Egypt's Effort to Collapse the Machakos Peace Process

Eric Reeves
July 20, 2003

As if the Machakos peace process for Sudan were not sufficiently
endangered by recent destructive comments from US special envoy John
Danforth, and by a Khartoum regime that is expediently working to
make a just peace agreement impossible, Egypt has chosen this critical
moment to intrude forcefully its own narrowly self-interested view of
Sudan's conflict

Determined at all costs to prevent a meaningful
self-determination referendum for the south from ever becoming a
possibility, Cairo is insisting that the Machakos process abandon the
draft peace accord tabled by chief mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo at
during the last round of talks (officially, the "Draft Framework for
Resolution of the Outstanding Issues"). For as details of the draft
Machakos accord continue to emerge (it was published in the London-
Arabic-language newspaper al-Shark al-Awsat on July 18, 2003), it
becomes ever clearer that the Draft Framework does indeed take the
security concerns of southern Sudan seriously. This makes perfect
sense, of course, since only adequate security arrangements insure
a self-determination referendum six years out from the signing of a
final agreement will remain a viable possibility.

For its part, Egypt is determined to undermine any peace agreement
works to provide the meaningful security arrangements that would
Khartoum from simply abandoning its agreement to allow a
self-determination referendum. What is the evidence that this is
Egyptian policy? and that these policy views were conveyed to
during his recent stop in Cairo? Why, in turn, has the Sudan
Council of
Churches "expressed concern about the negative interference of some
countries such as Egypt in Sudan's affairs" (Catholic Information
Service for Africa; Nairobi, July 18, 2003)? There are all too many
answers and all too much evidence of Egyptian obstructionism.

In assessing present Egyptian efforts to derail the Machakos process,
as anchored by the Draft Framework, we should first recall that
views on a southern self-determination referendum have long been
At the time of the widely hailed Machakos Protocol, the agreement of
July 2002 that has created the present chance for peace in Sudan, the
state-controlled Egyptian press quickly went to work excoriating the
diplomatic breakthrough. For example, a strident but representative
editorial appeared on July 29, 2002 in Al-Wafd newspaper. Written by
Chief Editor Majdi Muhanna, the piece declared:

"the separation of the Sudanese south from its north ***is against
core Egyptian interest*** [emphasis added], even if the Sudanese
it. In case they decide to establish two states, one in the north and
one in the south, Egypt will live in fear that Israel, America or any
other may act against its interests by tampering or threatening to
tamper with its rights and share of the Nile Waters."

Such outrageously inciting language found its echo in numerous
from various other state-controlled news media, government officials,
and (in somewhat moderated form) from President Hosni Mubarak.
Significantly, at the time US Assistant Secretary of State for
Affairs Walter Kansteiner would not publicly affirm that the Machakos
Protocol did indeed allow for the right of self-determination, even
the language of the agreement could not be clearer:

"At the end of the six-year Interim Period there shall be an
internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the
Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A, for the people of South Sudan to:
confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of
government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for
secession." (Machakos Protocol, 2.5)

Egypt has been rather more quiet in recent months, but its views of
Machakos Protocol and the document they wish to see emerge as a final
peace accord have been unchanging. Certainly US special envoy
would have heard during his recent trip to Cairo (significantly, his
first stop in the region) a thoroughly explicit rehearsal of these
views, couched in the language not only of regional interests but of
Egyptian strategic interests. Al-Hayat newspaper reports today (July
2003) on comments from the Egyptian Ambassador in Khartoum, Mohammed
Asim Ibrahim. Ibrahim declared that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed
Maher told Danforth that Cairo had many reservations about the Draft
Framework and considers it "unsuitable as basis for the negotiations
problematic and must be completely re-written."

