YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – A peace deal between the Sudanese government and rebel groups is “a small step in the long path toward a durable, prosperous peace.”
The deal with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of several armed groups, was signed on Aug. 31.
However, the coalition doesn’t include the Sudan Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, the largest rebel group in the country.
Al-Hilu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok signed a joint letter of intention last week stressing the “necessity” of finding “a comprehensive and just political solution” to the decades-long conflict in the south of the country, pledging to resume peace talks.
The SLPM-North is insisting the government implement a secular state, reversing moves to Islamize the country by ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country from 1989-2019.
The group operates in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, which have a large Christian population and border South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. The current conflict began when these two states weren’t included in the new country.
While praising the deal with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, Matt Davis, the East Africa regional director for Catholic Relief Services, also warned that the deal could “quickly unravel” if any of the actors exercises bad faith in honoring their commitments.
“The deal offers hope to the people of Sudan as they undertake a new direction for their country. The peace deal also offers new opportunities for humanitarian organizations like CRS to access new areas to partner with communities as they achieve solutions to their emergency and development needs,” he told Crux.
Ever since al-Bashir was ousted a year ago, the provision government of Sudan has been working to end the conflicts which plague the country, including in the Darfur region.
“CRS has operated in Darfur since 2003, delivering life-saving assistance as well as development and peace building programs. CRS’ programs in Sudan span five key priority areas: 1) resilience, 2) food security and safety nets, 3) health, nutrition, water and sanitation, 4) peace building, and 5) emergency response,” Davis said.
What follows are excerpts of Davis’s conversation with Crux.
Crux: The transitional government in Sudan has signed a peace deal with five rebel groups in a move seen by observers as a significant step towards resolving multiple deep-rooted civil conflicts that have caused immense suffering in the country for decades. What is your reaction?
Davis: The peace deal is a small step in the long path toward a durable, prosperous peace. As hard-won a victory as it is, it can quickly unravel if any of the actors refuse to continue their engagement in good faith.
The deal offers hope to the people of Sudan as they undertake a new direction for their country. The peace deal also offers new opportunities for humanitarian organizations like CRS to access new areas to partner with communities as they achieve solutions to their emergency and development needs.
That said, two major rebel movements have not signed peace agreements with the transitional government of Sudan, which hinders the whole peace advancement in the future.
How deep-rooted has been the conflict in Sudan?
The violence that has gripped the nation is deeply rooted with multiple economic, cultural, religious & ethnic dimensions. It is not a single ‘conflict’ but rather compounding cycles of flare-ups and cool-downs. Indeed, the violence has generational roots in the livelihood systems, power structures, and demographic changes in communities across Darfur and throughout Sudan.
What has been the impact in terms of casualties and displaced people?
Following large outbreaks of violence like the 2003 conflict in Darfur, periodic clashes have killed hundreds on a monthly basis and have forced tens of thousands from their homes. Sudanese remain spread across the region as refugees and throughout the country as displaced people.
Generations of lost wealth, years-long gaps in the education of children, and deteriorated systems of social support continue to hamper the long-term development of the country. Physiological impacts are regarded as major in the affected citizens especially women, children and the disabled.
A return to peace will also mean a return of millions of people displaced by the fighting. This should be a huge challenge for humanitarian organizations?
It is true that tremendous challenges remain for the humanitarian sector in Darfur and throughout the country. While the operational and logistic systems are present, and organizations such as CRS have longstanding presence in these communities, the financial commitments by the international community have not matched the need.
How prepared is the CRS to cope with the additional strains of the influx of returnees to homes that might have been destroyed, along with basic infrastructure?
CRS has operated in Darfur since 2003, delivering life-saving assistance as well as development and peace building programs. CRS’s programs in Sudan span five key priority areas: 1) resilience, 2) food security and safety nets, 3) health, nutrition, water and sanitation, 4) peace building, and 5) emergency response.
CRS continues to offer support to displaced persons, returnees, and host communities, including through emergency shelter programming as well as supporting livelihood networks and their natural resource systems.
CRS is well-prepared through its existing operational capacities, its acceptance by the communities it serves, and the long-standing partnerships with national, regional, and local government administrations, other INGOs and NNGOs, and community leaders.