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Sudan: Between Peace and War

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 11, 2009 (091011)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The pace of diplomacy on Sudan is increasing, with talks set to resume on Darfur and active engagement by the African Union, the United Nations, and the United States in efforts to move Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement forward as it approaches the last year of a projected 6-year interim period. But, says veteran Sudan analyst John Ashworth, in fact the agreement "is not Comprehensive, nor Peace, nor an Agreement. Its failure could ignite a new war even more deadly than the two previous conflicts in Southern Sudan.

Ashworth particularly notes the peril of the plan to hold elections which are likely to have little credibility before a referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan, and the lack of will of the Sudanese government to implement the agreement, The Sudanese government "has consistently attempted to undermine the agreement, delaying and obstructing most of the key requirements." But "unless southerners can exercise their right of self-determination in a free, fair and credible manner, there is a high probability of a return to war," he concludes.

This AfricaFocus Bulletins contains (1) excerpts from Ashworth's review of the state of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement, published by IKV Pax Christi Netherlands last month, and (2) a press release from Human Rights Watch on its latest report, documenting "human rights violations and repression in Khartoum and northern states, ongoing violence in Darfur, and the fighting that threatens civilians in Southern Sudan."

This web-only AfricaFocus Bulletin is one of three posted today. Also only on the web is Sudan: Policy Debates and Dilemmas, at; Sudan: African Union Panel Reports was sent out to subscribers by e-mail and is also available on the web (

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Sudan, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

The State of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement

Alert No.1

This analysis has been prepared by the IKV Pax Christi Horn of Africa Programme.

Author: John Ashworth


[Excerpts only. For full text, with footnotes, see /]

Utrecht, 4th September 2009


IKV Pax Christi sees the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] as the only available instrument to achieve a transition towards a more democratic and peaceful Sudan.

By issuing this analysis on the current state of CPA implementation, it issues alerts about security, wealth sharing and power sharing that need urgent attention from all actors involved. The report also outlines what a next war may look like.

Following the analysis we conclude that unless southerners can exercise their right of self-determination in a free, fair and credible manner, there is a high probability of a return to war.

The holding of a free and fair referendum in 2011 must therefore be the over-riding priority for all stakeholders, including Sudanese governments, political parties and civil society and the international community.

It is in the interest of the citizens of Sudan that the elections are free, fair and will be conducted in a peaceful environment, which can only be realized if the international community gives it significant support.

However, if the elections are to be held before 2011, they are likely to be neither free nor fair, but rather too chaotic to result in a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people. As a result, they may well impede the CPA's centre-piece, the referendum, and draw the country into chaos and violence. Thus there is need for a serious discussion on the timing of the elections.

A new civil war between north and south would be a disaster for the people of Sudan and one that would destabilise an already volatile region. All of us must therefore do our utmost to prevent it from happening. Making the realisation of the referendum in 2011 the over-riding policy objective is one way of doing this.

Jan Gruiters Director IKV Pax Christi

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Context


The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January 2005 brought an end to 22 years of civil war in southern Sudan and the marginalised areas of southern Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains and Abyei.

However, in fact it is not Comprehensive, nor Peace, nor an Agreement.

It is not Comprehensive for two reasons: it only dealt with one of the conflicts in Sudan, and it is only between two warring parties, excluding all other political parties and military factions, north and south, as well as civil society.

It is not Peace. It is effectively a cease-fire agreement and a framework or road map for peace, which is scheduled for 2011. Of course it was a great achievement to move the conflict from the military to the political sphere, but this should not be confused with "peace".

It is not an Agreement. It was signed reluctantly by the NCP [National Congress Party], under intense diplomatic pressure. The final agreement is virtually identical to a draft presented by the mediator, Lt Gen Lazarus Sumbeiywo, about a year earlier which the NCP had rejected outright with undiplomatic language, suggesting it should be flushed down the toilet. NCP appeared to give away more than they could afford, and the implication is that they never intended to implement it. Northern Sudanese governments have arguably not honoured any agreement signed with the south since 1947, so southerners are understandably sceptical about the worth of this one. "Too many agreements dishonoured", to quote elder statesman Abel Alier, and from the outset this showed all the signs of being another one.

