The Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement: Taking Stock and Moving Forward
Background to the Workshop
Eastern Sudan, comprising the three states of Kassala, Red Sea, and Gedarif, is, according to many accounts, among the most marginalized regions in Sudan.1 There are few international humanitarian agencies in the region2, and information on social and economic conditions is scarce. The extent of eastern Sudan’s marginalization led to the creation of the Beja Congress, an armed and political movement, in 1958 and the development of a low-intensity conflict in 1997. In 2005, the Beja Congress joined forces with the Rashaida Free Lions, a rebel group, and other small groups to form the Eastern Front.
A peace agreement between the Eastern Front and the Government of Sudan (GOS) was signed in October 2006, ending the fighting. USIP, the Kenya-based Nairobi Peace Initiative-Africa (NPI-Africa), and the Delta Voluntary Organization, a civil society organization based in Kassala, Sudan, collaborated to organize a workshop to assess the implementation of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA). The workshop, which took place in Khartoum on July 31 to August 1, 2007 included representatives from civil society organizations, academia, the ESPA negotiating team, the GOS, the media, and other regional experts. This event was a follow-up to an August 2006 workshop that USIP and NPI-Africa organized. At the Nairobi event, several members of civil society organizations that worked in eastern Sudan convened to discuss the social and economic challenges facing the region.3
The meeting had three main objectives. Firstly, it would disseminate information about critical provisions of the ESPA and assess the implementation process. To this end, the workshop endeavored to clarify the major provisions—wealth sharing, power sharing, security guarantees, and the proposed reconciliation conference—as well as other aspects of the agreement. Secondly, the workshop sought to build relationships between civil society and government to work together toward the implementation of the ESPA. Finally, the workshop aimed to strengthen the networks among civil society organizations.
This workshop report summarizes the major issues discussed regarding the status of implementation, the new challenges posed by the ESPA, and the potential of civil society to play a positive role in implementing the accord. It concludes with a set of recommendations from the participants on the most effective means by which all stakeholders can work more collaboratively to ensure the implementation of the ESPA and peace and stability in the East.
The Status of the Implementation of the ESPA
To many participants, the ESPA represented more than an agreement to stop fighting. Among the most important aspects of the ESPA cited were the rights that it conferred on the region’s inhabitants. In particular, some emphasized equality before the law and freedom of movement and religion. Others noted that the real value of the ESPA was that it recognized the grievances voiced by the people of the east and encouraged the rest of the country to take steps to correct past injustices. Many also considered the ESPA a blueprint for regional development—an opportunity to overcome poverty and social isolation, which lie at the core of the grievances of Eastern Sudanese. In this regard, the main components of the peace agreement—power sharing, wealth sharing, and security guarantees—were seen as first steps in ending eastern Sudan’s isolation.
However, even though a number of political nominations have taken place and the demobilization of the Eastern Front is moving forward, several key aspects of the ESPA remain unfulfilled. In addition, the implementation of the ESPA has created new ethnic tensions in the region as groups vie for political power.
A key aspect of the power-sharing arrangements in the ESPA is the nomination of representatives from the Eastern Front to serve at various levels of national, state, and local governments. The ESPA calls for specific nominations of Eastern Front representatives in: the presidency; the council of ministries; the national assembly; national civil service commissions; and institutions. 4
Government representatives at the workshop reported that the National Assembly had thus far nominated eight representatives from the Eastern Front. Other Eastern Front representatives have been appointed to the central government, including an assistant to the president, an advisor to the president, and the state minister for transport.5 However, the majority of positions promised to the Eastern Front have yet to be filled. While some of the workshop’s participants viewed this as a breach in the agreement, others noted that the Eastern Front had not identified its candidates for various posts.
Economic Development Plans
Because the lack of development is at the core of the grievances in Eastern Sudan, the creation of a development fund is among the most contentious and anticipated aspects of the ESPA. Indeed, some participants advocated that the ESPA must be thought of as a development tool for East Sudan. The ESPA provides for the establishment of a $100 million Eastern Sudan Reconstruction and Development Fund in 2007, with annual allocations of at least $125 million until 2011—a total of $600 million in four years. The funds for reconstruction and development would be managed by a committee headed by the Minister of Finance and National Economy and staffed by the governors of the three states in Eastern Sudan, Eastern Front representatives, and two national experts to be appointed by the president. 6
To date, the initial deposit of $100 million has not been transferred – although government representatives at the workshop promised that the funds would be in place by the end of 2007. While many participants welcomed the proposed $100 million, they pointed out that the more important issue was the manner in which the fund would be used, and stressed the need for a development plan.
The group was divided on the role of the international community’s involvement in the development of eastern Sudan. While a few participants suggested the organization of a donor’s conference for Eastern Sudan, some cautioned against inviting foreign entities into the implementation of the ESPA. Others felt that the GOS must be more involved in the development of the eastern Sudan, rather than leaving the task up to the international community.
