Global politics and local peace
The war in Sudan, like the other civil wars that have proliferated in the past two decades, has presented novel challenges to international diplomacy. The doctrines and instruments designed to deal with international peace and security during the Cold War proved inadequate when confronted with a new era of internal wars. These wars, such as those in Sudan, have less to do with the power struggles between states or power blocs and more with structural inequalities in the local and global economy, poor governance and disputes over resources and ways of life. And they often manifest themselves along ethnic or religious divides. In such wars, which are characterised by fragmented political authority and predatory economic activity, it has been non-combatants who have borne the brunt of the violence, sometimes to the point where entire social groups have been threatened with extinction.
During the Cold War period a separation was established between the domestic needs of states and the maintenance of international security. On the one hand there was the issue of the promotion of social and economic development and fulfillment of basic human needs; on the other the perceived need to maintain a balance in relations between individual states and, more broadly, the western and communist blocs. In the post-Cold War period this distinction has evaporated: development and international peace and security have become intimately linked.
Responding to the new international environment, the United Nation’s An Agenda for Peace (Boutros-Ghali 1992) offered new policy instruments to address the twin challenges of violent conflict and underdevelopment. Introducing the concept of “peace building”, it marked a shift from classic peacekeeping to multiple and multi-level forms of intervention designed to establish enduring peace in specific conflicts. It is now commonly — and plausibly — asserted that peace agreements which neglect public consultation and participation and which are not complemented by local-level peace processes are unlikely to last. As such, peace building can also be seen as part of the current restructuring of global governance. This has involved a weakening of the role of the nation-state as a vehicle for promoting the well-being and security of its citizens, and a world-wide growth in non-state actors, including non-governmental aid agencies, many of which have taken on tasks of peace building.
Sudan, in many respects, is the epitome of this new approach. With a variety of international economic and military security interests at stake, there is a remarkable range of multilateral development organisations, international non-governmental organisations, private consultancies and private security firms involved in peacemaking and peace building. As responsibilities are divided up, happenstantially, among these actors, there is considerable overlap and little overall coherence. Their interventions with existing indigenous processes of conflict resolution are not always explicit, or fully understood by the protagonists.
Indigenous conflict resolution and the international aid presence
In the 1990s, with the administrative apparatus in many parts of the country abandoned or subverted as a result of war, international NGOs (INGOs) and others involved in assistance to Sudan began to engage with and, in some cases, revive local modes of local conflict resolution. Support for such local peace meetings has now become an established part of the complex intervention by humanitarian and human rights organizations in Sudan. This is a development that has been paralleled in a number of other conflict-affected countries.
The potential of local conflicts to undermine peace agreements at the national level has generated particular interest among donor governments in community-level peacemaking and reconciliation processes. In 2002, for example, the US government, through the Sudan Peace Fund (SPF), budgeted US$10 million over three years to support inter-community dialogue in southern Sudan. In government-controlled areas of the North, UN agencies and INGOs have supported a wide range of activities under the rubric of “peace building” and “conflict transformation”. At the same time, the war in Darfur and the associated breakdown of relations between ethnic groups in western Sudan despite numerous tribal conferences, serves as a sharp reminder of the political limitations on local-level peacemaking.
Research methods used in this report
The present report is an analytical survey of the literature of local peace processes in Sudan—variously referred to in English-language literature as “people-to-people”, “local”, “non-official” or “grassroots” peace processes—from the 1980s to date. It attempts to bring together the available written records of peace meetings in all parts of the country and to provide the most comprehensive possible bibliography, to-date, of these sources of information. The bibliographical research has been guided and supplemented by interviews with researchers and participants in key peace meetings. The report examines the relationship between people-to-people meetings and other activities conducted under the aegis of peace building and it assesses the relationship between these local level processes and the national political dialogue.