The international community accepted the CPA at face value and turned their attention to Darfur. This was a mistake. ...

In light of the above, the main, if unspoken, priority of GOSS [Government of Southern Sudan] is preparing for the next war. ...

This overrides many other priorities, such as development, anti-corruption, accountability, good governance, peace-building, reconciliation, justice, etc. It explains why SPLM [Sudan People's Liberation Movement] has been slow to make the transition from authoritarian liberation movement to democratic political party; the conflict has not finished yet and they feel the need to present a strong front to the NCP while the political phase of conflict continues, and do not want to disintegrate just before the military phase breaks out again. It also explains why certain individuals and groups are favoured; they may not be very good at government, they may even misbehave, but they are proven solid supporters of the movement during war time, or they represent constituencies which must be kept on board. Although there is a hard core of experienced and committed SPLA cadres, in general the SPLA is not a united army, but rather a collection of former militias and ethnic groups, and a constant balancing act is needed to keep them together.


However since most of the specific components of the CPA are, on paper, good for the south, SPLM has generally attempted to implement the agreement in good faith. [in contrast] NCP has consistently attempted to undermine the agreement, delaying and obstructing most of the key requirements.



Despite massive efforts by civil society and aid agencies, with the encouragement of GOSS, many people in the south have still never seen a copy of the CPA, nor associated documents such as the Interim National Constitution, Interim Constitution for Southern Sudan and the National Elections Act 2008. In the north, too, it is "hard to find a hard-copy". Anecdotal evidence from workshops suggests that those who have not read these documents include government officials, politicians, intellectuals, opinion leaders and civil society figures. The documents have not been translated into local languages and remain inaccessible to ordinary people. Copies printed in English and Arabic are not being circulated widely enough. The information that people do receive, second-hand, is often inaccurate and incomplete.


Violence in the South

In the last few months there has been a significant increase in violence within the south, mostly between different ethnic groups. It has increased in both quantity and quality - cattle-raiding in the past has usually not resulted in huge casualties amongst women, children and the elderly.

"In the Church's opinion, this is the biggest problem in Sudan today... The only conclusion one can draw is that these are ancient disputes that are being deliberately stirred up into something much more damaging for the local people and the stability of our country as a whole. Who is doing this is still largely unknown, but it is evident from local reports received through the Church network that the arms smuggling, re-armament and incitement of tribal violence is being carried out by enemies of the CPA."

There are consistent reports that this is being instigated by elements within the NCP. Senior figures in the SPLM have blamed the north for supplying arms, and there are plenty of grassroots reports of military aircraft being used, and military uniforms and brand new weapons being seen. ...

The NCP "has been arming militia groups to cause instability in south Sudan...(and) has also been arming civilians", according to SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum. ...

Southern politicians and former militia leaders are perceived as being involved, using local ethnic tensions for their own ends. When asked who is behind the trouble, local people often answer, "The politicians. The intellectuals. People from the town". There is a strong belief that they are being supported by Khartoum. ...

However not all the culprits can be traced to Khartoum, and some may have links to SPLM. Some violent crime in Juba and banditry in other parts of the south can also be linked to individual SPLA members. It's also clear that in some areas SPLA forces operate independently and are not completely under control, eg recent problems involving SPLA troops along the Kenyan and Ugandan borders.

If the violence is being orchestrated, it serves several purposes:

  • To discredit and undermine the CPA.
  • To retard development in the south.
  • To give the impression that the south cannot govern itself, and that secession will lead to widespread ethnic violence. ...
  • To give an excuse for the north to maintain troops in certain parts of the south, eg the oil fields, to "maintain security".


