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Friday, 23 February 2018

The Position of the SPLM-N on Relief Delivery Same Wine, Old Bottles! (1-2)

(Elwathig Kameir) - On January 19, 2017, I published an article titled “Armed Struggle and Civil Resistance in Sudan

: Catch 22,” from which I quote the following opening paragraphs (from i to iii):
i. (The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) issued a press statement, on Jan. 17, declining to accept a US initiative (of which I have a copy) for the delivery and distribution of humanitarian relief. In a letter to the US special envoy, Donald Booth, (of which I am also in possession of a copy) on Jan. 12, the chairman of SPLM-N set out six preconditions to be met before accepting the American proposal. The SPLM-N reiterated its position, during a meeting between some of its leaders with international envoys, including the US, British, French, Norwegian, and representatives of USAID, in Paris on Jan. 17.
ii. In my opinion, the rejection of the US initiative is a miscalculated step on the part of the SPLM-N’s leadership, starting from its intentional delay in the announcement of its position on Jan. 13, the date that the US administration fixed for declaring its stance regarding sanctions on Sudan. Perhaps, the leadership of the SPLM-N has mistakenly assumed that since the term of the Obama administration was approaching its end, it would not dare to lift the sanctions before. Thus, the whole matter will soon be in the hands of President Trump’s administration, allowing the SPLM-N a large margin for manoeuvre and room for disrupting the negotiation process, hoping, perhaps, for the outbreak of Al-intifada or a swing in the mood of the international community in favour of the opposition. In addition, the declaration by the President of the Republic, on the First of January, of a ceasefire for a month, which was followed by the Council of Ministers’ resolution extending the truce for another six months, with effect from January 30, has confounded the calculations of the SPLM-N’s leadership, especially since the government will be praised by the international community for agreeing to the US initiative for the delivery of aid, thus restricting the options of the SPLM-N outside the context of negotiations.
iii. In fact, this position raises many legitimate questions about the position of the SPLM-N towards the citizens of the Two Areas, particularly when the bulk of the humanitarian aid is largely medicines and medical equipment. Added to which, the proposal commits the US government to determine the origin of the humanitarian relief and the appropriate routing for delivery to the areas under the control of the SPLM-N, after clearing the intended assistance with the Sudanese customs/immigration at some point within Sudan’s borders. The fundamental question, which I have never ceased to repeat, concerns the viability/feasibility of armed struggle, in a situation where the Movement is unable to protect its own, is innocent civilians, and is also incapacitated to provide food for the victims of the war) (Armed Struggle and Civil Resistance in Sudan: Catch 22,, 19 January 2017).
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the declaration by the SPLM-N’s "Tripartite” leadership (Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and Secretary General) of its position regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid to the areas under the Movement’s control. Thus, with the suspension of the negotiations sponsored by the African High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), under the chairmanship of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the SPLM leadership is no longer the same one. Following his resignation in March 2017, Commander Abdul Aziz Al-Hilu became the Movement’s new Chairman. This came after the decisions of the regional Nuba Mountains Liberation Council and its counterpart in the Blue Nile, which were endorsed by the extraordinary SPLM-N National Convention, in Kauda in October 2017.
Negotiations only resumed on 1st February 2018 in response to an invitation from the AUHIP. Thus, the first round of negotiations was convened between the Government of Sudan and the delegation of the SPLM-N, under its new leadership and altogether new delegation, with the aim of reaching an agreement on the cessation of hostilities and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the areas under the Movement’s control. After bilateral talks between the mediators and each delegation separately, and plenary sessions, which continued for four days (1-4 February 2018), the head of the AUHIP decided to indefinitely suspend the talks after the failure of both delegations to reach an agreement.
In this first round of negotiations, the new leadership of the SPLM advanced the same old position, notably the terms and conditions necessary for reaching an agreement on aid delivery. The first reservation is the need for the external crossing or corridor for the evacuation of the sick and the wounded, in view of the lack of confidence in the relief emanating from government-controlled areas and secondly setting custom and inspection posts outside the areas under the Movement’s control, and thirdly setting practical procedures for determining the location of troops.
Paradoxically, these are the same reservations, among others, that were raised by the then Chairman of the Movement, Commander Malik Agar, in his letter to the US Envoy on 12 January 2017. I am not aware as to whether the American proposal for relief delivery was raised during these negotiations, although this it does not make much difference. Indeed, it is the same wine in the same old bottles!