Mohamed Ali Jadeen, political analyst and author, spoke to The Niles about why he expects South Sudan and Sudan to make compromises and strike a final agreement by the UN Security Council’s September 22 deadline.
Q: Will the extra weeks help the two parties strike a deal?
A: The new deadline means the mediator is convinced there is an opportunity to reach an agreement and is giving it time. True, this may not work, but there is a chance for agreement.
Q: Did you expect this extension in light of the mounting pressure on both parties and the constant threat of sanctions?
A: Yes! The new deadline was specifically designed to pressure the parties to reach an agreement. Mr. Mbeki is convinced that an agreement will be reached. I see the agreement on oil (the interim deal in August) as a breakthrough even though some see the agreement as ambiguous.
Q: But we need to see some compromise, right?
A: Each party has something to surrender and something to stick to. Therefore, compromises must be made on both sides. The most difficult point for both parties is Abyei, while the rest is no big deal save the SPLM-Northern Sector which is somewhat dangerous.
Q: In your opinion, what is the impact of the opposition political parties’ refusal to participate in the negotiations?
Khalid AlbaihA: It is absolutely significant. We need more participation of dissenting parties in the North and South. That will allow them to raise different points of views and proposals. When participation involves just two parties, proposals and options are controlled by narrow interests, namely the two countries’ ruling classes. We need the involvement of northerners and southerners who represent the Greater Sudan as a whole. Opposition participation is therefore required.
Political and local forces should participate, in particular, regarding two points: the first is Abyei where the Messiria, the Dinka and other tribes should participate to determine its fate. The second is the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile where the political forces and CSOs of both regions should participate. It is no longer between the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N); rather, it’s about the future of the two states -- and all people should participate in shaping the future.
The Naivasha Peace Agreement (NPA) states that now all parties should participate, especially regarding the issues related to these regions; otherwise, the resulting solution would likely cause problems.
Q: How should SPLM-North be dealt with?
Resolution 2046 - Adopted by the Security Council at its 6764 meeting, May 2.A: Under the Security Council Resolution, it should be dealt with directly and the reference should be the previous agreements, including the Malik Agar agreement. Despite the fierce opposition within the NCP and its circles, a meeting was held between the two parties during the last weeks.
The Khartoum government’s delegation is hesitant and refuses dialogue with the SPLM-N; yet, that is the only way. It can be solved through the southern government which has a relationship with the sector. Security arrangements should also be developed between the government and the sector.
This is primarily related to NPA and its unimplemented clauses.
The northern government has no choice but to negotiate with SPLM-N in order to stop the war, especially given that both states are involved. The SPLM-N is thus influential in both states and has an army too. The solution therefore must involve the SPLM-N -- any refusal to negotiate with it would make any deal meaningless.
Q: US President Barack Obama commented on the oil agreement in less than 24 hours and his comment was more like celebration. What do you think of that?
A: I believe the US has played an important role and has exerted great pressure on Juba and Khartoum to reach an agreement for almost two months. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Juba had direct impact on what happened; which is why they consider it their victory.
Khalid AlbaihThey have also played a great role through their diplomatic channels within the African Union (AU) and through their special deputy in the North and South. This is based on many factors, including competition with China for influence, endeavours to create good relations with Greater Sudan to benefit from its strategic location. There is also the background of the American presidential elections as Obama and his Democratic Party have to prove that they care for Africa and South Sudan.
There are influential lobby groups in the American elections, most importantly the Black Lobby and the Christian Lobby. In recent years, a separate South Sudan lobby group has been created.
Q: News about an agreement made between Israel and South Sudan regarding oil issues circulated one or two days ahead of the interim deal. Do you see a link between the two events?
A: South Sudan can only export oil through Sudan’s refineries, pipelines and ports. Using another option would mean delays of at least two to three years. Funding would be needed and it would likely go through Eastern Africa.
The Americans also appear to be convinced of this deal and Clinton said the oil agreement serves the interest of both countries to resolve their economic problems. The talk about Israel therefore is mere rumour. The important players are both countries, the AU and America. Those are the parties concerned with exerting pressure and reaching an agreement; neither Israel nor Europe has anything to do with it since America is mostly involved.
Q: How will those exerting pressure within the North and South affect negotiations in coming weeks?
A: Their impact was greater in the previous period. Of course, there has been clear opposition in both countries, but I believe the international factor has more influence over the two presidents. The ruling regimes in Khartoum and Juba are presidential and enjoy so much power that they can take such decisions.
If both presidents have the will to reach a solution, opposition inside both countries will be ineffective. Especially as the agreement would benefit both peoples in the North and South. It would prove economically and politically beneficial and would stop the war; therefore, the general population and also the opposition would accept it.
Q: Are you optimistic about reaching an agreement like the one you are talking about?
Khalid AlbaihA: I am optimistic, not because I trust the two parties but because the operation is under the UN Resolution 2064. First, both regimes are obliged to negotiate and reach agreement; otherwise, they will be subject to sanctions. Second, they both face the threat of their deteriorating economies. This is why they need agreement; especially on oil and ceasing insecurity and war.
Both countries need political stability to overcome internal problems. If they do not reach an agreement, AU and the Security Council will impose a compromise which might favour one party more than the other. I believe that it is better to reach a solution that achieves the two parties’ goals through mutual compromise, rather than enforcing an externally imposed solution.