Sudan's Peace Talks
Courtesy Editor, Sangam
22 October 2003
Of primary interest to Tamils in the Sudanese peace talks are
agreement for an internationally supervised referendum in the rebellious
southern areas on 'unity or separation' in 6 years and
2.) an agreement
on security issues that calls for the withdrawal of the majority of
government forces from the south during this test period of autonomy.
In return for the acceptance of the right to
self-determination in the south, the rebels gave up their demand that the
entire country be secular and accepted that the north, except the capital,
could be ruled by Islamic religious law.
Current issues under debate are a 'national unity government,' i.e.
powersharing at the center, during the transition and its relationship with
the separate southern administration, the exact boundaries of each entity
and the sharing of the country's oil wealth. Southern negotiators are
pushing for a separate central bank, so the contours of autonomy must still
be in contention.
Of great interest to Tamils, also, is the "international community's"
attitude toward the Sudanese conflict, which is diametrically different from
the world's attitude towards Sri Lanka, although many of the issues are
precisely the same. When writing about the conflict, for instance, there is
a tendency to talk about the 'liberated' areas of the south! There was
vigorous opposition to the Sudanese government's efforts to block aid to
civilians war-affected areas, with a UN mission set up specifically to
provide aid to the south. Notwithstanding the hostility toward the Sudanese
government's policies and personalities by Westerners, there remains an
ingrained deference to the 'government' and a suspicion of non-state actors,
particularly militant ones. Descriptions of John Garang, the resistance
leader, can sound eerily similar to those of Pirabaharan. As if we needed
it, comparing Sudan to Sri Lanka is a good reminder that interests often
Excitement over the Sudanese peace talks is high after US Secretary of State
Powell's visit with the negotiators, but reviewing the negotiations from our
perspective shows just how much more ground must be covered before a solid
deal is cinched. Implementation, of course, is even more important than
handhakes and signatures.