22-February-2024

Eyes on Juba

Eyes on Juba

Abdul Azia Alhilu

 

After ten days of talks between the Sudan government and the SPLM-N-Alhilu faction in Addis Ababa and Johannesburg under the auspices of AUHIP , Alhilu faction announced that all deliberations reached a dead end and reiterated its position of looking for a comprehensive, inclusive solution starting with a political solution because it is the root cause of the problem. And following that it will be easy to tackle the humanitarian and other by products of entrenched crisis.

This is not the first time for such talks to fail. Eighteen previous rounds met the same fate, though there is some differences. Unlike in the past where these talks were carried under the lights of the media, the last one was handled in a discreet way, but more important there is a new leadership and that leadership has strong position on two issues that will be sticking points for any potential settlement: the right for self-determination for the Nuba and maintain the rebel movement army for at least 20 years as a guarantor for whatever deal that could be reached.

Mounting these demands Alhilu was able to sideline the other faction led by Malik Agar and Yassir Arman. Bearing that in mind it is inconceivable to imagine how difficult it will be for Alhilu to drop his calls for self-determination and a separate army.

Clearly that is an intent to replicate Naivasha without taking into consideration changes that have taken place since South Sudan exercised its right for self-determination that resulted into an independent state that did not take long to fall into the same trap of its own civil war. One of the ironies of history, it was Sudan, that stepped in to broker a peace deal between the warring factions in South Sudan.

The government of President Salva Kiir, who met a military and political opposition for more than five years has come a full circle to deny its opponents their call for separate armies or devolution of power to trim the hegemony of the Dinka.

But more is expected from Juba than mere shunning away from helping SPLM-N. The mother movement has been through divisions in most of its life before and after separation especially the most significant one of 1991 when Riek Machar and Lam Akol led what they termed a coup to oust the movement founder John Garang. Though that coup failed, but it has its mark as it forced Garang to adopt the call for self-determination.

It was the Nuba fighters within the SPLA who provided the crucial support for Garang to overcome that critical period and enabled him to navigate through to the CPA. Moreover, the current stalemate provides Juba with a golden opportunity to pay back to Khartoum through using its good offices to overcome the two sticking points of self-determination and a separate army by citing its own experience. After all Salva Kiir used to be both the political and military leader of the unified SPLM/A before the separation of South Sudan and his words carry a significant weight. 

But more than paying back to Nuba or Khartoum, there is the important issue of looking at the future. And that was well summarized by what Obama administration put following the creation of South Sudan that is to have the two countries living in peace with each other and within each other.

That was not the case following the separation given a host of unresolved issues. Even the fate of the two areas in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan was left to the vague concept of popular consultation that was mainly seen as a way to facilitate self-determination.  

The bitter experience of the past seven years since South Sudan got its independence showed clearly that there is a need for a new approach be for the bilateral relations between the two countries and more important within each of them. It is no longer a game for regime change or inflicting maximum damage to hurt the other party. Both proved to be ultimate losers.

The head of AUHIP Thabo Mbeki has up to the end of the year to submit his final report. If no progress is made it is easy to expect him to point a blaming finger in his report to the African Union Peace and Security Council and taking some punitive measures seems to be a possibility unless Juba moves in the limited time opening left to broker a deal.

 

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