By Eric Reeves
March 7, 2011 (SSNA) — Distinguished historian of Sudan Douglas Johnson has pointed out key requirements for peace in the Abyei region, and the diplomatic errors that must be corrected if the process is to move forward. Recent violence in Abyei, orchestrated by Khartoum, threatens to spark renewed North/South war in Sudan; several Ngok Dinka villages have been burned to the ground and tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing southward. This January 2011 assessment by Johnson embodies a critique directed squarely at the policies of President Obama’s Special Envoy for Sudan, Major General (ret.) Scott Gration. Johnson argues that essential to success in the Abyei peace negotiations are:
“A recognition by the U.S. government that the recent [diplomatic] interventions of their mediators have made a resolution [of the Abyei crisis] less, rather than more likely, and a reversal of their [the U.S.’s] current attempt to mediate through the imposition of a further territorial compromise.”
“…the imposition of further territorial compromise.” Johnson is rightly claiming that the U.S. must cease its expedient pushing of the Southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to “compromise” even further on the boundaries of Abyei. Significant SPLM compromises are already embodied in the Abyei Protocol (2004) of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005), as well as the July 2009 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (The Hague). U.S. pressure on the SPLM has been deeply counter-productive, working to convince the Khartoum regime that it has more to gain through diplomatic intransigence and continuing turmoil in Abyei.
(Douglas Johnson, “The Road Back from Abyei: Any resolution of the Abyei dispute must address the root causes,” January 14, 2011, at http://www.riftvalley.net/resources/file/The%20Road%20Back%20from%20Abyei%20by%20Douglas%20H.%20Johnson.pdf )
(See also Eric Reeves, "Celebrate Independence for South Sudan! But Remain Vigilant on Abyei," South Sudan News Agency, January 13, 2011, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/News.html )
(A full-length analysis of these urgent issues will be posted on March 7 at www.sudanreeves.org )
Eric Reeves has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide.