Failing Darfur

 

Another Darfur peace agreement has failed, but the United Nations, or U.N., and some donor governments continue to prop up its implementation. This continued support is actually making matters worse in Darfur. By buttressing a dead peace deal, the interna- tional community is ignoring the ongoing conflict that the agreement did not address, while simultaneously contributing to the divide-and-conquer strategy of the Khartoum government, which seeks to negotiate separately with the various Darfur factions and to insulate the Darfur insurgency from other similar rebellions in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and – potentially – the East.

Another Darfur peace agreement has failed, but the United Nations, or U.N., and some donor governments continue to prop up its implementation. This continued support is actually making matters worse in Darfur. By buttressing a dead peace deal, the interna- tional community is ignoring the ongoing conflict that the agreement did not address, while simultaneously contributing to the divide-and-conquer strategy of the Khartoum government, which seeks to negotiate separately with the various Darfur factions and to insulate the Darfur insurgency from other similar rebellions in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and – potentially – the East.

The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, or DDPD, was signed in July 2011 by the government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement, or LJM, only one of several Darfuri opposition rebel groups.1 From its inception, the DDPD was deeply flawed. It fails to address the most important security and political issues identified by Darfuris. Not only does it attempt to address the conflict in Darfur without including the three most prominent rebels groups in the region, the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, and both factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement, or SLM-Minni Minnawi and SLM-Abdel Wahid, but it also allows Khartoum to continue its divide-and-conquer strategy of dealing with each of the country’s conflict zones in isolation.

Nonetheless, the U. N. and key donor countries heralded the DDPD as an important step in ending the decade-long conflict in Sudan’s vast western region. Yet the government in Khartoum has consistently impeded any meaningful implementation of the agreement, which was already based on a shaky foundation. In fact, the DDPD’s shortcomings exist on two levels – an operational failure to actually follow through on the terms of the agreement and a deeper, conceptual failure of trying to address the crisis in Darfur separate from the myriad of conflicts in other marginalized regions of Sudan.

The agreement itself is badly flawed and incomplete. It is inadequate in that it does not tackle the core security and political issues that led Darfuris to take up arms against the regime in the first place. Moreover, it does not rein in the militias that continue to stoke the instability by preventing the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. The DDPD is eerily similar to the diplomatic disaster wrought by the earlier Darfur peace agreement signed in Abuja in 2006, which also spurred on intra-Darfur fighting and separated Darfur’s issues from the structural marginalization felt by most peripheral regions in Sudan.

The grievances found in Darfur are illustrative of larger national problems; in short, the situation is not unique. This is the root of the DDPD’s inherent flaw. The agreement addresses one manifestation of the broader problem of Khartoum’s rule – the economic, political, and social marginalization of populations living at Sudan’s peripheries. Until a comprehensive approach to political inclusion and democratic transformation for all Sudanese people is adopted, the DDPD –and any subsequent stove-piped agreements— will fail to bring peace to the volatile region, just as the Darfur Peace Agreement and similar such agreements were unable to do so previously.

In light of this, the U.S. government, as well as other key donors and multilateral organizations, must change their handling of Darfur as a separate policy portfolio from the rest of Sudan. Moving forward, Darfur must be integrated into holistic policy thinking concerning Sudan.