Sudan watchers will remember the 27th of November when a significant event took place. A DDR (Demilitarisation, Demobilisation and Reintegration) conference was held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel. Simultaneously the media wires carried the declaration of President Salva Kiir of the Republic of South Sudan that his country cannot demilitarise the SPLA/N forces because they are in another country (the Sudan). This flies in the face of what Mr. Pagan Amum, secretary general of the SPLA declared at Chatham House in London (1 May, 2012), that the SPLA has two battalions in the Sudan. It also reminds one of President Kiir’s denial of links with SPLA/N to President Obama and the subsequent letter of apology he sent saying that his advisors’ presence in the room prevented him from telling the truth! (Alan Boswell – McClatchy Newspapers 2 August 2012).
Two sets of facts form the background to the London DDR Conference:
A. Although they publicly agreed to downsize the army through DDR, the SPLA leaders did not intend to undertake the necessary steps before the 2011 referendum. Writing in the “Small Arms Survey” Report No.24, Ryan Nichols says: “A lack of SPLA buy-in, ownership and confidence in the DDR programme is fundamentally undermining the programme in South Sudan, as evidenced by the SPLA’s returning some of its demobilised soldiers to its payroll. “The SPLA sees itself as provider for ex-combatants rather than a key partner in the DDR process.”
The two battalions left in the Sudan were not just “forgotten.” According to another small arms survey by John Young (2007) the SPLA “is preparing for a return to armed conflict along the North-South border.” That’s why it was not ready “to engage in wholesale efforts to disarm and demobilise its soldiers.”
Happily, notwithstanding the above negative pointers, the 27th of September Addis Ababa Cooperation Agreement between Presidents Bashir and Kiir has managed to overcome all major difficulties and create an atmosphere that is conducive to further reconciliation and peaceful neighbourliness.
B. The attitude in the Sudan was different as documented and explained in the London Gloucester Hotel conference. 30,000 were demobilised and retrained for civilian life. UNICEF is involved, UNDP is involved, UNAMID is helping.
A film was shown of butchers, tailors, and small shopkeepers who were combatants and have started a new life in the community.
The keynote speech was delivered by no less than a former head of state, Field Marshall Abdel Rahaman Mohamed Hassan Sowar El Dahab. In his speech, he underlined the significance of his involvement. As a professional military leader he said he knew war very well; but he also knew that peace was more difficult to achieve than war. As head of state, he realised that sharp differences in the political landscape could only be managed by elections. That’s why he held elections and handed over power in 1986. This is very a-typical, with elections scheduled in about two years time and some political groups not accepting elections as a route to mandate governance. General Hassan Osman Dahawi spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The commissioner general of Sudan DDR, the UNDP Programme Manager for Darfur and the head of UNAMID DDR UNIT spoke. The ambassador of Sudan in London, A. AlAzreg, and members of staff participated.
During the panel discussions, participants listened to Ms. Alena Longauerova, a diplomat from the Slovak Republic, Dr. Hany El Banna—president of the Humanitarian Forum, Tom Gillhespy--head of Africa Programmes at Peace Direct, Sheikh Khalid Al Fawaz on behalf of Al Muntada Trust, Bengt Lunggren-- Senior DDR Advisor at the Folke Bernadotte Academy, as well as Mr. Matthew Smith-Director General of the Middle East Association, who said that peace and trade were the best tools of cooperation with the Sudan.
Mrs. Patricia Parker MBE, founder of the British organisation Kids for Kids that started work in North Darfur before the beginning of the Darfur crisis spoke about the way Kids for Kids dove-tails with the DDR programme.
Dr. Sulaf Eldeen Salih Mohamed, Commissioner General, SDDRC, summed up the discussions, thanking the participants and promising closer follow-up.
Field Marshal Abdelrahaman M.H. Sowar El Dahab ended the highly successful day with an appeal to the participants for more cooperation for the cause of peace and stability.
The DDR programme was one of the fruits of the 2005 CPA. The countries that brokered the CPA and became guarantors for its implementation are the USA, the UK, and Norway, as well as the EU and IGAD. They were thanked profusely for their backing. London was praised for its warm welcome.
There was, however, one other factor that no participant at the hotel has noticed, but is worth registering here.
The two UK organisations that represent the Lieberman-Netanyahu far-right alliance in Israel, Aegis Trust and Waging Peace, both of which wear the mask of Genocide Prevention as part of what Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP, described as “the cynical Israeli exploitation of continuing guilt about the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust” have openly campaigned against the DDR London Conference. On Waging Peace’s website there was even a call for a demonstration in front of the Gloucester Hotel. Aegis Trust is showing a film at the Frontline Club on 29 November in support of SPLA/N and the continued conflict.
The political message is crystal clear. There are two conflicting projects, one adopted by the Sudan and supported by the international community and Western democracies for peace and DDR. Thirty thousand have been demobilised and retrained for civilian life, and the work goes on. Its success is showcased mainly in the Doha Agreement, the Eastern Sudan Agreement and the Darfur Regional Authority. The other contradictory “spoilers’” project is embraced by Lieberman – Netanyahu’s proxy organisations, another proof that the policies and values of the Western democracies are not identical to those of the ruling Israeli far right.