Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir have both signaled possible concessions at the talks in Addis Ababa. The two sides have been at loggerheads over how to set up a demilitarized buffer zone after the countries came close to war in April 2012. In September they signed agreements at a meeting in the Ethiopian capital to resume oil exports and secure the volatile border, but neither country has implemented the deals.
DW: Peter Schumann, will there be a possible compromise anyway?
Peter Schumann: It’s very difficult to really speculate at this moment what may be the outcome of these talks. On the one hand, I think it’s good that the two parties meet. Its always good when confronting parties decide to try to find a negotiated solution which otherwise might quickly escalate into another armed conflict. But we have also seen since the past 9 months that the agreements lack the will to implement and so far neither the parties nor their international advisors nor the United Nations or the security council have found a convincing method to ensure that agreements are honored and implemented. I am very very doubtful that we will see sort of a breakthrough or that we see a major substantive change. According to my information I think we will see this round of negotiations but we will not see fundamental changes on the ground, which would means the parties whole heartedly commit to what they have agreed.
During their last meeting they agreed to withdraw troops from the disputed areas and demilitarize border zones, have there been any implementations at all?
To my information not really. It’s very difficult to actually verify. We see very little from the UN troops, from the Ethiopian troops. I think we must differentiate between troops moving in the area and a real withdrawal which means they pack their military hardware and they move back to a verified location and do not have the intention to reenter the area. So I don’t think we can really talk about a fundamental troop withdrawal, the situation in the border area remains fragile, we are witnessing bombardments from the north, we are seeing military incursions and I think as long as the armed conflict of a civil war in the south of Sudan is not resolved, this will continue.
Looks like northern Sudan is ready or have already demilitarized the border zones. Now the Salva Kiir’s government is not doing that, is there any administrative problem in his government?
I think you are alluding to the internal leadership rivalries within the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). I don’t think that we are seeing a major rift within the SPLM, I think it’s the fundamental distrust which continues and which will not be resolved unless we have a political breakthrough which would include a resolution of the armed conflict of the Nuba mountains, Blue Niles and this areas. And we have more stability also in the border area. It is all highly fragile, and it depends on the time of the year, If you have the rainy season, if you have the dry season, the dry season is the fighting season and this is the way it has been going all along. So I am very skeptical that we are witnessing a major change as I said before I think we are seeing some cosmetics. Some tactical maneuvers but we are not seeing a major shift that we can say the North and the South are really determined to now make sure that the economic development is starting and people feel safe and secure. It’s all highly highly fragile.
What’s the point of continuing to meet if there is no implementation at all?
Its important that they meet because it means that there is a will at least within certain quarters of the National Congress Party and of course also the SPLM to sort of maintain some kind of a dialogue and not to dismiss a political solution. I think there is more reliance, continued to be more reliance on an armed solution than on a political solution. We are going to see more armed conflicts.
What would you suggest to be done, to resolve that crisis?
Its very difficult. I don’t think it’s up to the international security to really tell the parties what to do. International community has made recommendations, they have tried here and there, not very convincing but at least they have tried. I think time will tell and it will take a long time for the South to establish itself as a functioning administration, it will take time for the North to resolve its internal political conflict and I think we are going to see more, unfortunately also during 2013, of instability than stability.
Peter Schumann is a former director of United Nations mission in Sudan.
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