Long riddled with conflict, a recently signed peace agreement may pave the road to peace
It is a country populated by 39 million people. A civil-war strewn country where religion and politics play out in deadly war games. Where 2 million are dead and countless more are refugees.
It is Sudan.
And there is hope.
Even before fighting broke out in the Darfur region of western Sudan in February 2003, the southern region of the country was in the midst of a crisis.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Sudan has a long history of unrest. It has been in a civil war for all but 10 years (between 1972 and 1982) since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1956.
“The wars are rooted in northern economic, political and social domination of non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese,” the Factbook states. “Since 1983, the war and war- and famine-related effects have led to more than 2 million deaths and over 4 million people displaced.”
Trouble in Darfur
All this was going on before what Colin Powell called genocide began occurring in Darfur.
In Darfur, war between the Sudan Liberation Army (the pro-government militia) and Janjaweed (the rebels), have killed tens of thousands and displaced some 2 million more. It has led to pillaging, murdering, raping and scorching entire cities across the region.
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last September, Secretary of State Powell said: “We concluded — I concluded — that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility and that genocide may still be occurring.”
The Janjaweed are largely recruited from the local Arab tribes and those being persecuted are largely Africans.
Other organizations, including the United Nations, have resisted calling the ongoing conflict genocide.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week called for an end to the violence in Darfur:
“The (Security) Council demanded that the Government fulfill its commitment to disarm Janjaweed militias and apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders and their associates who have incited and carried out violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and other atrocities.”
There is hope
A cease-fire between the north and south recently went into effect as both signed a peacekeeping agreement Jan. 9.
“The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signals the parties’ willingness to put an end to one of Africa’s longest and most intractable wars, during which more than 2 million people were killed, 4 million were uprooted and some 600,000 were forced to seek shelter beyond the Sudan’s borders as refugees,” Annan said in his Jan. 31 report to the Security Council.
The agreement is between the north and south, but Darfur remains a dangerous area. This is an issue Jan Pronk, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, says could undo the work of the peace agreement if not corrected.
“Without a solution in Darfur, north-south will not remain a sustainable peace agreement,” Pronk said.
The United Nations is contemplating sending a peacekeeping operation to support the African Union’s work, according to a press release from Jo����l W. Adechi (Benin), president of the U.N. Security Council.
“This is an enormous challenge for a nation that is rebuilding itself, fifty years after having become independent, following a long period of colonial rule,” Pronk said in a briefing last week. “The people of Sudan have to do all this basically themselves. It is their nation, their peace, their future. But they will have to be helped from outside, and this is what they expect. We will have to meet that expectation.”
Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected]
The Associated Press contributed to this article.