Country’s interim governing body meets with rebel groups in attempt to end longstanding conflict
Members of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, the country’s interim governing body, are meeting with Sudanese rebel leaders in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to try and find common ground.
The talks began on Monday in the presence of such dignitaries as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – who last week was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for forging an accord with neighboring Eritrea.
The Sovereignty Council emerged from a power-sharing agreement between the Sudanese military and civilians brokered in the wake of the April ousting of president Omar al-Bashir. Strife between Bashir’s government and the rebels led to decades-long violence.
“The negotiations are about bringing a comprehensive peace to a region which has seen conflict for decades,” Ahmed Soliman, a research fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House, told The Media Line.
“This is a confidence-building conference,” he said, adding that “certain goals need to be achieved at the talks, such as agreement on a comprehensive ceasefire and deciding what to do about prisoners arrested and death sentences put into place when Bashir was in power.”
Although South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan in 2011 following a bloody civil war, Soliman said there was “good reason for choosing Juba” as the site of the talks. He noted that “the Sudanese rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North used to be part of the political party of South Sudan’s President Kiir.”
Kiir participated last month in Juba’s Declaration of Principles conference, which resulted in a draft deal between the Sudanese government and rebel groups.
“South Sudan is seen as a natural fit for this initiative,” Soliman said. “There is a lot of precedent and timeliness involved with Juba being chosen as the location of the talks.”
There has also been a change in the obstacles that existed under Bashir.
“This time, all sides have the common goal of creating a thriving Sudan,” he added. “But complicating the peace talks is the fact that factions within each group want different things.”
Johan Brosché, an associate professor in the department of Peace and Conflict Research at Sweden’s Uppsala University, explained to The Media Line that “within the Sovereignty Council, the generals have different ideas than the pro-democracy members.”
While he said there were also competing goals within the rebel groups, “they have many shared interests, such as the end of marginalizing impoverished regions like Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They want to gain more political and economic influence and have Sudan’s diversity reflected in the government.”
Soliman said he was “optimistic about the prospects for peace,” though doubtful that it would be achieved within the six-month timetable for the talks.
“The government has said that peace is its number one priority. As long as they progress with a commitment to achieve comprehensive peace in the country, I think they can make great strides,” he said.
Brosché said that “while the purpose of the conference is to find a compromise acceptable to all sides, an agreement will mean nothing unless it is followed up with action. Sudan’s history is full of agreements that have not led to peace.”