The Limitations Of The Juba Peace Agreement In Implementing Systematic Security Sector Reform In Sudan

This report will discuss the efficacy and challenges of the Sudanese Peace Agreement, known as the Juba Peace Agreement while considering the nature of the relationship between Sudan’s security sector and democratic transition. Many have had high hopes for Sudan’s future after signing the Juba peace agreement on 3 October 2020, which has been seen as a first step towards bringing peace to conflict zones and a foundation for democracy and economic reform throughout the country. These goals are aligned with Sudan’s popular uprising goals in 2019, which overthrew long-standing President Omar al-Bashir and dismantled the political status quo. However, a number of factors make it unclear whether the political settlement that will ultimately emerge in the next years will be radically different from the one that existed under the previous regime. Continued outbreaks of violence and resistance from a major rebel group in Darfur’s western region demonstrate that formidable challenges remain in the pursuit of sustainable peace, particularly in the peripheral regions of Sudan.


The Sudanese Peace Agreement


The peace agreement was signed in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, between armed and political movements from marginalized regions throughout Sudan. The document is ambitious and has been praised by the UN secretary-general and international community for focusing on the concerns of historically marginalized populations and addressing the root causes of conflict. The agreement promises reparations and justice for victims of past wars and includes plans for the return of internally displaced people (IDPs), which is a critical issue in a region with at least 1.5 million people living in camps. It also looks to resolve the consequences of the conflict by evicting illegal settlers and developing and reconstructing conflict-affected areas. However, despite rhetoric to bring marginalized people to the centre of the political process, the deal has not been popular with the local population in Darfur. The negotiations have been considered a top-down elitist process, and many distrust the new transitional government since it is dominated by military leaders directly involved in past conflicts. Most importantly, though there are provisions for the reorganization and reconfiguration of Sudan’s security forces and army, peace will not be attainable in Sudan without significant security sector reform. In Sudan, security force dysfunction is inextricably linked with political dysfunction, extensive corruption, and an unpredictable legal environment that fostered conflict and stunted prosperity in the past. There is now a window of opportunity to create stability, and if delays in real security sector reform continue, the regime will relapse into kleptocracy.


Challenges in Implementing the Peace Agreement 


There are several concerns related to implementing the peace agreement, given local distrust of the transitional government, insecurity in Darfur, scarce financial resources, and lack of widespread ownership of the protocols. A primary concern in creating sustainable peace is a lack of faith in the transitional government. Though former President Omar Al-Bashir has been arrested and will be handed over to the International Criminal Court, army generals linked to his regime have retained power and hold the top jobs in the civilian-military administration responsible for guiding Sudan to elections in three years. The generals were closely involved in the 2003 war in Darfur, where Darfuri rebel groups revolted against the central government after decades of marginalization and neglect in the region. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led attacks against civilians in Darfur’s parts, is now the President of the Sovereign Council. Vice-President Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is the former leader of the Janjaweed, a brutal Arab militia armed by Khartoum to fight Darfur’s mostly non-Arab rebels. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, and millions were displaced due to these military operations. Though the peace agreement stipulates the application of transitional justice in all of Sudan, it is difficult to see how this is possible when former parties to the conflict are leading the transition.



There are also several security concerns related to the agreement. As part of the deal, rebel groups displaced to neighbouring countries return to Darfur, though the region is already rife with militias, paramilitary groups, and government forces. The return of displaced people to their homes has created conflicts with new occupants in Western Darfur, exacerbating land tensions. Significantly, a prominent rebel movement known as the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) has refused to sign or even participate in negotiations due to a lack of trust in the new government. As a result of exacerbated tensions, renewed deadly attacks have occurred in West Darfur state as recently as mid-April, costing the lives of hundreds of people in the months since the peace deal was signed.