Joint Integrated Units (JIU)

During the IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development] negotiations, the NCP demanded that there should be only one national army, SAF [Sudan Armed Forces], and that SPLA would be assimilated into it. SPLA, believing along with most southerners that ultimately military power is the only guarantee that the CPA will be implemented, insisted on two armies, SAF in the north and SPLA in the south. The compromise was three armies: SAF in the north, SPLA in the south, and the Joint Integrated Units, comprising 50% SAF and 50% SPLA, in key locations in the south and north (eg Khartoum).

In practice it has not worked. Not only are JIUs not acting under common command, but in many locations they are not able to stay together in the same barracks, and are placed several kilometres apart. There have been cases of violence between the SAF and SPLA within JIU, including Abyei and Malakal.
... ...

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMISS)


The UN peace-keeping mission in southern Sudan has generally been disappointing. One recurring complaint is their failure to patrol. Linked to this is their lack of knowledge of the context and their inability properly to analyse the situation. In situations where fighting has taken place they have either been absent or unable to intervene effectively. While they have had some successes, there are serious doubts about the cost-effectiveness of this hugely expensive operation.


Oil and Borders

Oil creates a number of immediate problems in the south, but a key problem connected to the CPA is where the oil will be after 2011 in case of secession. Most of the oil is in the south, but a great deal of it is along the border. Already Abyei has lost oil fields following the ruling in the Hague, and since Abyei is expected to vote to join the south in anything like a free and fair referendum, that oil is potentially lost to the south. However since the north-south border itself has not been demarcated, GOSS still hopes that some of that oil will find its way back into the south. In successive maps published in Khartoum since 1956, the border has been seen to move southwards. It will be a challenge for the Border Commission to reverse that trend.

The potential loss of oil revenue is a major problem for northern Sudan. While they do not depend as heavily on oil revenue as the south (over 50% of the annual budget26 as opposed to over 90% in the south), nevertheless it has been a key factor in both economic and military development. Future oil revenue plays a significant role in attracting foreign investment. Loss of this revenue may lead to serious destabilisation in the north. There are fears that Khartoum may wish to annexe parts of the oil fields in the south, either permanently or "temporarily".

Thus, if the south secedes in 2011, a new oil compromise between north and south will be needed. An agreement to continue sharing revenue with the north would probably be politically unacceptable to southerners. However, while the south has the oil, the north has the pipeline and refining facilities. ... Hence a commercial rather than a political deal whereby the south sells its oil to the north, or "hires" pipeline and refining services from the north at a cost that is agreeable to both but may be higher than a "normal" market price, would benefit both sides.


Government of Southern Sudan budget crisis

There are differing views on how much of the current financial crisis is caused by GOSS mismanagement and corruption, and how much by the global economic downturn and drop in oil prices. Over 90% of the GOSS budget comes from oil, so that has definitely had a significant effect.

But whatever the cause, it is now a serious problem. It will hinder development in the south, slow down the policy of devolution and decentralisation of government, reduce confidence in GOSS, and potentially lead to further conflict and violence.

It should also be added that donor money has been slow to arrive, and appears to have fallen short of the USD 4.5 billion promised in Oslo in April 2005. In May 2008, GOSS said it had received only USD 550 million, "while funds earmarked for development have been diverted to aid for Darfur". ...

Power and Democratisation


The basic problem in Sudan, whether in Darfur, the south or the east, is at the centre - the domination of Sudanese political systems by a small riverain elite, currently embodied in the NCP regime, which seeks to control and marginalise the peripheries whilst also insisting on a particular cultural and religious identity for the whole of Sudan. Ethnic politics play a role in Sudan, as they did in Kenyan elections. Sudan is still to a large extent a client-patron state, and this too will play a role, with electors being encouraged to vote for the "big man" who they believe can bring benefits to their particular community.

These factors must be taken into account when urging good governance, democracy, elections, etc. They are not a passing phase which can be fixed with a bit of capacity-building or training; they are deep-seated cultural attitudes.

