SUDAN WATCH: South Sudan: Sir Derek Plumbly - Only 20 months remain of CPA's interim period

Monday, April 27, 2009

South Sudan: Sir Derek Plumbly - Only 20 months remain of CPA's interim period

The global economic crisis and the fall in the price of oil have placed strains both on wealth sharing and on donor support. The revenue of the Sudanese government in the South this year is expected to be 68% lower than last.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) enabled more than 2 million refugees and IDPs to return to the South and southerners to experiment freely with the autonomy they have been seeking. The time remaining for its implementation is short. Only twenty months remain of the interim period.

The interdependence of north and south in Sudan is self evident –in relation to resources and to residence and citizenship and the movement of people for example. And a strong and stable partnership will be needed to ensure that the benefits of peace the CPA has brought are extended beyond 2011.

The right of the people of the south to self determination as set out in the agreement is unconditional. Of course we should strive tirelessly to make unity attractive. But the choice is theirs. Many countries including my own have lived with similar situations. The United Kingdom today is not the United Kingdom of 1909, or even 1999. The British Isles now include two sovereign states and within the UK we have three devolved administrations. Let us work for unity but also be careful to ensure that partnership, interdependence and peace are sustained whatever happens.

The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) was established under the terms of the CPA. The AEC is charged with monitoring implementation of the CPA.

Source: The following Press Release and Statement received today from AEC.
The Chairman of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission Sir Derek Plumbly spoke today to the International Peoples Friendship Council at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum on the subject “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement: a vital partnership”. In his statement he drew attention to the narrowing window for CPA implementation and the need for sustained co-operation and partnership between the parties, and with the international community. A copy of the Chairman’s statement in English and Arabic is attached.

For further information please go to the AEC website – www.aec-sudan.org or telephone AEC Coordinator Simon Giverin on 09125 06273
Statement to the International Peoples Friendship Council at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum by Sir Derek Plumbly, Chairman of the AEC, 27 April 2009:

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement: a Vital Partnership

Sir Derek Plumbly, Chairman of AEC
I hesitated when asked by you, Mr. Chairman, to address the council. I was honoured of course. But I am not a bilateral ambassador. I have served as such in two countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And I am very conscious of the role friendship organisations can play. Relations between governments are only a part – and not always the most positive part – of relations between countries. In the case of my own country, the UK, many thousands of Sudanese visit or study or live there. Their contribution to both of our countries has been enormous. And I know from my contacts in Britain since I took up my appointment here how warm are the feelings of many there - for example in the universities and parliament - for Sudan.

Having lived here for a year, I understand why. I have tried to read my way into the past and present of the tangled relationship between us, from the Condominium through el Tayyib Salih to contemporary writers like Laila Aboulela. I have travelled widely in your country. I know that there is a Sudanese/British association. I stand ready to be one of its most enthusiastic members.

But I am not here in Sudan to represent the interests of my own, or any other, government. I was appointed by presidential decree to chair the Assessment and Evaluation Commission on the basis that I would be independent and impartial. The UK is represented on the AEC by the British ambassador. The other members are the two parties – the NCP and the SPLM - plus Ethiopia, Kenya, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the US from among the signatories at Naivasha. The African Union, the Arab League, the EU and the UN are observers. The Commission, which has a small permanent staff, is tasked with monitoring the CPA.

I said that I hesitated when first asked to speak. But I did not hesitate for long. I was invited to talk about the CPA, and the interest of such a distinguished group in the subject seemed to me very timely.

Timely because attention in recent weeks has been elsewhere. One can only regret the extent to which the action of the ICC, and the inevitable anger it has sparked, have diverted attention from the CPA. The global economic crisis and the fall in the price of oil have placed strains both on wealth sharing and on donor support. The revenue of the government in the South this year is expected to be 68% lower than last. Tribal violence – most strikingly the heavy loss of life that has occurred recently in Jonglei state - places another heavy responsibility on the government there. It is a challenge too to UNMIS. This is the moment, if ever there was one, to underline the shared interest in stability and the success of the CPA.

The CPA is, after all, a historic achievement which has brought extraordinary benefits to the people of Sudan. It is the achievement of the leaders of the two parties with the support of the international community – the “vital partnership” of today’s title. Continued partnership on this pattern is the key to ensuring that peace is sustained and the objectives of the agreement achieved.

What I would like to do now is to address some of the current issues in CPA implementation and the challenges ahead as I see them, drawing on the Mid Term Evaluation the AEC submitted last year and on our discussions and field visits since, as well as my own personal impressions. I will happily take questions afterwards.