Finding resources to implement the peace agreement will also be a significant challenge due to Sudan’s dire economic situation. Sudan’s resources have dwindled from the previous regime’s mismanagement, decreased oil revenues, the COVID-19 pandemic, and unprecedented flooding. The implementation of the agreement will require sustained and generous support from regional and international partners. Donor budgets are already under heavy pressure due to the global economic downturn, so raising money will be difficult. Sudan is also on the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which prevents the country from receiving debt relief, accessing concessionary loans, and securing significant foreign investment. The peace agreement will not be feasible without urgently removing Sudan from the list since it blocks many financial avenues for the state.



Past efforts to resolve Darfur’s crisis (in Nigeria 2006, and Qatar 2011) failed due to unrealistic deadlines imposed on conflict parties and entrenched distrust between rebels and the government. The deal participants say this time will be different because of the change in the political environment. Ahmed Tugod, the chief negotiator of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the main Darfuri rebel groups, said, “The trust, the will, and the determination of both sides to reach peace is the driving force that led us to sign.” The implementation of the agreement has begun, with signatory groups receiving government positions. JEM’s leader became minister of finance in February, and another Darfuri rebel chief was appointed to the transitional sovereign council, the governing body of Sudan. Analysts believe that including individuals from Darfur and other peripheral parts of Sudan in the government will rebalance a political and economic system that has been central elite-dominated since independence. However, victims of the conflict who spoke to The New Humanitarian said they did not believe they would benefit from an agreement without widespread ownership. There were also accusations of the rebel leaders prioritizing their positions in government over the needs of local people.



Security Sector Reform Agenda



Sudan has a unique window of opportunity to achieve fundamental security sector transformation, both as an outcome and a catalyst for the democratic transition. The country has been successful in dismantling the previous status quo and creating early reforms. However, future success depends on the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance, a broad political coalition of civilian and rebel Sudanese groups. The FFC must prioritize internal consensus building to stay united in the face of those who are interested in reconstructed Sudan’s previous political marketplace. The FFC has also struggled to balance its pragmatic governing alliance with Sudan’s security forces on the one hand and the need to make significant security reforms with peripheral communities and armed groups on the other. The Juba peace agreement’s protocol on the reorganization of the security forces and the army is nowhere near the overarching reform objectives necessary to dismantle a sprawling, corrupt, expensive, brutal, and ineffective arrangement of military forces, paramilitaries, and security units.



Following the Juba peace agreement talks, the security reform must first set overarching reform objectives and then focus on creating inclusive, transparent, and credible processes and mechanisms that will gather the information necessary to create widely supported means to achieve the objectives. This will ensure that the coalition of those striving for security reform cannot easily be divided and weakened and that popular demand for reform remains influential. In order to resolve the tension between the civilian and military factions and address both short- and long-term security reform tasks, a joint institutional mechanism should be established to specifically examine, design, and implement solutions to security and justice issues, and oversee the designed programs during and after the transition. This will require the conduction of complete security needs assessment throughout Sudan, followed by an assessment of the current state of the security institutions. A detailed plan to gradually remove the security forces from their role in Sudan’s economy should be drafted. Military-run enterprises should be returned to public or private ownership. There should be a program to integrate former combatants into existing security institutions reasonably and then carefully reduce these institutions to an appropriate size. A national security strategy and new military doctrine should be developed in line with the principles of the revolution, such as inclusivity, equality, secularism, and justice.



It is essential that an inclusive and public process for the provision of security institutions is implemented and eventually ratified in the post-transition constitution. Widespread consultation, inclusion, and transparency must be treated as critical elements of the proposed mechanisms’ tasks. This is particularly important in the peripheral regions of Sudan, which are too remote to be policed by a centralized force. Each locality in Sudan must present its preference for the structure of local security and justice provision in its area. Encouraging various communities to articulate the arrangements best suited to their area and improve on what already exists is far more realistic and achievable than other alternatives. Many localities already rely on chiefs, customary authorities, or armed groups for these services informally. A reformed and formalized system must ensure that they are accountable to their constituents rather than the central government and that there is a mechanism for removal if the community is unsatisfied. A participatory approach will address equity by the communities and motivate them to assist the returnees for faster reintegration.


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