This week, Sudan took a major step towards stability and co-existence. With the help of the UAE, Khartoum has signed peace deals with all but one of the many armed rebel factions battling the government, signalling the possibility of a new era.
After 10 months of arduous negotiations in South Sudan and Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok signed a peace agreement with a host of rebel factions last Monday. The groups that agreed to the deal include rebels from Darfur, a conflict-ridden region of western Sudan where former dictator Omar Al Bashir stands accused of genocide.
Rebels present in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, two regions along the border with South Sudan, also signed the deal. These groups were joined on Friday by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a major rebel faction operating in Darfur, which signed a separate agreement. All but one key group, a wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), also based in Darfur, have agreed to end hostilities and move towards peace.
Sudanese Ambassador to the UAE Mohammed Amin Abdullah Al Karib said that "the UAE has played a significant role in achieving the peace accord” in reference to last Monday's agreement. The Emirates helped bring rebel factions to the negotiation table, in co-ordination with the Sovereignty Council, facilitating peace in Sudan.
The agreements offer new opportunities to peripheral regions of Sudan, which have historically been neglected by Khartoum. For instance, the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions will have more autonomy, and Darfur, which was divided into several regions, will be reunified and gain greater access to the revenues it generates. A major concession that was agreed upon on Sunday is the separation of religion and state in Sudan, a long-time SPLM-N demand.
The peace deals offer renewed hope in a nation that has had more than its fair share of suffering, and highlight Sudan's tremendous accomplishments in the past two years. In December 2018, Sudanese took to the streets after the price of bread tripled overnight, calling for the fall of their corrupt and inept regime. Al Bashir fell and was replaced by a Transitional Military Council, which was in turn dismantled when civil society and the military agreed to a power-sharing deal in August 2019. The Sovereignty Council will remain in power until elections are held in 2022. The UAE was among the strongest advocates for the transition. Abu Dhabi and Riyadh offered $3 billion in financial assistance to the Sudanese government after the fall of Al Bashir.
Khartoum is now working towards building a more stable and peaceful future for all Sudanese, despite being hit by a financial crisis, which has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sudan has come a long way since the days of Al Bashir's rule. It has outlawed female genital mutilation, granted Sudanese more freedoms and exchanged ambassadors with Washington for the first time in 20 years. Ending internal conflicts was a priority for Mr Hamdok. Khartoum has demonstrated it is serious about re-establishing peace, and the government has made great concessions to win the trust of the rebels.
The SLM must come to the negotiating table so that these efforts are not wasted, and a total cessation of hostilities can be achieved.
The success of Sudan's peace agreements will also depend on whether the parties involved deliver on their promises, initiate a reconciliation process and ensure that these deals are reflected on the ground. For instance, more than two million people have been internally displaced due to conflict in Darfur. Their plight will not end overnight. Authorities must work with rebel groups so that displaced Sudanese can return home safely and rebuild their lives.
Sudan has proven to the world once more that even in these challenging times, there is always a way towards peace, if there is the will for it.