This is part two of a memo was prepared for a WPF seminar on “New Wars, New Peace” held at the Fletcher School, January 12-13, 2012. Part one can be found here.

The first major effort to bring peace to Darfur was the African Union-led mediation in Abuja that culminated in the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) of May 2006. This was explicitly modeled on the Naivasha negotiations that had resulted in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in 2005. The DPA negotiations, and subsequent peace initiatives for Darfur, illuminate divergent conceptions of what constitutes peace among the different parties to the negotiations.

In Abuja, the AU mediators’ conception of peace was a peace agreement: a document covering political arrangements (power sharing, constitutional reform and democratization), wealth sharing and security arrangements (permanent ceasefire leading to integration of former combatants, DDR and SSR), signed by the GoS and the three rebel movements, and implemented with international support. The formal structure of the mediation reflected this, giving equal standing in the talks to the GoS and the composite rebel delegation, and (most notably) constructing a ceasefire on the model of two more-or-less equal belligerent armies. The venue for these talks was the meeting hall in the Chida Hotel in Abuja, with the delegations facing each other across a square table. The mediators also provided for the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC), a process intended to address the needs of the many groups in Darfur, armed and unarmed, that were not represented in the formal process. This was secondary to the DPA, almost an afterthought.

The GoS entered the peace talks with two principal aims, and corresponding definitions of peace. One was bringing the insurgents into Sudan’s governance system. On the basis that the rebels were minor provincial leaders who had accidentally obtained an international profile quite out of proportion to their domestic political weight, and recognizing that numerous other provincial elites in other parts of Sudan could make similar political claims, the GoS sought to pay the rebels off one by one. The GoS approach was retail politics, and for a number of the rebels, it succeeded. The principal location for this bargaining was the rooms of the Chida Hotel rather than the meeting hall.

The GoS’s second aim was normalization of relations with the international community and particularly the United States. In parallel to the formal negotiations and the private bargaining, the GoS negotiated with the U.S. delegation on the assumption that, once it had signed an agreement, the U.S. would start to lift sanctions and normalize Sudan’s international standing. The rebels used their international access to press the U.S. to do the reverse.

The Darfur rebels were not clear on the purpose of the negotiations. When the talks first began in 2004, the leadership shared the vision of the SPLM leader John Garang, who saw a peace agreement as one stage in a longer process of political transformation. The next stage, they envisaged, would be a national political coalition for a “New Sudan” that would, preferably through electoral means, radically change the nature of the Sudanese polity. Peace merely shifted the political conflict to a new phase. After Garang’s untimely death in July 2005, the rebels’ consensus evaporated, and the peace talks became in part an arena for political competition and in part a search for a patron (chiefly the U.S.)

For the Save Darfur campaigners, the peace agreement in Abuja was a reluctantly necessity for the dispatch of an international peacekeeping force to Darfur with a mandate to stop genocide. The Save Darfur campaign had influenced the U.S. government to the extent that this had also become the principal objective of the U.S. negotiators.

The U.S. was formally a partner of the African Union mediators but was in fact a party to the conflict, in the sense that it was pursuing its own political agenda, in part through the mediation process. Its immediate objective was bringing UN peacekeepers to Darfur, but it also wanted to stabilize Sudan, at least in the sense of keeping it from being a sponsor of terrorism and a major consumer of political attention. The Deputy Secretary of State remarked that he, and the President, spent more of their time on Sudan than on China. For the Sudanese parties, the U.S. was ultimate patron in a globally integrated rentier marketplace.

In these circumstances, the Darfur Peace Agreement became several overlapping bargains in an integrated political marketplace. It was a bargain between the GoS and the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Minni Minawi (the sole rebel signatory), whereby they jointly sought to impose their authority on those who didn’t sign, by force of arms. It was a series of local bargains with individual rebels. It was a deal between the GoS and the U.S., in which neither trusted the other, and which didn’t last long.