Government of National Unity (GONU)

28% of positions in the Government of National Unity have gone to SPLM, as per the CPA. However the SPLM cabinet ministers are isolated and marginalised and are little more than figureheads. Real power sits with the NCP counterpart in each ministry. It is widely believed that national security actively controls all significant ministries. ... As one minister said, "They give me a nice office, a big car, police escorts, but I have no power. My civil servants do not brief me nor show me documents, and they don't carry out my instructions".

While SPLM has not articulated a public policy on GONU, it appears that they have given up on it. SPLM ministers in GONU continue to play the game, but the real energy of SPLM is channelled into trying to set up a viable government in Juba in preparation for independent nationhood.


The results of the census are almost certainly not accurate, and southerners have rejected them completely as a basis for power-and wealth-sharing and for elections and the referendum. It is generally accepted that the results have been rigged in favour of the north.



In hindsight, it was a mistake to have elections during the Interim Period. This is a cease-fire period leading to the final peace deal after the referendum, and it would make more sense to leave the two signatories to complete the transition. Elections would then be held after the referendum, whether in two countries or one. If the Interim Period had been only two years as SPLM wanted, this would have been obvious, but the extension to six years clouded the issue.


Nobody in the north or south believes the elections will be free and fair. The NCP held two sham elections during the war, and is experienced at rigging them. The conflict in Darfur will make elections there extremely difficult. Discussions among opposition parties in the north over an active boycott of the elections question whether anything resembling free and fair elections can take place in a climate of lack of freedom and the restrictive laws which are still in place.


Within the south there is a strong perception that the elections have already been rigged as a result of the census, which will be used to prepare the election and particularly constituency boundaries. Given the census claim that only 20% of the population is in the south (instead of the more widely accepted 33%), there is a strong possibility that even in a "free and fair" vote, northern parties would win a large enough majority to be able to change the constitution and potentially derail the CPA. ...

While SPLM would clearly favour a cancellation of elections, the picture within NCP is more mixed. Some might be happy to cancel them; others see it as a chance to legitimise the NCP regime and end the stigma of having seized power by force in the 1989 coup d'‚tat. Opposition parties would in principle like the elections to take place in 2010 but may boycott them due to the fear that they will not be free and fair. ...

Neither side can be the first to call for postponing the elections. The main danger from postponement or cancellation is setting a precedent for cancelling other parts of the CPA, particularly the referendum. "Soon you would be saying: "This referendum, we don't need it. There are people trying to see to it that it [referendum] doesn't happen. We are not going to give them an excuse."



For most southerners (including southern opposition parties, many of which are more overtly pro-secession than SPLM), the referendum is the ultimate goal of the CPA. They are willing to compromise on many issues, and to overlook breaches in the implementation of the CPA, as long as they get to exercise their right of self- determination in 2011. ...

Tampering with that is extremely dangerous, and it is worrying to hear that United States officials have hinted to southern President Salva Kiir that the referendum should be delayed. However US Special Envoy Scott Gration subsequently reportedly stated that the USA would work to ensure that the referendum takes place in January 2011. The international community must not play into the hands of the NCP, and must insist that this part of the CPA be sacrosanct, whatever else is sacrificed.

GOSS' Minister for International Cooperation, Lieutenant General Obai, expressed to the AU "its deep concern at the danger coming to Sudan as a result of the NCP's dangerous attempt to sabotage and betray the right of the people of south Sudan to selfdetermination.... GOSS and south Sudan's people will not entertain any delay of the referendum... which is a clear violation of the CPA."


If there is a vote for secession which passes whatever percentage has been agreed, there are still scenarios which could lead to further conflict. One is that the north might attempt to annexe parts of Unity and Upper Nile States ... Or they may publicly acknowledge secession of the whole south, but argue that they need to maintain "temporary" control of those states to ensure security for the oil fields. Or they may simply refuse outright to grant independence, seeking support from AU states which fear a domino effect within Africa and an international community which tends to support the status quo. The international community must resist all these scenarios.

Even if secession does take place peacefully, southerners need to articulate what sort of society they want in their newly-independent state, and to find a way of resolving ethnic tensions. They also need a pragmatic working relationship with their new neighbour in the north - the oil may be in the south, but the pipeline is in the north.


