17-February-2020

Boiling point

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)


 

At least two of our (British) Embassy team have lost relatives in the recent fighting in Abyei. Both are Sudanese. One is originally from Southern Sudan and one from the north. Neither is a stranger to loss and suffering. But I doubt they can explain why their family members had to die last week. I wish their governments in Khartoum and Juba could explain, but I fear they can’t.

I have been away from Sudan for two weeks. Before I left I wrote about the political temperature rising and the need for cool heads. The day I got back, boiling point was reached in Abyei. Tit for tat violence escalated following an attack by Southern forces on a UN and Sudanese army convoy. The Government of Sudan used military force to occupy Abyei in contravention of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Condemnation has been strong, including by the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. The UN Security Council, who happened to arrive in Khartoum at the same time, spoke with one voice on the need to withdraw all forces and to respect in full the CPA and later agreements between the two parties.

Cool heads were needed two weeks ago. Today cool heads and hearts are needed. What has happened does not spell the end of the CPA or the start of a new north-south war. Instead it strengthens the case for a political settlement between north and south to be made urgently and in good faith. President Mbeki is actively supporting the two parties to do this. The UK is giving strong political and practical support to his efforts. I still believe that an agreement on all outstanding issues is both necessary and possible by 9 July. And if full agreement is not reached, then at least the two sides can agree on the means to handle the remaining issues. Sudan can still show the world how a true peace process and its successful January referendum can bring benefits to all its peoples. This remains the prize.

But the current situation in Abyei also needs to be addressed urgently. Both parties need to ensure the conflict does not escalate or spread to other areas. The situation needs to be defused by the withdrawal of military forces in conjunction with a security plan elaborated by the UN. Displaced and injured civilians need to be helped and humanitarian agencies need to have access. This can be done. It is not too late to undo some of the harm caused by the last few days.

For some of the Embassy’s extended family it is too late. That makes us sad, but more determined than ever to help peace building in Sudan work.

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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