A coalition of rebel groups and the Sudanese government have signed an agreement to extend their fragile ceasefire another two months.
Peace talks between the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of armed movements, and the Sudanese transitional government in September resulted in the Juba Declaration, which creates a roadmap for peace. The new deal extends talks another two months until February 14, 2020.
The news comes as talks between the sides resumed this week in the Palm Africa Hotel in the South Sudanese capital of Juba.
The agreement was signed by the chief negotiator of the government, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, and representatives of various rebel groups. Hemeti, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Sudan Sovereign Council, was once affiliated with the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the constituent members of the SRF.
“We signed the Juba Declaration for a cessation of hostilities with the government of Sudan and we are committed to what we signed,” Ahmed Lissa Turgod, chief spokesperson for the JEM, told The Defense Post after the signing of the September agreement.
That Juba Declaration sets out a roadmap forward with specific working groups focused on issues like the internally displaced people and the governorships of Sudan’s various provinces. Other working groups will examine the different conflicts in the country between the SRF and the Sudanese government and address the conflict in Darfur and Blue Nile State. South Sudan’s government has been suspected of supporting some of these groups in the past.
The U.S. government is working behind the scenes to ameliorate differences between the SRF and The Forces of Freedom and Change alliance – also called the Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella coalition representing the disparate groups who led demonstrations against the regime of Omar al-Bashir.
However, the Justice and Equality Movement and other rebel group representatives see the FFC as part of Sudan’s ruling government and have rejected their participation in further talks.
JEM would also like the government to release members of the movement that were imprisoned during its long conflict with the government. JEM says 285 of its members are held as prisoners of war, and the fate of hundreds more missing people is still unknown. Despite this, the movement is committed to continuing peace negotiations along with other members of the SRF to bring an end to the suffering of the IDPs and the people of Sudan.
“By having the negotiations in Juba, it sends a strong message to the SPLM-North and other groups that [South Sudan] is trying to play a neutral role and wants to see peace in the region,” said Mekki Elmograbbi, a former Sudanese diplomat.
Some Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North factions continue to advocate for self-determination, which the Sudanese government has appeared to accept in the latest round of talks as a possibility. The Sudanese government also took seriously the SRF’s demands for a secular state. Another issue of concern for rebel groups is the removal of debts owed by farmers in some areas of Sudan to the Sudanese state.
“The Juba Declaration holds great prospects for ensuring peace and the continuity of democracy in Sudan,” said Ahmed Khair, co-founder of the Sudan Research and Consultancy Group.
Indeed despite its flaws, the agreement provides a way forward based on the consultative form of governance which is engrained in Sudanese political culture. If the two sides can also look past their distrust for one another it could also spell the end of Africa’s longest ongoing civil war in a country which has seen some source of armed conflict nearly continuously since 1983.