Unilateral Declaration of Independence

If for any reason the referendum does not result in secession for the south, or if it is delayed, there is a strong possibility that the south will unilaterally declare independence.

Coup d'état

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a result adverse to the NCP in either the elections of referendum could trigger a coup d'état. The new regime could abrogate the CPA and cancel the results of the elections and referendum, all in the interests of peace, security and stability. The option of secession is extremely unpopular throughout the north (both for reasons of national pride and oil) and such a coup might, initially at least, gain some popular support.

Marginalised areas

On paper, Abyei gained from the CPA, as they have a referendum. Conflict now is around borders (theoretically solved by the Hague arbitration) and who will be allowed to vote in the referendum. While the immediate level of tension around Abyei has decreased, it could escalate again at any time.

The Nuba Mountains (Southern Kordofan) and Southern Blue Nile, both of which joined the SPLA in the civil war, gained virtually nothing from the CPA. Both are defined as being part of the north, which many of their people would reject. Both have been granted limited autonomy under the Presidency, but few believe that this is meaningful. They have no referendum, simply an undefined "popular consultation" about their governance, but without the option of joining the south. ,,,

If the south does achieve independence, it will leave these two states in a very difficult position indeed, and it could easily trigger fresh violence. ...

The Next War

By 2005, southerners were exhausted by war and welcomed the peace. But even as the CPA was being signed, the mantra throughout the south was, "War is better than a bad peace".

What constitutes a "bad peace"? The most likely cause is if southerners feel they have been cheated at the time of the referendum - it doesn't take place, or it is perceived as being rigged, or perhaps there is a simple majority for secession but the NCP insists on a higher percentage, or there is a vote for secession but secession is not granted, or if the north permanently or "temporarily" annexes parts of the south. However the war could break out at any time and in any place before then for a number of reasons: tensions in Abyei, resumed fighting between JIU factions in Malakal, the elections, ethnic conflict, disillusion in Southern Kordofan or Blue Nile, etc. One southerner said, "Petrol has been poured all over the south; it's now just waiting for a match."

Both parties are clearly preparing for the possibility of war. ...

The third southern civil war in Sudan will be more terrible than the first two, and will have some very different characteristics.

  • Both the previous wars began with the northern government controlling the south. The liberation movements began in the bush and had to fight to control territory gradually. The third war will begin with the SPLA in control of virtually the whole south, except perhaps parts of the oil fields which are still occupied by northern security forces.
  • Organised fighting (as opposed to insurgency - see below) will begin on the north-south border. Depending on the scenario, either northern forces will invade, and may quickly capture some of the towns close to the border, or SPLA will attempt to reoccupy southern territory being held by the north.
  • SPLA will maintain its hold on most of the south, giving it secure rear bases and an undisputed border with friendly neighbours. It will be able to reinforce its forward bases rapidly and maintain its military logistics flow.
  • A limited war to annex the oil fields of Greater Upper Nile and the rich agricultural lands of Renk, Kordofan and Blue Nile may be all that Khartoum wants, but southerners will not rest easy while any of the south remains in northern hands. And next time round they might go the extra mile to secure a referendum for their comrades-in-arms in the contested areas too.
  • This time it will be the north which uses insurgents in the bush in the south. These will be made up of ethnic groups and militia such as those who supported the north in the last war, and LRA.
  • Southerners have vowed that they will take the third war to the north. Both previous wars were fought in the south, apart from Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and southern Blue Nile. When Kurmuk, a town which the northerners perceive as northern, was taken in 1987 and again in 1997, there was consternation throughout the north. ...
  • There are 1,500 SPLA troops in Khartoum in the JIU. If war breaks out, they are unlikely to sit back and surrender their arms. They may be joined by Darfuri SLA forces, and there could be a spontaneous uprising by southerners and westerners in the displaced camps and shanty towns around the three cities. Whatever the outcome, it will be very bloody before it is put down. As the rioting following the death of Dr John Garang demonstrated, it could quickly turn into mass ethnic killing. Blood will run in the streets of the capital. ...
  • Both sides are preparing for war. In the two previous civil wars, the south was unprepared, and its liberation armies began from very small ad hoc forces. This time the south will begin with a large standing army and with arms and materiel which it could never have dreamed of before. The north will probably have more sophisticated weaponry and will have more of everything, but it lacks committed troops. Much of Khartoum's front line army consisted of southerners and westerners; it is by no means certain that they will do their master's bidding a third time. ...
  • In an increasingly globalised world, and with significant tensions and conflict already existing in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, DRC, Chad and Darfur, the next war is going to have an impact on the region greater than the two previous wars did.


