Summary of Proceedings – Roundtable Discussions
05 December 2013
SALO hosted a visiting delegation of civil society representatives from South Kordofan in Sudan to participate in a Building International Consensus roundtable dialogue focused on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the unfolding mediation process led by the African union High Level Implementation panel.
On 23rd September the African Union Peace and Security Council extended the mandate of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on North and South Sudan until December 2014.
Chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki, and including former Presidents Abdulsalam Abubakar and Pierre Buyoya the AUHIP is tasked with assisting the Sudanese parties in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and other related processes, as part of the democratic transformation of the Sudan. South Africa has a crucial role to play within this process.
The private round-table discussion process included representatives of the South African Government and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Civil Society leaders and members of the International Diplomatic Community. The dialogue was aimed at building a deeper understanding of the context of Sudan, the current progress of the dialogue process and the challenges and opportunities for the International Community in supporting the AUHIP process.
Summary of discussion
The discussion included input from the visiting delegation and the participants from various stakeholders who collectively laid out the historical context out of which the current crisis in Sudan has emerged. These historical factors combine with a set of economic, political and geographical dynamics that have created an ongoing serious crisis in the regions of Sudan that border South Sudan.
This extends all the way from the Central African Republic in the West and Ethiopia in the East, but has a particular affect on Abyei, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, areas in which the broader dynamics are compounded by the demands for self-governance by the groups that have historically inhabited these areas and by the presence of oil reserves, the sale of oil concessions to international interests and the oil-pipeline that runs north through Khartoum to Port Sudan. This pipeline is currently the only means by which South Sudan is able to transport the oil that falls within its borders.
The complexity of the context has created a dire humanitarian crisis for people living in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Daily aerial bombardments and intensive fighting between armed groups, as well as the politically motivated denial of access to humanitarian agencies have led to intensive food insecurity and an outbreak of diseases that have regional implications. No vaccinations against preventable diseases are taking place and there is severe malnutrition and little access to food and other basic needs, including health, clean water and education. Polio in particular threatens not only the Sudanese, but also neighbouring countries, as displacement and forced migration extends the risk of communicable diseases spreading over the borders.
The underlying approach to governance, of a systematic divide and rule policy that has seen the marginalisation, exclusion and domination of minority groups in the North, is seen as part of the systemic and structural factors that lie at the root of current crisis. In addition the piecemeal approach by which the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been implemented has seen many people in Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile rapidly losing confidence in the overall agreement.
Delegates to the meeting stressed that the current approach of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities has zero tolerance for unconstitutional changes to government. Groups intent on using non-democratic or violent means to bring about change at the level of government would not be accepted. This approach leaves frustrated and marginalised groups with little option other than to pursue a path of dialogue, no matter how legitimate their grievances may be, or how unresponsive those in power may be to their concerns.
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the AU High Level Implementation Panel is clearly engaged with the crisis in Sudan. However the extension of the mandate of the AUHIP provides an opportunity to renew the vigour demanded by the extent of the crisis in the areas that form part of the discussions focus. Parallel to this renewal of the AUHIP process an urgent humanitarian response focused on health and food security is required.
One point of leverage would be to point out to all of the conflicting parties that if the dialogue process fails and is referred back to the United Nations Security Council it will be counter to the interests of all of the parties involved. It was noted that the Peace and Security Council had requested the AUHIP to consult with the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, IGAD, on the urgent need for a regional consultative conference on peace, security, cooperation, stability and development in the Horn of Africa.
The meeting concluded with a strong call for an urgent humanitarian response that allows for immediate access to the population living in the Two Areas, for the international community and South Africa to strengthen and extend the mandate of the AUHIP, including the need to better resource and expand the capacity of the panel, and for civil society to work together to raise awareness of the ongoing crisis in the region and increase the political costs of not responding to the calls for humanitarian intervention and longer term deeper political and social solutions. These longer-term solutions must include plans for the democratisation and social transformation of Sudan and South Sudan.
Profiles of the visiting delegation:
Osman Hummaida – Director, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
Osman runs ACJPS, an NGO that works to monitor and promote respect for human rights and legal reform in Sudan. Based in Kampala it produces bimonthly Sudan Human Rights Monitor that tracks violations in the situation in Darfur, SK/BN and Sudan as a whole. One recent report entitled Sudan: No Space for Freedom of Expression (here) was released in April this year in response to the clamp down and closure of some civil society organisations, arbitrary detention, and violent suppression of the freedom of assembly. The report called on the African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights to call on Khartoum to respect freedom of expression assembly and association. Osman Hummaida led fact-finding commissions to Zimbabwe, Northern Uganda Chad and Sudan when he worked for FIDH. Osman speaks fluent English and Arabic.
Albaqir Mukhtar – Director, Al Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)
Albaqir heads a Sudanese civil society organisation that works for the development of peace in Sudan through the implementation of human rights and cultural development projects. KACE does not publish reports much but focuses on activities – for example they have launched a website called altagheer.info which tracks how journalists are being treated. They are also preparing some Sudan filming for you tube and documenting killings from the recent uprisings (but would not like either of these initiatives to be made public). Albaqir speaks fluent English and Arabic and, after studying in the US, decided recently to return to Sudan to help his country in one of the forerunner civil society groups in the country. The organisation was set up in Khartoum but last year was closed down by the government so it now operates from Kampala.
Nagwa Konda – Executive Director, Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NRRDO)
Nagwa heads up one of the few local civil society organisations working in South Kordofan to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the conflict. They are also the only provider of education services in South Kordofan where most teachers have fled, where only a little over half the primary schools are open, and only one secondary school. Children are traumatised by the bombing and trauma due to bombing, insecurity, and destroyed livelihoods further reduce attendance at schools. She is fresh from a mission to the region and able to share her personal testimony and the latest information including the current extent of severe acute malnutrition which has been observed recently in refugee and IDP communities – communities are starting the harvesting season but this is normally accompanied by increased indiscriminate bombing. The last month saw bombing and active ground hostilities across most counties in SK/BN resulting in ongoing displacement and refugee outflows into S Sudan and Ethiopia. She may have reports on cases of polio (which awaits a vital vaccination programme delayed since 2011) and yellow fever. Nagwa speaks fluent English and Arabic.