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. These violent conflicts were, and still are, further fuelled by local grievances and competition between communities, and have a devastating impact on civilians.
Despite the peaceful referendum on the secession of South Sudan, violence erupted again in the disputed area of Abyei in March 2011, and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan in June and September the same year. The violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians and caused a serious humanitarian crisis. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North, formerly affiliated with South Sudan’s now ruling political party, is fighting the Sudan Armed Forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and has formed an alliance with the main Darfuri armed groups. The resulting Sudan Revolutionary Front now poses the threat of a countrywide insurgency.
Clashes between Sudan and South Sudan over oil fields along the border in March 2012 raised fears of a return to war between the two states. In addition, in mid-2012, following the suspension of oil production by South Sudan, the government of Sudan faced a deep economic crisis as well as increasingly vocal opposition from political parties and youth-led street protests. In another manifestation of this discontent, the majority of the opposition groups and a number of civil society groups signed the New Dawn Charter in Kampala in January 2013. The New Dawn Charter sets out a vision for resolving the conflict and governance issues undermining peace in Sudan and calls for wholesale change of the current system.
Today Sudan continues to face a complex and severe crisis. Despite continuing talks under the auspices of the African Union to ease and resolve tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, 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.
Saferworld has been working on conflict prevention issues in Sudan since 2002, including work on issues of small arms control, community security and conflict-sensitive development. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, we focused on programme development in South Sudan. 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.
The Sudan Programme aims to engage with Sudanese actors in order 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.