The holding of a free and fair referendum in 2011 must be the over-riding priority for all stakeholders, including Sudanese governments, parties and civil society and the international community. If southerners are not allowed to exercise their right of self-determination in a free, fair and credible manner, then there is a high probability of a return to war.

It is in the interest of the citizens of Sudan (if not all their leaders!) that the elections be free, fair and peaceful, and the international community is preparing to give significant support. However elections held before 2011 will not only be chaotic in themselves but may well impede the all-important referendum. Thus there is need for a serious discussion on the timing of the elections. ... This discussion is urgent. It must be broad-based and open process, and must of course be driven by the Sudanese.

Envoys, UN, AU Should Press Ruling Party for Nationwide Reforms

October 6, 2009

Human Rights Watch

(New York) - The Sudanese government should end attacks by its armed forces on civilians in Darfur and make the major human rights reforms envisioned in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Human Rights Watch said in a report issued today. Special Envoys to Sudan, concerned governments, and United Nations and African Union officials meeting in Moscow today should press Sudan's government to make these legal and policy changes a matter of urgent priority, Human Rights Watch said.

The 25-page report, "The Way Forward: Ending Human Rights Abuses and Repression across Sudan" documents human rights violations and repression in Khartoum and northern states, ongoing violence in Darfur, and the fighting that threatens civilians in Southern Sudan. It is based on field research in eastern Chad and Southern Sudan in July and August.

"Sudan is at a crossroads," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "It can either make good on its promises or allow the situation to deteriorate further with its repressive practices."

Today's meeting of concerned governments and intergovernmental bodies in Moscow including the UN, AU and League of Arab States comes at a critical time in Sudan. The National Congress Party (NCP)-led Government of National Unity (GNU) is facing an interlocking mosaic of human rights and political challenges in the coming months.

Darfur peace talks, which have faltered in recent months, are set to resume this month in Doha. Under the terms of the 2005 CPA, national elections are scheduled for April 2010 and a southern referendum on independence for January 2011. Sudan's failure in any of these processes can undermine its overall progress.

"Those who care about the Sudanese people should put human rights first, through strong, comprehensive and coordinated pressure on the governing party to change its ways in the South, on Darfur and in Khartoum," said Gagnon.

The government should immediately end attacks on civilians in Darfur, charge or release people it has arrested arbitrarily, and end harassment of civil society activists, said Human Rights Watch. It should prioritize provisions of the CPA that have clear human rights and security implications, Human Rights Watch said. These include genuine reform of its national security apparatus, North-South border demarcation, and security agreements to withdraw and downsize troops and integrate former militias.

Arbitrary Arrests

Sudanese national security officials, acting under the sweeping powers of the National Security Forces Act (NSFA), have been arresting and detaining civil society activists, opposition leaders, and suspected rebels in Khartoum, Port Sudan, Kassala, Darfur and elsewhere, often for prolonged periods and without access to family or lawyers, Human Rights Watch research indicated. For example, at least seven Darfuri students who are members of the United Popular Front (UPF) have been in detention since April 2009. Their group held events at several Sudanese universities supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC), which on March 4 issued an indictment against Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir.

On October 1, security officers arrested two more members of the student group in Gazeera state following a university debate on Darfur. Government security forces have also harassed and arrested activists from Kassala in eastern Sudan and political opposition party members in Khartoum and Southern Kordofan.

