The fifth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, reinforced by some high profile advocacy actions (thanks to all who turned out!) helped generate a slew of articles, videos, and op-eds drawing attention to this critical moment in Sudan.
Leading the pack, and carrying with them the heft of firsthand negotiating experience in Sudan, former U.S. special envoy to Sudan John Danforth and chief mediator in the peace talks that yielded the CPA Lt. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo co-authored this hardhitting op-ed in the Financial Times. They warn, in no uncertain terms, that absent renewed international attention directed at holding the parties to their agreements made in the CPA, “the elections and referendum may throw Sudan back into civil war.” Laying out a set of three recommendations for world leaders, Danforth and Sumbeiywo make the point that international engagement was needed yesterday, but that there is time to help walk Sudan back from the edge:
It is already too late to implement the full promise of the CPA. But there is still some time to avoid a near certain disaster that would set the people of Sudan back to the darkest days of the north-south war. We urge world leaders to use every day that is left.
Headed back to war?
Thanks to a timely report by a group of aid agencies highlighting the spike in violence in southern Sudan last year, much of the reporting on the anniversary examined whether Africa’s longest civil war, from 1983-2005, may restart.
Al-Jazeera’s Inside Story aired an in-depth report about the prospects of increasing violence in Sudan, dedicating 25 minutes to interviewing Safwat Fanos, a political scientist from Khartoum University, and Edward Thomas, a historian and analyst with Chatham House. Archbishop of Sudan, Dr. Daniel Deng, also appeared on the program, calling on the international community to re-engage in Sudan with the same level of dedication that brought about the CPA.
The Sudan Tribune, of course, had ample coverage of the anniversary. This piece captured the sentiments being expressed by Sudan’s leading parties on the occasion. According to the Tribune, leaders traded barbs over who is responsible for not making unity attractive to southerners.
Time’s Alex Perry boiled down the situation in Sudan into a series of questions and answers, drawing from the insights of journalist and Sudan commentator Rob Crilly. Addressing the question of what the international community can do now, Crilly aptly states: “Under pressure from China, Bashir allowed peacekeepers into Darfur. Under pressure from the U.S., he signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the south in 2005. In short, with the right combination of carrots and sticks, [Bashir] is prepared to do deals."
While the increased attention to Sudan from the media was certainly good to see, it was surprising how often journalists failed to mention how President Bashir’s National Congress Party created many of the abhorrent conditions that marginalize and continue to put people at risk throughout the country. Failing to acknowledge this important underlying fact is like talking around the elephant in the room – it misconstrues the nature of Sudan’s multiple conflicts and, unfortunately, skews the discussion of what should be done to promote peace.
Though NPR’s coverage usually sets the standard, this piece by NPR’s correspondent in Nairobi was perhaps the most egregious, unhelpfully noting that a first step to preventing further violence is, “Everybody needs to calm down.”
Much of the coverage also focused on Beat for Peace, a kick-off event for a new advocacy coalition, Sudan365. Drum circles and rallies took place around the world, tied together through this video featuring world famous drummers like Radiohead’s Phil Selway, the Police’s Stewart Copeland, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, and Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn. The biggest buzz arguably came from the London event, covered by the BBC, where protestors marched in front of 10 Downing Street to call on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to be more engaged in Sudan. Save Darfur in the U.S. published this collection of photos from the D.C. event.
Reuters captured the reaction of Sudanese leaders to the coalition’s message. A statement by Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said that the message “from some foreign organizations…that the north and the south are doomed to go back to war, was not correct and was not backed by facts on the ground."
Were you watching the coverage of the anniversary this weekend? Did you attend one of the Beat for Peace rallies? Tell us what you think/saw. What’s on your mind as the countdown begins towards the South’s vote on independence, one year from now?