Sudan: UN report cites challenges for north-south peace deal despite progress

22 January 2010 – The parties to the 2005 peace accord that ended Sudan’s north-south civil war have made important breakthroughs, but a return to violence is still a very real possibility, warns a new United Nations report.

Signed by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) separatists in the south and the national Government in the north, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) brought an end to more than 20 years of war in the vast African nation.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cites recent developments, allowing the parties “to move beyond several major obstacles that had long impeded progress.”

These include the passing of legislation governing next year’s referendum on independence for Southern Sudan, as well as the registration of a reported 16.5 million voters for the national elections slated for this year.

“Nevertheless, a return to conflict remains a very real possibility, with potentially catastrophic humanitarian, political, military and economic consequences throughout the region,” warns Mr. Ban. “Preventing such an outcome will require all the support that the international and regional communities can offer.”

In particular, the Secretary-General voices concern over the continued violence in southern Sudan, the lack of progress in resolving outstanding issues regarding the disputed, oil-rich border town of Abyei, and the slow pace of progress on border demarcation.

While Mr. Ban welcomes the continued progress made in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), he says he is aware of the risk that demobilized former combatants may eventually reintegrate into an insecure environment, which may further exacerbate the threat of their return to the path of armed violence.

Therefore, he underscores the importance of linking the formal DDR process with effective community initiatives to reduce violence, and appeals to the international community to provide adequate funding for the final and most difficult phase of the programme – reintegration.

The report states that the single most important factor in an eventual success or failure of the peace process is the nature of the relationship between the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP) of President Omar al-Bashir.

Implementing the CPA will require “an enormous exercise of political will by both parties,” states the Secretary-General. “The current atmosphere of pervasive mistrust, in which any gain by one party is viewed as a loss by the other, dramatically undermines that political will, effectively disrupts international efforts to assist, and sets the stage for renewed conflict.”

Mr. Ban also highlights the worsening humanitarian situation in southern Sudan in the report, stating that at least 40 per cent of the area’s population at serious risk owing to inter-tribal conflict and violence related to the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a massive food gap, and an earlier “fiscal shock” to the Government of Southern Sudan.

Since 2005 the 10,000-strong UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has been working to assist the parties to implement the peace agreement and to meet the final benchmarks contained in the pact.

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