The core of the report is a series of case studies of particularly significant local peace processes: Wunlit and related meetings in the Nilotic areas of the South; Abyei and the Nuba Mountains in the North-South transitional zone, and Darfur in the North. The four studies present a historical account of peace meetings in each location, discussing their effectiveness and situating them in the political economy of the wider war. Together these essays provide a framework for understanding the wide variety of transactions that have taken place under the rubric of peace building in Sudan.
As well as a comprehensive bibliography and an extensive glossary, the report has established a database of over a hundred known local peace meetings. Information in the database, which can be updated, is presented in two forms: an analytical list that summarises the key features and outcomes of all recorded meetings (where evidence of these is sufficiently clear), and a geographical and chronological table that plots the locations of peace meetings against the date when they took place. Finally the report also includes a map showing the locations of the meetings and the ethnic groups involved in them.
Assembling the material on local peace meetings has not been a straightforward task. This situation is in contrast with the documentation of the national North-South peace process, for which key documents are widely available (see, for instance, Justice Africa 2002; USIP 2005). In the case of local peace processes, the written material, though clearly extensive, is widely scattered and hard to track down, archived as they are in offices of NGOs in Nairobi, Khartoum or elsewhere. Though some organizations involved in supporting peace programmes—such as Pact, the NSCC and the Larjour Consultancy—have endeavoured to make records of their work available online, there are many other reports commissioned by NGOs that have never been distributed, or that did not get beyond the draft stage, or that are buried in the mass of grey literature generated by the aid presence in Sudan.
There are cases of peace meetings that are known from project proposals to have been supported by international organizations, the outcome of which remains undocumented. The exemplary documentation of the Wunlit peace meeting between the Dinka of former Lakes Province and the Nuer of Western Upper Nile, which produced translated transcripts of the entire proceedings online (see SSFI 1999), and which has consequently become a document of historical importance, has not been replicated. There are, no doubt, records of peace meetings made by officials of the Government or the SPLM that remain unavailable to the public. Finally, for many meetings, particularly those that have taken place without external sponsorship (for instance those between sections of the Dinka of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Baggara groups from South Darfur known to have taken place in the 1990s) there is no written documentation. Such meetings form part of an oral record that has an important role in local peacemaking, but they are beyond the scope of the present report.
Research for the report took the form of initial, unstructured interviews with facilitators and protagonists of local peace meetings, with particular officials of international NGOs who have been involved with support for peace building, and with academics and researchers who have studied them. These interviews and conversations, which took place in offices of aid organizations and academic institutions in London, Khartoum, Kadugli, Nairobi and Lokichokio, were helpful in developing an analytical and interpretive framework for the report and in locating elusive archival material. Document gathering and interviews in the field were followed by the ordering and analysis of the materials, the creation of a database of peace meetings and the further acquisition of literature as more documents became available. The bibliography and the database of peace meetings cover a period up to early 2005.
One of the purposes of the project has been to bring together the literature of local peace in one place and make it more widely available. The report is designed as resource for those involved in current and future peace projects in Sudan, and for future researchers. The bibliography and database, therefore, provide additional information to the meetings referred to in the text of the report. Copies of all the documents listed in the bibliography have been collected, in digital form or hard copy. These will be made available, in due course, online and on disk as part of a wider project for a digital, open-access library of documents on Sudan, the Sudan Open Archive, developed by the Rift Valley Institute. URLs are included in the bibliography when the documents are already available online.
In both the short and the long term, an understanding of the relation of local conflicts and peacemaking to national-level political and military activity is clearly crucial to the success of any peace agreement in Sudan, a country where political fragility, the unresolved history of conflict and the ubiquity of automatic weapons threaten order at every level. During the six-year interim period laid down in the CPA a continuing programme of historically informed monitoring of local conflicts will be necessary, in particular, to ensure that the conditions exist for the fulfilment of the provisions of the Agreement. The same will be true of any agreement that is reached in Darfur, or in the east of Sudan. The present report is intended as a contribution to this work ★
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