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Vol 44 No 21

Published 24th October 2003


Peace in our time

Two very different visions of what peace means holds up Washington's planned announcement

Colin Powell was disappointed. The expected signing of a partial Sudan peace agreement during the United States Secretary of State's trip to Kenya was replaced by the two sides agreeing to agree later possibly on wealth-sharing by 25 October. The National Islamic Front government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement were still far apart on the other main issues, power-sharing and the three 'marginalised areas' on the fringe of the south, said a source from the meetings. General Powell told the NIF that Sudan would stay on the US 'terrorist list' until it expelled Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The immediate Sudanese joke in Nairobi ran: If you sign, you get the White House. If you don't, you get Guantánamo Bay!' If war is the failure of politics, will the kind of politics that foster peace be allowed to succeed? The key lies in the nature of the two negotiating parties and one weakness of the Machakos process, named after the town where the talks began, is precisely that it involves only two protagonists, apart from the mediators (see Addis Ababa Box). The SPLA/M's roots grow out of southern anger at northern discrimination and at oppression by a series of governments, most genocidally by the NIF. The SPLA is also guilty of brutality and authoritarianism but in its aims, it probably represents a majority of southerners and, in free elections, would win more votes than the NIF can dream of. So even the most repressive of the SPLA's 666 or so commanders (senior officers) feel the pressure for democracy and human rights from the long voiceless southern population, belatedly encouraged by foreign non-governmental organisations and governments, notably that of the USA.

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