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Former SPLM Rebels Unhappy With Sudan President Bashir's Rhetoric

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C.
19 November 2007

Former rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) are reportedly upset over what they claim to be inflammatory remarks by President Omar Al Bashir over the weekend. President Bashir said although he is committed to implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which effectively ended the war in 2005, he would not budge "an inch" on the contested borders of the country's oil-rich Abyei region. The region, which is based in the semi-autonomous south, is believed to be a key point of contention with the SPLM.

Some political observers say Bashir’s statement could potentially worsen the already brewing political tension with the SPLM. David Mozerski of the International Crisis Group has been monitoring the situation. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the bone of contention is the refusal of President Bashir to fully implement the CPA.

“Unfortunately, I think the situation was predictable if you look at the implementation of the CPA or lack thereof over the last two and half years. It’s been a steady pattern by the government, the ruling National Congress Party of undermining or ignoring key elements of the deal. And the SPLM withdrawal in October was also predictable; it was inevitable as long as core elements of the deal were being ignored sooner or later would have a redline that was crossed. And the basis of the whole situation is that their actions were political rather than military,” Mozerski said.

He said although the negotiations between the SPLM and President Bashir-led National Congress Party are at a standstill, the stalemate could be resolved.

“So there is this opportunity now at the very critical moment, but there is an opportunity to save the peace agreement and to bring the SPLM back into the government. But it’s going to take a fundamental decision by the National Congress Party to implement those elements of the deal that it finds unsavory, beginning with accepting the Abyei Protocol and the Abyei Boundary Commission report,” he noted.

Mozerski said President Bashir’s statement could potentially undermine the implementation of the CPA, which ended the civil war between the North and the South in 2005.

“I think Abyei, one of the three or four most central issues that is holding up the implementation that is at the root of the current disagreement. And the solution is actually relatively simple. There was a panel of experts to implement the boundaries of Abyei, which came out with a final and binding report, which has been accepted by the SPLM and rejected by the National Congress Party. And the rejection of that report means that there is no progress in establishing an administration, no progress in solidifying the peace agreement in that area and it’s right now very volatile issue in the whole peace deal,” Mozerski pointed out.

He said the way forward to resolving the current political impasse would be for both sides to accept the boundary report.

“There are some nuances. It’s a complex situation, but the first towards resolving is quite black and white and that is simply accepting the final Boundary Commission report. Now, we understand why the government is refusing it. Abyei is on a significant amount of oil that is currently being viewed as though it’s in the north and the boundary commission report would mean that the oil in that area would have to be shared between the government of Southern Sudan and the national government,” he said.

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