On 3 October 2020, the Sudanese transitional government signed a peace agreement with the armed factions affiliated to the Revolutionary Front. The agreement comprised eight protocols, the most prominent of which are the security arrangements and the integration of the armed movements into a unified Sudanese army. However, this agreement was signed amidst the boycott of many armed movements, especially the Sudan Liberation Army, Abdul Wahid al-Nur’s Wing (SLA-AW), and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) (Abdel Aziz al-Hilu's Wing). This raises many questions about the future of the integration of the armed movements into the Sudanese army.

The content of the agreement

The agreement between the Sudanese parties, represented by the transitional government and the factions affiliated to the Revolutionary Front, most notably the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement - Transitional Council (SLM-TC), the Sudan People's Liberation Movement–North, Malik Agar's Wing (SPLM-N (Agar)), and the Sudan Liberation Movement, Minni Arcua Minnawi’s Wing (SLM-MM), stipulates the initiation of a permanent ceasefire and the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of combatants, in order to create a safe and stable environment to support the implementation of the comprehensive agreements for peace and political transition in Sudan.[1]

The agreement provided for the integration of the armed movements into the military establishment and security agencies in three phases, ending with the end of the 39-month transitional period, where integration would take place after the completion of the consolidation (90 days) and training (15 months) processes, so that the integrated forces would remain in Darfur for a period of forty months from the date of signing the agreement, subject to extension, provided that the forces would be integrated into complete military units according to the organisation of the Sudanese Armed Forces. The agreement also stipulates the formation of a joint supreme council to follow up the integration processes, the appointment of a number of movement officers in the land forces, the police and the general intelligence according to the size of the forces being integrated, and the formation of a joint force of 12,000 soldiers to maintain security and collect weapons in Darfur.[2]

Opportunities and challenges

1. Opportunities:

  • The gains made by the movements that signed the agreement, especially their representation in the transitional institutions and government jobs, and the granting of autonomy to the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions, which encourages those movements to proceed with implementing the integration procedures, especially after having been granted three seats in the Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC), five ministerial portfolios in the executive government, and 75 seats in the Transitional Legislative Council (TLC). The agreement excluded the leaders of those movements from the provisions of Article 20 of the Constitutional Document, which prohibits anyone who assumes a position in the transitional authority from running in the upcoming elections.[3]
  • Regional support for the peace agreement, especially on the part of the government of South Sudan, which aims to achieve political stability in Khartoum and strengthen relations between the two countries. Besides, it seeks to avoid border conflicts and the risk of chaos in Khartoum and the transfer thereof to it, which could lead to the collapse of the current peace agreement in South Sudan.[4]

2. Challenges:

  • The fact that the agreement does not cover all the Sudanese armed movements, given that there are reportedly nearly 85 armed movements in the country. In addition, the agreement is also boycotted by the SPLM-N (al-Hilu) and the SLA-AW. Achieving a comprehensive peace requires the involvement of both those movements, given that they control large areas of the Sudanese territories.[5]
  • Rivalry between the military and civilian components within the transitional government, especially after the split between the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA).[6] The inclusion of armed movements as new members would also increase those tensions, as it would increase the representation of the military elite at the expense of the civilian elite and the FFC.[7]
  • The tendency of the SPLM-N (al-Hilu) to join forces with the SPA, which reinforces the latter's demands for more political reforms and the Movement's pressures for self-determination for the Nuba Mountains.[8]
  • The increase in ethnic violence and tribal tensions, especially in the east, west and south of the country, and increased competition over land ownership and access to natural resources. For example, in June 2020, clashes erupted between the Messiria and Nuba tribes in Lagawa, in West Kordofan, as well as clashes between the Bani Amir and al-Hadanduwah tribes in eastern Sudan, killing more than thirty people and injuring more than a hundred others.[9] In some cases, those tribal conflicts turn into conflicts between the army and factions of the armed movements.
  • Challenges related to the procedures for consolidating the forces and demobilising inappropriate personnel, and determining the number of fighters to be integrated or demobilised. This tempts the movements’ leaders to inflate their numbers and reduce the size of demobilisation. This may lead to reproducing the problems that created a fragmented military and security establishment. Furthermore, the formation and distribution of the integrated forces in the form of units would affect their assimilation into the armed forces.[10]
  • Economic challenges, challenges related to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and devastating floods.[11] These require enormous financing to overcome their economic and humanitarian repercussions, even as the integration and demobilisation processes equally require large funding that may far exceed the capabilities of the transitional government.[12]