For only a brief period (2003-04) was Darfur conflict was primarily a military contest between government and insurgents, and over time its multi-faceted character became more and more pronounced. The leaders of Darfurian constituencies, including internally displaced people (IPDs), armed tribal groups, militia, civil society groups, and various others, were always unhappy at their marginal role in the peace talks. What united them was a demand that they represent themselves in any peace process, and that the issues in such a process should be holistic, including peace, justice, reconciliation and Darfur’s political and economic position in Sudan. This was a clear and consistent message from forty town-hall style meetings held across Darfur by the AU Panel on Darfur in 2009.

Beyond this abstract consensus, the provincial elites’ conceptions of a process to resolve the conflict began to diverge. The tribal leadership (“native administration”) preferred what they called traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. Undoubtedly, this was because they would have led such processes and benefited from them. Insofar as the conflict (or an important aspect thereof) is defined as inter-tribal, it follows that what is needed is a consolidation of tribal governance structures. Others, for example IDP leaders and some civil society groups, saw the native administration system as conservative and pro-government, but they resisted the obvious alternative—political modernization and democratization—because the history of state modernism in Sudan had been to the detriment of Darfurian constituencies. Noting that their relatively advantageous position in the Sudanese political marketplace depended on their international profile, the rebels and IDPs favored processes that emphasized the international role.

The AUPD vision was that collective action among the leaders of Darfur’s constituencies could transcend their factional interests. Because all the provincial elites recognized the disaster that was befalling them, the AUPD argued that a forum in which all were represented, could be a transformative exercise. Such a forum could facilitate the provincial elites shifting from being competitors in the patronage marketplace, to formulating joint political positions for a political process. This forum was envisaged in such a way as to diminish the role of international patronage—and for this reason was received skeptically by the rebels and IDPs.

After the failure of the DPA, the revived mediation effort spent about three years trying to work out who should sit across the table from the GoS. No formula worked. Then, the mediators in Doha took a remarkable new approach. Given the practical impossibility of corralling the rebel movements into a single delegation or single negotiating platform, and the international reluctance to allow the GoS to pursue a solution based on patronage and force, the UN advisors to the Joint Chief Mediator developed a blueprint document that represented, in their view, the preferred contents of a peace agreement. The mediators then needed to construct an interlocutor that in theory could represent Darfurian interests and in practice could enable the talks to continue. The result was the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) which is a creation of the patronage of the mediation process itself, and which will exist only for as long as that patronage continues during the implementation of the agreement. The outcome was the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, signed in July 2010. It was signed by the LJM, which indeed had no other reason to exist. It was signed by the GoS because it needed the support of Qatar (especially its money) and to have done anything else would have invited condemnation from Europe and America. On the side of the mediation, the Doha Document serves as a commitment to certain actions by the GoS, which can now be held accountable.

Each of the peace processes and every negotiating party and mediator pays lip service to dealing with “root causes” of the conflict. In reality, nobody agrees on the root causes, and allegation of a failure to deal with the root causes serves as an alibi for rejecting a peace agreement or peace process. The negotiators pay most attention to losses and gains in the patronage marketplace. Under any of the processes tried to date (with the partial exception of the AUPD recommendations which have not been implemented), peace is perilous: it is the establishment of a new bargain in the political marketplace. Such a bargain is inevitably incomplete and therefore it is likely that it will entail new violence. Mediation exercises have become coopted into Sudan’s political marketplace, which is both domestic and internationalized, and have become another arena in which the parties pursue their endless routines of bargaining.

The example of Darfur, within the general model of the rentier political marketplace, indicates that conventional mediation efforts are not an appropriate mechanism for resolving conflicts that arise in such a system, and do not reform the system itself. Moreover, mediation becomes an opportunity for the parties to engage with international patrons and powerbrokers (specifically the U.S.) rather than with one another.

In the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, we see a mixture of the different ideal types. There is a contest of wills, focused on certain win-lose issues such as control over and revenues from oil, and disputed areas along the common border. The confrontation is a joint enterprise, insofar as the governments in north and south each retain control over restive domestic constituencies by the threat of war with the other. There is also an element of the political marketplace, both in the methods used by each side to sponsor proxies, and in the way in which each is competing for the blessing of global patrons, including the U.S. and China. This hybrid nature of the confrontation makes mediation extraordinarily difficult.

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