On August 28, security officers arrested another Darfuri activist, Abdelmajeed Saleh Abaker Haroun, in downtown Khartoum and they continue to detain him without charge.

"The Sudanese government should end its practice of arbitrary arrests, release or charge people it has detained without legal basis, and it should genuinely reform national security laws," said Gagnon.

Harassment of Civil Society and Suppression of Information

The full extent of human rights violations in the northern states and in Darfur is unknown because of government censorship of the media. Its closure of three Sudanese human rights organizations following the ICC indictment further restricted the flow of information about human rights across Sudan. The expulsion of 13 international humanitarian organizations from Darfur around the same time has also restricted the flow of information about humanitarian needs.

The policy of pre-print censorship, which Human Rights Watch has documented, continued with security officers operating under the Security Forces Act censoring and suspending newspapers and blocking civil society activities, particularly on elections, while preparations are beginning for the April 2010 elections.

Human Rights Watch has found that on at least six occasions in the last four months, security and humanitarian authorities interrupted or prevented civil society groups and political parties from holding talks about elections in Khartoum, Port Sudan, Medani and elsewhere in northern states and Darfur. In one case, security officials detained and questioned members of the Communist party for distributing leaflets in Khartoum.

"By repressing civil society groups and political parties, the Sudanese government is restricting fundamental political freedoms at the time they are most important," Gagnon said.

Between January and June, security officials prevented publication of newspapers on at least 10 occasions through heavy censorship, harassed or arrested journalists and the author of a book on Darfur, and shut down an organization that was training and supporting journalists. In September, government censorship caused suspension of at least two major papers.

President Bashir announced on September 29 that his government would stop pre-print censorship, but also warned journalists not to exceed established "red lines." It remains to be seen whether this statement will translate into greater freedom of expression on critical matters of public interest.

Ongoing Clashes in Darfur

In Darfur, recent clashes between the governing party-led Sudan Armed Forces and rebels in September and the use of indiscriminate bombings demonstrate that the war is not over. Government air and ground attacks on villages around Korma North Darfur on September 17 and 18 reportedly killed 16 civilians, including women, and burned several villages.

Witnesses from the North Darfur town of Um Baru told Human Rights Watch that government bombing in May hit water pumps and killed and injured scores of civilians.

"They were dropping 12 bombs a day," one witness told Human Rights Watch. "They dropped in all the areas around the town."

Clashes between government and JEM rebels at Muhajariya, South Darfur, in February included an intensive government bombing campaign that killed scores of civilians and displaced 40,000. An estimated 2.7 million people in displaced persons camps in Darfur and 200,000 in Chad are unable to return to their villages for fear of the attacks and violence, including sexual violence, by government soldiers and government-allied militia.

Insecurity in Southern Sudan

In Abyei and other flashpoints along the North-South border, the GNU's failure to implement the peace agreement provisions on border demarcation and troop withdrawal and downsizing threatens to expose civilians to further abuse and danger. Both armies have failed to downsize and to integrate former militias fully, as required by the security arrangements in the peace agreement.

During the February clashes in Malakal between the northern government forces and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army soldiers, former militias whom the armed forces failed to integrate instigated violence and human rights violations. The presidency has still not taken sufficient action to remove NCP-backed former militias from the area and reduce the threat of further violence.

Elsewhere in Southern Sudan, intense inter-ethnic fighting killed at least 1,200 civilians in the first half of 2009. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-led Government of Southern Sudan has so far been unable to protect civilians from the
civilian-on-civilian fighting, or from a steady stream of attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army operating in Central and Western Equatoria since September 2008.

"The people of Southern Sudan have borne the brunt of the intense inter-ethnic fighting, rebel attacks and clashes between the northern and southern armies," Gagnon said.

Both the southern government and the national government need to do more to prevent the violence and protect civilians, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Mission in Sudan peacekeeping mission should also increase efforts to prevent violence and protect civilians, Human Rights Watch said.

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