Some participants considered the ESPA’s provisions for wealth-sharing insufficient. Specifically, they criticized the agreement for leaving the local entities outside the decision-making processes. One participant recommended that just as power-sharing provisions in the ESPA reach down to the level of local councils, wealth-sharing should do the same. Currently, provisions do not allow for this level of decentralization, leaving local councils without resources. Similarly, another participant stressed that local councils should be treated as the main avenues for development in the east.
The implementation of the ESPA’s security arrangements has made the most progress of all provisions, according to many participants. Former combatants with the Eastern Front are in designated camps in eastern Sudan, where they are being registered as part of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process. To assist with reintegration, the Eastern Front ex-fighters will receive clothing and $250.7 They will also choose among different training options to acquire skills for income-generating activities. The committee managing the implementation of the security arrangements includes representatives from the Eastern Front, Eritrea, and the GOS.
In the ESPA, the GOS promises to lift the state of emergency in the region within a week of its signing. Yet, according to some participants, the state of emergency is still in place. Notably, the state of emergency in Tokar, a city in eastern Sudan, prevents non-governmental organizations from traveling to the region. According to one participant, in July 2007, humanitarian organizations could not reach the population affected by the region’s floods.
The Consultative Conference on the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement
Within this overall framework, the ESPA commits the GOS and the Eastern Front to organizing a Consultative Conference on the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (CCESPA) in order to disseminate information on and galvanize support for the agreement, promote its implementation, and provide a forum for discussion among stakeholders. The CCESPA was to take place within 30 days of the signing of the accord, but this has not occurred.8 The GOS explained that planning for the CCESPA has not begun because the Eastern Front’s representative to the conference committee has yet to arrive in Sudan.
Ethnic Tensions Arising from the ESPA
Although the ESPA aimed to resolve conflict between the national government and the region, participants reported that its implementation has created tension between ethnic groups in the East. Some believe that those who contributed the most to the struggle in the East are not benefiting from the opportunities of the ESPA. In particular, some ethnic groups believe that others have benefited disproportionately from political appointments and land settlements.
The Way Forward: Implementation of the ESPA and Stability in the East
Increase Awareness and Discussion of the ESPA
The information contained in the ESPA must be disseminated, debated, and understood. If necessary, some felt that the articles in the ESPA could be amended to strengthen the agreement. However, many felt that the components of the ESPA were not widely known, which is hindering the monitoring of its implementation and the full engagement of citizens. To this end, participants advocated greater efforts to reach out to the media, encouraged government officials to discuss the ESPA with their constituents, and suggested that additional workshops take place.
Ensure Availability and Prudent Use of Development Funds
Although many lauded the creation of the development fund, there were concerns that it would be insufficient, used improperly, or exclude input from local councils. To ensure an effective use of funds, some supported the adoption of a development map for Eastern Sudan to identify priorities in the region. In addition, others advocated for the participation of all stakeholders, in particular local councils, in determining development priorities.
Prioritize Social Reconciliation Processes
The war and the peacebuilding process have created ethnic rivalries. To ensure that stability in the East prevails, the participants recommended the organization of an East-East Dialogue to take steps to bridge ethnic divisions. In addition, ethnicity should not be used as a criterion to fulfill power-sharing provisions, in order to avoid creating new conflicts.
Build the Capacity of All Stakeholders in the ESPA
Many of the stakeholders in the ESPA, in particular civil society and the Eastern Front, suffer from weak institutional and governing capacities, endangering the implementation of the agreement. In particular, participants stressed the need for the Eastern Front to transform itself from an insurgent group to a political party. For more effective involvement of civil society organizations, participants recommended that the government clarify laws guiding nongovernmental operations and improve access to funding and capacity training.
Send Recommendations to State Officials and the Upcoming Consultative Conference
The recommendations of the workshop should be widely disseminated. Specific recipients include the governors and speakers of parliament of Kassala, Gedarif, and Red Sea states; the chairpersons of all political parties; and the upcoming CCESPA.
1. John Young, "The Eastern From and the Struggle against Marginalization," Small Arms Survey, HSBA Working Paper 3, May 2007, p. 17 (electronic version).
2. Sara Pantuliano, "Comprehensive Peace? Causes and Consequences of Underdevelopment and Instability in Eastern Sudan," NGO Paper September 2005 (electronic version).
5. "Sudan president appoints ex-eastern rebels to government posts," Sudan Tribune, May 31, 2007 (www.sudantribune.com); "East Sudan former rebels sworn in to government," AFP, August 29, 2007 (www.sudan.net).
6. Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement, Article 23.
8. Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement, Article 33.
This USIPeace Briefing was written by Dorina Bekoe, senior program officer in the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Institute, which does not advocate specific policies.
The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by Congress. Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide. The Institute does this by empowering others with knowledge, skills, and resources, as well as by directly engaging in peacebuilding efforts around the globe.