I think it is worth recording first the benefits the CPA has brought. The day to day tensions of politics, the arguments and delays in implementation, the mistrust which is deeply ingrained after 50 years of conflict, and the persistence of hostilities elsewhere in Sudan - in Darfur in particular - at times make us forget just how great these benefits have been. The CPA created the space for unprecedented economic growth here. It enabled more than 2 million refugees and IDPs to return to the South, and southerners to experiment freely with the autonomy they have been seeking.

Think for a moment about a hypothetical scenario in which no agreements were reached in Naivasha, or the agreement so painstakingly achieved unravelled for some reason and was followed by a return to war. I am not for one moment predicting that. But I think it is worth reminding ourselves of the enormous human and economic cost of conflict, if only to focus minds on what needs to be done to ensure that peace is sustained and the CPA implemented.

The time remaining for implementation is short. Only twenty months remain of the interim period. The narrowing window means that the pace of implementation must increase. It is true that the past four years have seen postponements and deadlines missed, and somehow we have muddled through. But, as the UN Secretary General put it bluntly in his report to the Security Council a few days ago “difficult and critical issues in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement …… can no longer be deferred”. The terminal date of January 2011 is fixed and all remaining timelines have to be seen in that context.

I do not want to suggest that nothing is moving forward at present. Last week I and several colleagues from the AEC visited Blue Nile. We have yet to agree a report. But I do not think my colleagues would disagree that a lot of what we saw and heard was positive. After years of stalemate the SPLA is now redeploying south of the 1/1/56 border. The process has not been incident free. But discussion in the Kurmuk area, which the SPLA formerly controlled, was about integration of the police and security services. The Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme launched by the UN and the parties in Juba in February - with pledges of 88 million dollars from the international community, and the ultimate target of returning 180000 fighters from both sides to civilian life - has got underway in the state. More than 2000 Northern personnel have been processed by the UN so far; the first 100 from the SPLA arrived at the DDR centre during our visit. Of course we also heard of problems, not least the chronic lack of funding for development exacerbated now by the expulsion of NGOs. But in terms of CPA implementation things were clearly moving forward. Both parties talked of the good cooperation between them in the state.

At the national level the National Electoral Commission’s announcement last month of the timetable for holding elections was another example of forward movement. They are now as you know in the process of establishing the network of state committees and staff envisaged in the electoral law. The AEC, in partnership with UNMIS and UNDP and with the generous backing of the government of Italy, will next month stage workshops for the NEC to enable newly appointed committee members and staff to learn from experts and counterparts from other African countries and elsewhere.

But these advances cannot disguise the fact that major steps have still to be taken in preparation for elections. The NEC, in announcing their timetable, linked it to the publication of the results of last year’s census and completion of border demarcation. The AEC has also consistently linked the holding of successful elections to completion of the draft legislation currently under discussion between the parties.

The results of the census should soon be with you. It was an important CPA milestone, and a significant technical achievement, and should be accepted as such. But the parties need to agree, and be clear, as to the political implications.

As to border demarcation the AEC met with the leadership of the ad hoc technical committee on 13 April. The discussion was helpful, but gave rise to considerable concern. The original timetable for the committee’s work may have been unrealistic but its report is now four years overdue. Nobody is I think interested in creating a border which is a new barrier between north and south. But clarity is needed, not just for the elections but also for issues as diverse as redeployment, wealth sharing and the referendum in the south.

The fact of the matter is that the ad hoc committee is stuck. Common sense would suggest that it should now delimit the border where it can on the map while waiting for presidency guidance on outstanding differences. That guidance in turn is needed quickly. I hope and believe that the parties realise that this vital work can no longer be allowed to stagnate.

On the legislation that needs to be passed in preparation for the elections there has been intensive contact between the parties, and lively public debate particularly in relation to the press and media law. I will not duplicate that here. But it does I think bear emphasising that there is a requirement also for early agreement on the law to put in place modalities for the 2011 referendum on self determination in the South. Progress on this is needed both between the parties and in the National Constitutional Review Commission. The referendum law was supposed to have been adopted in the third year of the interim period. The 8 months it took, after passage of the electoral law, for the National Electoral Commission to get up and running illustrates, if illustration was needed, just how important it is in practical terms for the referendum law – which among other things will establish the referendum commission - to be adopted in good time. Passage soon is essential if the referendum is to be properly prepared.

I would like to mention two other outstanding issues where work is needed urgently if the CPA is to stay on course. The first of these is Abyei. I visited the area in March. Important aspects of the Roadmap agreed last June have been implemented, including in respect of the withdrawal of forces. But lack of a budget for the administration and the absence of reconstruction, coupled with insecurity, have meant that the very few of the people displaced in last year’s fighting have been able to return home. These issues are overshadowed just at the moment by the deliberations of the arbitrators in The Hague. But the arbitration, by its nature, could go either way. It will be important, whatever happens in the arbitration, that the parties work together as partners rather than adversaries to ensure that conditions improve on the ground in line with the Roadmap and that – irrespective of the outcome of the arbitration - the rights of the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya peoples are respected. Too often have I heard Abyei described as the Kashmir of Sudan, an issue which has divided the peoples concerned for 60 years. That cannot be allowed to happen in this case.

