This excellent summary from Nuba Report give a clear indication of where the war in Sudan is going.
Peace Talks Collapse Again
Peace talks are meant to recommence in late September after talks collapsed last month.
On August 14, the African Union-brokered peace negotiations collapsed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between the Sudan government and umbrella opposition group, Sudan Call.
The umbrella Sudan Call opposition in attendance included: the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N) from the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State; two Darfur rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement–Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) and the Justice Equality Movement (JEM); and the leading opposition party, the Umma Party.
In the case of the SPLM-N and government negotiations, talks collapsed over access points for humanitarian aid to war-affected areas. The SPLM-N eventually presented a compromise: 80 percent of aid comes across frontlines from government-controlled areas in Sudan, while 20 percent would come cross border from Asosa, western Ethiopia underSudanese government supervision. The government refused any aid emanating from a foreign country, claiming the aid could be misused to carry weapons for the rebel forces.
Conversely, the SPLM-N opposed all aid originating from Sudan, fearing the NCP would block or manipulate aid deliveries as a weapon of war.
In the case of Darfur, negotiations broke down on August 14 after the rebels refused to reveal 13 force locations as required by the government at the beginning of a cessation of hostilities agreement. The Darfur groups also objected to the government’s insistence on using the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) as the basis for negotiations. Neither of the rebel groups were signatory to the DDPD in the past, and maintained their current discussions over a cessation of hostilities had no relation to the July 2011 document.
The African Union (AU) mediators released a statement on August 17 accusing the Darfur rebel groups of re-opening issues “that had previously been agreed and others which contradicted the Roadmap Agreement.” The AU further said the rebel groups refused “balanced options” in regards to the government request for the location of rebel fighters ahead of signing a cessation of hostilities.
Prior to the collapse on August 8, the main parties behind Sudan Call signed the AU-brokered roadmap agreement, a procedural document designed to assist the two warring parties reach a final peaceful solution. On March 19 during previous AU-brokered peace talks in Addis Ababa, the government and Chief Negotiator Thabo Mbeki signed the roadmap peace agreement while the opposition declined.
The main parties of the Sudan Call refused to sign the document since the agreement excluded key opposition groups and would operate through an ongoing dialogue process, called the National Dialogue, that they claim is government-controlled.
Both sides have traded accusations for the collapse of the talks and, equally, both sides have claimed they are willing to resume the peace talks despite the foundered discussions. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged both sides to return to the negotiating table.
What it means…
The collapse of the latest talks, the twelfth attempt, may represent one of the last attempts at peaceful negotiation for Sudan. In an address to senior military officers on August 21, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir said they would only “negotiate by force” if attempts at peaceful negotiation failed this year.
The collapse of the peace talks may repeat this month if the AU continues to use Thabo Mbeki as the chief negotiator. There is deep mistrust, especially among the Darfur rebel groups, regarding his neutrality vis-à-vis the Sudanese government. Many of the rebel groups see his past mediation in Darfur and the contested Abyei area both in 2011 as exemplary of his bias towards the Khartoum.
Conversely, sources attending the talks claim the AU has lost confidence in the multiple Darfur rebel groups to convey a singular, practical stance to usher in peace. Often split on personal differences and individual power and ethnic interests, factionalism has dissipated the strength and mediator’s confidence in the legitimacy of the rebel movements.
The political impasse over humanitarian aid access between the government and SPLM-N is not a new debate. The Sudan government has denied aid access emanating outside of the country since the conflict started in 2011, harbouring deep suspicions over aid routes being misused by the rebels for military purposes. The government nominally supported a Memorandum of Understanding between the SPLM-N, the AU, League of Arab States and the UN to provide humanitarian access to war affected areas in 2011 but the document was never implemented to date.
The government refusal to compromise over humanitarian access points in the war-affected regions of the two areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states) may remain a permanent position. Providing humanitarian relief to the SPLM-N-controlled areas defies Sudan’s military strategy to force civilians in rebel areas to relocate to government-controlled regions through a war of attrition. Government forces have scaled up offensives in 2016, targeting farmlands and market areas crucial for food production and access.
Three other areas of contention for upcoming peace talks between the SPLM-N and government involve disarmament, the status of the national dialogue and inclusivity.
Authorities insist the SPLA-N disarm upon signing a cessation of hostilities agreement, while the rebels will only agree to a more gradual integration process with the Sudanese army before considering disarmament.
The SPLM-N has reiterated repeatedly their refusal to participate in the ongoing National Dialogue launched by Bashir in October 2014, claiming it is factitious and government-controlled. SPLM-N Secretary General Yasir Arman has, however, confirmed their willingness to participate in a separate, evolved National Dialogue process. It is unclear; however, whether the government will insist on the SPLM-N joining the current dialogue taking place in Khartoum.
Finally, SPLM-N insists any peaceful solution must be national in nature rather than achieved on a case-by-case basis. SPLM-N has called for a countrywide peace and political reform process involving all opposition forces across the country rather than consecutive deals preferred by the ruling party. The reason, according to SPLM-N statements, is their concern that the government will manipulate the process if resolutions are not national in nature and that agreements will be breached. The government, however, argues the issues of conflict are diverse and cannot be resolved holistically.
With peace talks still in limbo, conflicts will continue in the two areas and Darfur.
Poor harvests, meagre rainfall and the ongoing conflict in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile may lead to severe food shortages this year and potential starvation the next. In Darfur, the U.N. estimates 82,000 people were newly displaced across the region in the first seven months of 2016, largely coming from the Jebel Marra area.