Successive weeks and rounds of exhausting and persevering talks in Khartoum
, finally culminated and fructified in the signing of The Revitalized peace agreement by all factions in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, in the margins of a regional summit in Ethiopia, putting an end to the country's five-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, and more importantly, opens a new page and a new opportunity to build lasting peace and stability in the Republic of South Sudan.
President Al Bashir lived up to his word, when he translated the commitment he made to the leadership of the opposition factions, during the Khartoum negotiations, to include their remarks and reservations during the meeting of the heads of the (IGAD), To that effect, Sudan put great efforts to convince the heads of the IGAD Group meeting in Addis Ababa, to tackle these concerns. In fact, it’s that effort which eventually turned the doors wide open, for the final signing of this celebrated Agreement in Addis Ababa.
The above cited position, by and large, refutes the disguised allegations by some circles here and there, that Khartoum has been working on a hidden agenda with Juba, to put pressure on the opposition forces. From the outset and all through the talks, Khartoum was keen to keep the same distance from all the conflicting parties, and dealt with utmost neutrality. Perhaps this is what characterized the Khartoum negotiations (gaining the trust of all parties)
Sudanese Foreign Minister Dr. Dirdiri Mohammad Ahmed emphasized that, peace agreement is an achievement for Africa and not for Sudan. It symbolically represents an indication and a shift that indigenous players, are both willing and capable to address the continent's peace and security issues, expressing his personal optimism that the agreement will lead to security and stability in southern Sudan. In fact, what has been achieved in Khartoum has created the right ground for the restoration of peace security and welfare, and leaves behind no reason to return to warfare.
Arguably, in recognition of its the crucial role, Khartoum could have been the best venue for hosting the final signing ceremony, However, some objective considerations might have led to the otherwise; not the least, the convening of the first regular IGAD summit, after lone nine years of postponement in the Ethiopian capital, which more importantly, opens the way for rotating IGAD presidency periodically and democratically among member states without exception or sensitivity.
The above progress was only made possible, by the recent historic rapprochement between the neighboring Ethiopia and Eretria. Therefore, it was deemed appropriate in IGAD, to synchronize the two historic events, at the headquarters of the African Union.
On the other hand, Let's be reminded that Khartoum's initiative to restore peace in South Sudan, has not been launched in isolation from the international community or the troika, as the latter were duly informed with the intentions and the objectives of the process under the auspices IGAD umbrella.
However, from the very outset, some circles were not enthusiastic with the regional peace efforts: On the contrary, they were set to withdraw the whole process from IGAD, referring it instead to the Security Council, preferring sanctions option.
In contrast, Sudan held a contrary viewpoint; premised that South Sudan should not be neglected and left to face its destiny alone, taking into account that Western countries, in particular, have started to manifest somewhat neglected response or donor fatigue, as most of their attention has been diverted on other crisis like Syria and Yemen, for their own agenda, namely, to contain the refugee influx into Europe.
On their part, Sudan and the rest of the countries of the region, concurrently, started to sense of importance and urgency of restoring peace in south Sudan, especially after U.N reports started to warn, among other things, that South Sudan had become Africa's largest refugee crisis and the third largest in the world after Syria and Afghanistan.
Those who have chosen to remain cynical or skeptical on Sudan's intentions should have understood that Sudan in essence, should have no qualms of whatsoever, if the achievement of peace in South Sudan would serve its short or long term economic interests, If Sudan’s economic and security interest happen, at this juncture, to intersect with one of its immediate neighbors.
Isn’t it for the immediate interest of Sudan -like any other country around the world- to live in a peaceful and stable neighborhood? In fact, Sudan from the outset made it very clear, that its interests are more likely to align with those of the people of South Sudan, as both neighbors shall equally and very soon, benefit from enhancing security, doubling their bilateral trade, and activating the signed agreements of 2012, in all fields of mutual benefits, with oil cooperation in the core of which.
On their part, the southern politicians and citizens alike, from different political spectrum, have been racing were still racing to express their gratitude and thanks for the crucial role played by the Sudanese government in the signing a peace agreement in Addis Ababa between the parties in his country, which marks a new beginning of the relations between Juba and Khartoum, and a major step that restored confidence between Sudan and South Sudan.
The main guarantor for the sustainability of this peace agreement, contrary to what has been the case in 2015, is the leaders and the people of South Sudan themselves; wracked by the fire and bitterness of war, They are increasingly poised today more than ever, to guard this agreement, as it enters its pre-transitional period. Perhaps, the standard pace and record time, in which they were patch up their differences for the sake of national interest in Khartoum, increasingly validates such hope and optimism.
The second guarantor is the unity and solidarity of the states and leaders of the region behind this agreement, being the legitimate child of the joint efforts of the region. Such new spirit of solidarity that was not available in form or content in 2015, in addition to the availability of adequate mechanisms this time to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement politically and militarily.
The new agreement per se, remains an important and strong step, which sets the foundations for the long and thorny road towards lasting peace in South Sudan. However, skeptics are highly expected to give the current peace, its due and fair opportunity, as history shall not never be merciful, with those who continue lag behind and hold themselves back, when assistance were desperately needed by people of South Sudan.
Indeed, taking into account the magnitude of developmental and humanitarian challenges that lie ahead, there is bound to be a critical gap between the requirements of the unfolding peace process on one side, and the Juba’s capacity to deliver essential services to the people. Therefore, the international community and donor countries need to revisit their current bystander’s position, and spare no effort in supporting the new RTGoNU government, for it’s always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
*The author was a member of Sudan’s mediation team in South Sudan talks in Khartoum