Khartoum Withdraws From The IGAD Peace Talks

The Government of Sudan (GOS) has prematurely terminated the Peace Talks when it instructed its Members of Delegation to withdraw from the current IGAD Peace Talks.  The Second Session of the Political Committee Task Force started on 12th August 2002 in Machakos, Kenya and were scheduled to end on 14th September 2002 with possible extension.
The GOS gave flimsy reasons for their withdrawal.  These reasons were more of internal difficulties facing the regime in Khartoum.  Since the signing of the Machakos Protocol on July 20th 2002, there have been sharp differences among senior politicians and officials as well as religious leaders allied to the regime.  Most of these groupings are opposed to the Machakos Protocol on the grounds that El-Beshir and those close to him have given away the South and have made a grave mistake by allegedly exempting Southern Sudan from the application of strict Islamic sharia.  Before the GOS Delegation left Khartoum for the Second Phase of the Talks in Machakos they were strictly ordered by columns of Islamic Fundamentalist members of the regime to torpedo the Talks.
However, in their justification of walking out of the Talks, the GOS Delegation submitted a memo to the IGAD Secretariat giving the following reasons:
1.     The SPLM/SPLA has in the current negotiations submitted a position which is of confederal nature in regards to Power Sharing which they allegedly say is not in conformity to the Machakos Protocol.  This is of course not true.
2.     They blamed the IGAD Secretariat for allowing the three areas of Abyei, Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Southern Blue Nile (Funj Region) to be discussed under Power Sharing.  The GOS accused IGAD of meddling in issues outside its jurisdiction.  The GOS believes that these areas should be under Islamic law and denies them human and political rights.
3.     The GOS also questions SPLM submission that the capital territory for Sudan during the 6 years of the Interim Period should be neutral from Islamic law.   They insist that sharia must be applied wherever the national capital will be.   This of course is unacceptable to the SPLM/SPLA, as it is contrary to the Machakos Protocol; leave alone the fact that the SPLM/SPLA participation in the Government during the Interim Period will include non-Muslims.
4.     The GOS alleged that the atmosphere at Machakos is not conducive for the continuation of the Peace Talks, which appears to be a reference to the escalation of military activities in the battlefield.
The SPLM/SPLA would like to state the following:
(a)   The points raised above do not hold water.   The SPLM/SPLA has the right to state its position just as the GOS has done.  Not all these positions are necessarily final but are subject to negotiations with the help of Mediators during the Talks.
(b)    Walking out of Talks because of positions expressed is nothing but an evasion of issues and a pretext to abandon the Talks.  This is a clear indication that Khartoum is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  The National Islamic Front (NIF) is not interested in sharing power with the SPLM/SPLA.  It is bent to absorb the Movement into its theocratic and dictatorial system rather than accept it as a partner in an Interim National Government.  It strongly believes in military destruction of the SPLM/SPLA and its constituents.  These myths cannot be achieved.
On the issue of escalating fighting,  the SPLM/SPLA puts the blame squarely on the GOS.  Since 15th August, 2002 barely three days after the start of the Peace Talks, Khartoum has been carrying out aerial bombardment of civilians and civilian infrastructure all over New Sudan particularly in Northern Bahr EL Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria, Western and Central Upper Nile killing civilians and livestock in big numbers.  The government has also ordered its troops during this period to attack SPLA position in Malek in Upper Nile, Midil in Southern Blue Nile as well as around Torit in Eastern Equatoria.  However, it was last Friday's  offensive in Idolu and Hiyala that forced the SPLA to pursue the attacking force from these areas up to Torit leading to  their subsequent withdrawal from the town.  It will also be recalled that during past peace talks, the GOS attacked and captured SPLA held towns.   One of these incidences occurred in 1992 when GOS attacked and captured the strategic town of Kapoeta from the SPLA while  we were holding peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.  But this did not lead to SPLA withdrawal from the talks.    In fact during the First Phase of this Talks (June/July, 2002) GOS forces attacked and captured SPLM/SPLA held towns of Gogrial, Mankien, Tam, Geisan and Juaibor.  In spite of this aggression the SPLM/SPLA Delegation never walked out of the Talks.  
Therefore, Khartoum's decision to boycott the Machakos talks because of Torit is not justified.  The reasons are more political than anything else.  If President El Beshir has failed to rally his hardliners behind Machakos he should not blame us.  
Finally, the SPLM/SPLA would like to assure the international community of its consistent commitment to the IGAD Peace Initiative and the Machakos Protocol.  We will be ready to resume the talks when Khartoum comes to its senses and recognizes the importance of a negotiated peaceful settlement than war mongering.
Dr. Samson L. Kwaje
Commissioner for Information and
Official Spokesman SPLM/SPLA   
3rd September, 2002 - Nairobi


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