The last outstanding issue to which I would like to draw attention is that of the Joint Integrated Units, which bring together elements from the SAF and the SPLA and are intended to be a symbol of partnership and a basis for ongoing unity. In Abyei - and now also in parts of Southern Kordofan and in the Kurmuk area of Blue Nile - they have real security responsibilities because of the withdrawal of other forces. I have visited JIUs, either alone or with AEC partners, in, Abyei , Bor, Damazin, Juba, Kauda, Kurmuk, and Malakal and have been confronted with the same justified complaints from both SPLA and SAF components in all of these places. This is a 33,000 strong force without proper provisions, water, medical facilities, transport or training. Units are co-located but not integrated. Lack of attention has contributed to fighting within JIUs and heavy loss of life, the most serious breaches of the ceasefire since it came into force - twice in Malakal and once in Abyei. UNMIS has done and donors have given some assistance but it only scratches the surface. The Joint Defence Board needs urgently to address the problems and to promote integration.

All of these issues were identified as priorities in the AEC’s Mid Term Evaluation last year. All of them can and should be satisfactorily dealt with well before the end of the present year. All will require some give and take - but that is the nature of partnership. Their resolution would set the stage for the transformational events due to take place in 2010 and 2011 : the elections, popular consultation in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan and the referenda in Abyei and the South.

Those events present a unique opportunity for Sudan. An opportunity to complete the process of change initiated in Naivasha and to settle once and for all competing aspirations which have given rise to conflict repeatedly over the past half century. The recommendations the AEC submitted last year in its Mid Term Evaluation reflected the concern to make unity attractive which lies at the heart of the CPA. The elections will be important with regard to that aspiration. Referenda are by their very nature uncertain and anybody familiar with public sentiment in the south will know that a vote for secession is a possibility. But it would be wrong to conclude that this in some way negated the need for partnership of which I have been speaking.

I spoke earlier of the importance of moving forward quickly on the draft referendum law. But equally it is important that the parties, in parallel to that and without delay, intensify discussion - as recommended in the Mid Term Evaluation - on arrangements in the political, economic and other fields which would hold whatever the result of the referendum. The interdependence of north and south in Sudan is self evident –in relation to resources and to residence and citizenship and the movement of people for example. And a strong and stable partnership will be needed to ensure that the benefits of peace the CPA has brought are extended beyond 2011.

The right of the people of the south to self determination as set out in the agreement is unconditional. Of course we should strive tirelessly to make unity attractive. But the choice is theirs. Many countries including my own have lived with similar situations. The United Kingdom today is not the United Kingdom of 1909, or even 1999. The British Isles now include two sovereign states and within the UK we have three devolved administrations. Let us work for unity but also be careful to ensure that partnership, interdependence and peace are sustained whatever happens.

A final word about the third partner, the international community…. The first international gathering I attended on the CPA was the Oslo donors’ consortium meeting in May last year at which 4.8 billion dollars was pledged for Sudan. One hears much criticism of the limited peace dividend on the ground, but donor assistance is going to be even more important in the coming period given the tight economic circumstances. UNMIS is a major and very visible manifestation of the international community’s commitment to the CPA on the ground.

Political engagement is also essential. I made clear earlier on my regret about the divisions and distractions of recent weeks. But I wanted you to know that in all the AEC discussions I have attended one message has come through loud and clear, and that is the wish and commitment of all of the governments and international organisations represented there to stay engaged with Sudan and with both parties as partners in support of CPA implementation.
Sir Derek Plumbly was appointed, in February 2008, as the second chairman of the AEC in succession to Ambassador Tom Vraalsen of Norway.

Excerpt from statement by Sir Derek Plumbly published at AEC's website:
The AEC was established under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The CPA is a unique instrument, and its signature was an immense achievement. It was negotiated over a long period between the two parties, and in particular between HE Ali Osman Taha, the Vice President of the Republic of Sudan, and the late Dr John Garang, Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. It has brought peace to millions who suffered conflict for decades, and opened the door to a better life.

The AEC is charged with monitoring implementation of the CPA. Its membership reflects the strong international support, from Africa and beyond, which was given to the original negotiations. We are now at the mid point in the period set for CPA implementation. Full implementation promises enormous benefits for all in Sudan, in terms of justice, freedom and economic development.
For further reports, click on Abyei label here below.

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