The future of the process of integrating the armed movements into the military establishment (possible scenarios)

First scenario: proceeding with the integration process. The transitional government intends to launch new negotiations, especially with the SPLM-N (al-Hilu), which has already signed an agreement with the transitional government on 3 September 2020 to halt hostilities until security arrangements are agreed upon. Nevertheless, negotiations with the SLA-AW remain among the most important challenges facing this process, as this movement refuses to recognise the transitional government and the peace negotiations.[13] Challenges also include those associated with implementing the agreement and completing the integration process, in addition to the failure yet to form the Transitional Legislative Council, which is necessary to include the agreement in the Constitutional Document.

Second scenario: the return of instability and fighting between the armed movements. Negotiations with the government provoked violent reactions in some areas.[14] Some ethnic groups continue to challenge the legitimacy of the Revolutionary Front’s representation of their regions, such as Nuba.[15] This may lead to clashes between the armed movements. However, this scenario is challenged by the ongoing efforts to sign a peace agreement with the rest of the movements that did not sign the agreement.

Third scenario: the faltering of the integration process and escalation of conflicts within the Sudanese military establishment. This is facilitated by the influence of ethnic affiliations over the military formations of the Sudanese army, for example the influence of the Abbala pastoralists on the Rapid Support Forces, the influence of Nuba on some military units, and the very emergence of the armed movements themselves based on ethnic motives and affiliations.[16] Thus, the integration of the armed movements may lead to the extension of ethnic conflicts into the military establishment, which would threaten its stability, due to the difference in military doctrines, ethnic loyalties, and levels of training.[17] Some armed movements have often accused the army of supporting tribes against one another.

Conclusion

The security arrangements agreement in Sudan faces many challenges, and its implementation requires the sustained and generous support of regional and international partners. However, the peace agreement is not expected to provide a radical solution to the ethnic conflicts prevalent in the country today. Apparently, the process of integrating the armed movements into the military establishment will not be an easy process, but will rather take time. Therefore, its future is expected to fluctuate between the first and second scenarios, meaning that the process of integrating the armed movements would take longer than what was envisaged for it, even as ethnic conflicts continue in some areas, especially over land, resources, the position on the peace agreement, and the disagreement over the distribution of positions and jobs within the armed movements. This requires that the sponsoring and guarantor states of the agreement intensify and coordinate their efforts to ensure the commitment and cooperation of the movements that have signed the agreement and persuade the other movements to sit at the negotiating table.

References

[1] “The permanent ceasefire agreement and final security arrangements”, The Sudanese Studies Centre, 1 September 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3oCjTxu

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dame Rosalind Marsden, "Is the Juba Peace Agreement a Turning Point for Sudan?", 14/9/2020, available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2020/09/juba-peace-agreement-turning-point-sudan

[4] Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), Riders on the Storm: Rebels, Soldiers, and Paramilitaries in Sudan’s Margins, August 27, 2020.     

[5] Dame Rosalind Marsden, op. cit.

[6] Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Sudan and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan, United Nations Security Council (UNSC), 17 September 2020, P. 2

[7] Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, A Chance for Peace?: The Impact of the Juba Peace Deal on Sudan’s Fragile Transition, September 22, 2020, available at: https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/a-chance-for-peace-the-impact-of-the-juba-peace-deal-on-sudans-fragile-transition/  

[8] Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), op. cit.

[9] Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Sudan and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan, op. cit. P. 3.

[10] Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, op. cit.

[11] Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Sudan and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan, op. cit. P. 8.

[12] Dame Rosalind Marsden, op. cit.

[13] Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), op. cit.

[14] Idem.

[15] Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, op. cit.

[16] Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), op. cit.

[17] Idem.

 

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