Churches warn that Sudanese peace agreement is under threat

By Stephen Brown
January 10, 2009

Church agencies and analysts have warned that an agreement signed four years ago to put an end to a two-decade long civil war in Sudan is threatened with breakdown, thereby endangering the already fragile Horn of Africa region. The pact, called the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed on 9 January 2005, ended a 22-year civil war between Sudan’s central government and the Southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.

"Without swift, decisive action by the international community there is a danger that the peace agreement will collapse and violence will escalate in Sudan," Gerrit Noltensmeier, the special representative for Sudan of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) said in a statement to mark the anniversary of the signing of the pact.

More than 2 million people died in the conflict and more than 4 million were driven from their homes. The civil war pitted the largely Muslim north against southerners, many of whom are Christians and those who practice traditional religions. The peace pact stated that at the end of a six-year transition period there should be a referendum on independence for the semi-autonomous South Sudan region, after nationwide elections in 2009.

Noltensmeier said, however, that the attention of the agreement's international sponsors had been diverted by a separate conflict in Sudan's western Darfur province that has led to the deaths of an estimated 200 000 people and the displacement of many more

"Political leaders in Germany and the EU must urgently commit themselves to a long-term and sustainable policy on Sudan that looks at the whole of the country, that contributes to a political solution to the Darfur conflict, and that makes possible the full implementation of the CPA," he stated.

Wilfried Steen of the German Protestant Church Development Service (EED) said it was doubtful whether the 2009 elections would take place. He noted that the peace agreement had been endangered by fighting in 2008 around Abyei, at Sudan's north-south border, and which is home to rival ethnic groups living on land with rich deposits of oil.

Separately, Britain's Chatham House international affairs institute warned on 9 January that civilians in all regions of Sudan face a serious risk of renewed violence and conflict if the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement fails.

"Ambitious plans to invest in the impoverished periphery have not created tangible changes. National reconciliation has been shelved," stated the report, written by Sudan expert Edward Thomas. He said that the two parties to the peace agreement had sought military guarantees to preserve gains, and had used oil wealth to build armies. "Delays in implementing preconditions for the elections - such as a census and the demarcation of the North–South border - have bunched together complex processes at the end of the interim period," he stated.

The Chatham House report is linked here:

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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