate fundamental reforms within the Movement with the aim of achieving a rejuvenated SPLM/SPLA that is capable of addressing the changing internal, regional and international situation, so that the Movement still remained committed and capable of achieving the objective of the New Sudan.

Committed to implementing fundamental reforms within the Movement and achieve the necessary historical transition with the rest of humanity the movement held the First SPLM/SPLA National Convention in Chukudum in April 1994, attended by over 700 delegates from all over the New Sudan. In September 1995 the Movement held a senior officers conference attended by over 800 delegates, to debate and resolve on measures to reorganise and develop the SPLA into an organic army to implement a resolution of the National Convention which separated the SPLM and SPLA, with the former, becoming the political movement and the SPLA its military wing.

In the same month, September 1995, the Movement held a major conference on humanitarian issues involving SPLA commanders the NGO community working in the New Sudan, donors and human rights groups. A follow-up conference on humanitarian issues was later held in November 1995 by popular request from the delegates to the September conference.

On April 30 to May 5th 1996, the SPLM held another important conference on Civil Society and establishment of Civil Authority in the New Sudan (CANS).

This conference was attended by over 600 delegates from civil society and more than 60 foreign observers. The conference on civil society was another watershed in the SPLM/SPLA metamorphosis towards a rejuvenated Movement and establishment of the New Sudan.

By the end of 1995 the SPLM/SPLA had transformed itself and successfully made the historical transition, and as a result on October 25th 1995, the new SPLM/SPLA, robust and rejuvenated, launched a major military offensive. Within three months the SPLA captured Parajok, Owiny-ki-Bul, Polataka, Magwe, Panyikwara Ame, Moli, Pageri, Loa, Ashwa and continued the advance towards Juba at Kit bridge where the front lines remain. By February 1996, the SPLA had completely destroyed the Ashwa Front, which was the main NIF military front in the South. The NIF lost more than 10,000 Government troops killed in this front alone and the SPLA captured a lot of military equipment.

In summary after four years of difficulties the SPLA regained the military and political initiative from October 1995. The balance of forces on the ground shifted completely and irreversibly in favour of the SPLA. In March 1996 the SPLA continued with the initiative and opened two new fronts in Pochalla in South East Upper Nile and Yabus in Southern Blue Nile.

Meanwhile the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), including the SPLA, opened a new front, the Eastern Front in the Kassala/Port Sudan area, and armed struggle effectively moved to the Northern Sudanese opposition parties, including the UMMA Party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Communist Party.

Seven of these parties have organised armed resistance against the NIF regime and have military units in the Eastern Front, including the SPLA which is represented in the Front by the New Sudan bridge (NSB). The other six parties with military units are the UMMA Party, DUP, the Beja Congress, Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF), Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance (SFDA) and the Legitimate Command, led by the former Sudan Army Commander-in-Chief.

In October this year, the NDA established the Joint Military Command (JMC) for the Eastern Front and appointed the SPLA leader as its Chairman. The JMC will liaise and co-ordinate military operations of the seven NDA armies in the Eastern Front, and develop itself into the military wing of the NDA.

The developments, the evolution of the SPLM/SPLA, the formation of the New Sudan Bridge, the growth of the NDA and the recent launching of the Eastern Front and formation of the Joint Military Command have greatly improved the possibilities for fundamental change in the Sudan; for the Sudan to find itself and achieve a just peace and the New Sudan.

IV. History of Peace Initiatives

Since its formation, the SPLM/SPLA has adopted a principled position to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and peace talks with the Government of the day in Khartoum and as a result there has been many initiatives and peace talks to find a peaceful solution to the Sudanese conflict over the last ten years. These started from March 22 1985 two years after the formation of the SPLM/SPLA, when the Movement called for an all-party National Constitutional Conference aimed at reaching a comprehensive peace. The idea was still-born as Numeiri was overthrown the following month.

The Koka Dam Declaration. The idea of a national constitutional conference was pursued during the period of Swar al-Dhahab's Transitional Military Council (TMC) which took over from the Numeiri regime. The SPLM/SPLA called upon all Sudanese political parties to a conference to be held in the town of Koka-Dam in Ethiopia in 1986. The conference was attended by over 50 delegates from all the Sudanese political forces except the NIF and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The Koka Dam Conference resolved on major issues of the Sudan including the necessity for secularity of the state and a democratic Sudan and issued these in the famous Koka-Dam Declaration.

The Koka-Dam peace process was short-circuited by the 1986 elections which brought into power a coalition of the UMMA Party (with 101 seats) and DUP (with 68 seats) while the NIF (with 51 seats) was in the opposition. The remaining 100 seats in the 320 seat Parliament were either not contested because of insecurity in the South or distributed among several small parties. Mr. Sadiq Al-Mahdi declined to implement the Koka-Dam Agreement, giving two reasons for his rejection. He argued that the persons who signed the agreement on behalf of his party were not authorised to do so, and secondly, that the DUP a junior patner in his Government was not signatory to the Agreement.

