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Following decades of war – and despite the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the secession of South Sudan – large swathes of the Republic of Sudan continue to be affected by violent conflict. To build a better future, Sudan needs to establish a peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship with its new neighbour to the south, and peacefully resolve its internal conflicts and the grievances that drive them.

With the independence of South Sudan and the outbreak of renewed violent conflict in Sudan in 2011, we initiated work on a separate Sudan programme.

The initial activities of the Sudan Programme have built on previous conflict analysis, policy research and advocacy initiatives, as well as creating links with other programmes such as Saferworld’s China Programme. Saferworld’s Sudan programme focuses on promoting the role of civil society as a vital force, developing tools for peace education, and strengthening local peace building mechanisms for conflict transformation and governance reform in Sudan.

The Sudan Programme also seeks to improve the international community’s understanding of the challenges faced by Sudan and build a more coherent, effective and conflict-sensitive approach to supporting peace and stability in the country.

Since before its independence, Sudan has been afflicted by persistent and recurring violent conflict, primarily driven by struggles between the central government in Khartoum and armed groups from the country’s peripheries. Numerous internationally supported peace agreements – including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Darfur Peace Agreement(s) and the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement – have failed to bring lasting peace. Peace processes to date have all failed to address the underlying causes of conflict and the governance system which perpetuates them. They have all been piecemeal power sharing pacts among the elites of the belligerent actors, excluding unarmed political groups, civil society actors and the wider public. The peace processes have all therefore lacked legitimacy and popular support and have failed to address the drivers of conflict at both the national and, crucially, the local level.

Today Sudan continues to face a complex and severe crisis. Despite the peaceful referendum on the secession of South Sudan, violence re-erupted in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan in 2011. The violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians and caused a serious humanitarian crisis. Conflict in Darfur, fuelled by government sponsored militia overlaid with complex intertribal dynamics, has continued unabated for more than a decade.

Despite continuing talks under the auspices of the African Union, there has been no real progress towards ending the continuing violence within Sudan. A new approach, learning from the lessons of the past, is needed to help Sudan move towards an inclusive and lasting peace, both within Sudan and with its neighbours.