The Sudan Peace Agreement. The SPLM decided to approach the DUP to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the view of bringing them on bard into the Koka-Dam Agreement, as the DUP was an important junior coalition partner in Sadiq- al-Mahdi's Government. The dialogue with the DUP led to the historic 1988 DUP/SPLM Sudan Peace Agreement, which essentially modified the Koka-Dam Declaration on the September Sharia laws of Numeiri by agreeing to freeze these laws rather than abrogating them as came in the Koka-Dam Declaration

However the senior Partner (UMMA) in the coalition Government opposed the DUP/SPLM Sudan Peace Agreement and actually voted it down on 21/12/1988, embarrassing situation for the DUP which forced them to resign, and hence the collapse of Sadiq (I) Government.

Following the resignation of the DUP, the UMMA formed a coalition Government with the NIF with the DUP in the opposition with Southern groups and others. The military situation in the South in the meantime deteriorated. The SPLA went on a major offensive capturing Torit, Liria, Magwe, Parajok, Nimule, Bor, Waat Akobo all in the first four months of 1989. This forced the army to join the public in pressuring the Sadiq (II) Government to accept the DUP/SPLM Peace Agreement as a basis for peaceful settlement. Indeed, the army went a step further to give the Prime Minister an ultimatum in a 21-point memorandum and asked the Prime Minister to respond within seven days.

Talk of military coup was in the air. In April 1989, the Prime Minister yielded to popular pressure and accepted the DUP/SPLM Peace Initiative. This infuriated the NIF and forced them to resign, and precipitated the collapse of the Sadiq (III) Government was formed. Sid Ahmed Hussein (DUP) became Deputy Prime Minister and head of a Ministerial Government delegation that travelled to Addis Ababa in May 1989 to work out details of the National Constitutional Conference with the SPLM/SPLA.

The Government delegation returned to Khartoum with positive results the peace agreement would be endorsed by the Cabinet on June 30th, and September 18th was set for holding of the National Constitutional Conference, which would end the war and usher the Sudan into an era of Peace and development. The Government delegation was to return to Addis Ababa to meet the SPLM/SPLA on July 4th to resolve any outstanding issues and complete arrangements leading to the scheduled September 18th National Constitutional Conference.

However, the NIF moved and staged their coup on June 30th, 1989 precisely on the same date the Sadiq (III) Cabinet was to endorse the DUP/SPLM peace agreement. At this juncture it is important to underline that the NIF staged their coup to prevent peace under the terms of the Koka-Dam Agreement and the DUP/SPLM Sudan Peace agreement. In the words of General Beshir himself, the coup was mad "to save the country from being taken over by the infidels and preserve the Islamic Arab identity of the Sudan" and that is why the NIF called their revolution "the National Salvation Revolution" the NIF feared that the September Laws (Numeiri's Sharia) would be abrogated at the National Constitutional Conference (due September 18th) or by the Military High Command which threatened a coup if the September Laws were not abrogated and peace achieved.

The June 30th 1989 coup was a momentous even in the history of the Sudan, and the country will never remain the same again. From this date the Sudan fractured and divided into three, and it is useful to analyse situation in terms of the "three Sudans" (NIF Sudan, Old Sudan and New Sudan) presented earlier as characterising the present situation in the Sudan.

Dialogue with the NIF Regime: Consistent with its principle of dialogue with the Government of the day, the SPLM/SPLA continued dialogue with the NIF Sudan to achieve peace. The first discussions were bilateral, held in August 1989, and only two months after the NIF seized power. Subsequent peace talks between the SPLM/A and the NIF Government include the Jimmy Carter Nairobi talks of December 1989 Abuja-I (1992) Abuja II (1993) and the current IGADD, peace process. Other peace initiatives include the Friends of IGADD, which includes six European and the United States and Canada, the Barcelona I and Barcelona II (in the Hague) process and several other informal talks between. The Movement has held more than ten distinct peace talks with the NIF regime in their seven years in power. The most serious of these talks were the Abuja and IGADD peace talks, of which the IGADD process remains the current initiative.

The IGADD Peace Initiative: After the collapse of the Abuja-I and Abuja-2 peace talks, the NIF Government started to look for new mediators. They approached the regional body of the Inter-Government Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), of which Sudan is a member, and asked the IGADD leaders in their summit meeting of 1993 to mediate in the Sudanese conflict (Note: This year IGADD changed its name by dropping "Drought" and so it became IGAD) . An IGAD sub-committee on Conflict resolution in the IGAD sub-Region was formed, consisting of four leaders, namely, President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya (as Chairman), and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.

The IGAD mediators consulted with the SPLM/SPLA and the Movement accepted their mediation, and so the four IGAD heads of state and Government started and Government started their mediation efforts to end the Sudanese conflict by calling on the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/SPLA to start negotiations under IGAD mediation, and the IGAD peace initiative was formally and publicly launched in Nairobi on 17th March, 1994.