It is difficult to imagine a more arrogant and destructive position
Egypt to take at this critical moment, even as there is nothing
surprising or without clear precedent in the view expressed. At the
same time, such a view would go a long way toward explaining
own undermining comments while in Cairo. Deutsche Presse-Agentur
reported (July 16, 2003) that "[Danforth] assured the Egyptian side
the document presented by the IGAD was ***only a draft*** [emphasis
added] and was subject to further negotiations." This comment
misrepresents that status of the document that chief IGAD mediator
Lazaro Sumbeiywo presented at Nakuru during the last round of
talks. As Sumbeiywo has put it:

"[Sumbeiywo said] the draft proposal is balanced. 'They [Khartoum's
negotiators] have a right to suggest what they want,' he said. 'My
proposal is fair and the international community agreed with me that
was fair. I am very impartial, and they [Khartoum's negotiators] have
acknowledged [so] themselves on many occasions, including today."
of America, July 13, 2003)

The Draft Framework may be a draft, but not "only a draft": it
represents the best efforts of international negotiators to craft a
and balanced peace accord that can serve as the basis for final

Danforth will have also heard from the Arab League about its views of
the document that is supposed to anchor the Machakos talks at this
moment. Though there has been some lip-service from the Arab League
about respecting the outcome of a self-determination referendum for
south, the present diplomatic hardball realities have been made
perfectly clear by Arab League chief Amr Mussa (notably, the former
Egyptian foreign minister): Mussa "urged mediators from the
Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to withdraw its
peace accord" (Agence France-Presse, July 14, 2003).

Meanwhile, a meeting of senior Egyptian and Sudanese diplomats
that whatever tension there may be between Khartoum and Cairo on
issues, at this moment their interests in killing the Machakos
coincide fully. Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Ebeid left for Khartoum
yesterday (July 19, 2003) to meet with the National Islamic Front's
extremely powerful First Vice President, Ali Osman Taha. As Agence
France-Presse notes (July 19, 2003):

"The visit comes amid deadlock in efforts to end Sudan's 20-year
war after Khartoum rejected US-backed peace proposals accepted by the
southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Egypt, which
concerned about the possible secession of south Sudan after a
referendum on independence, on Wednesday called for more 'balanced'
proposals to be put forward by east African mediators."

There will no doubt be a good deal of coordinating of diplomatic
strategy, even as the main theme is caught in a dispatch by
Press (July 19, 2003):

"Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Obeid, who led the delegation, said on
his arrival that Egypt backs all peace efforts with the goal of
'bringing together the sons of the united Sudan and chasing away the
ghost of division.'"

The unmistakable import of this comment received an ominous echo in
comments of Taha, the member of the NIF perhaps most adamantly
to a peace agreement:

"'Cooperation between Sudan and Egypt is now taking new dimensions
bypass formalities and bureaucracies and go deep to the joint
for the two people.'"

The upshot of all this is clear: Egypt is more than willing to see
talks collapse rather than create a just peace that would guarantee
viability of a meaningful self-determination referendum for the
Moreover, Egypt knows (as do Taha and other members of the NIF) that
real justice in any peace agreement must allow the people of the
to be their own guarantors of security. The exceedingly poor recent
performance by the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, along
with the failure of the US and the rest of the international
to insure timely and substantial deployment of a Verification and
Monitoring Team (per the February 4, 2003 "Addendum" to the October
2002 cease-fire agreement) demands that the south be allowed the
to provide its own security guarantees.

It should also be noted in this connection that the people of the
have certainly not been encouraged by the refusal of the US and
to declare what many and various extremely informed sources in
Sudan have been reporting for over half a year: that Khartoum has
steadily redeploying significant military forces in clear violation
the October 15, 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement. Clear,
unambiguous aerial photographic evidence of these redeployments is
available to the US State Department. The Civilian Protection
Monitoring Team, under its previous leadership, also provided
substantial evidence of Khartoum's military redeployments (Section 3,
"CPMT Final Report: Military Events in Western Upper Nile, 31
December 2002 to 30 January 2003," February 6, 2003).

If such blatant and continuous violations of a signed
accord---violations that directly affect the military balance of
in southern Sudan---go unremarked by the US and others, how can those
who maintain this silence be trusted to insure the security of the
south? This is a question asked by all in the south and for which
is no good answer.

To be sure, there are those who argue with honesty and integrity
that a
united Sudan must be given a chance if the diplomatic process is to
succeed. Reports from the International Crisis Group (ICG), for
example, have stressed this perspective, even as they have honestly
assessed the needs of the south. Moreover, these reports (at are adamant in insisting that Khartoum must
demonstrate that unity is preferable to secession. But even ICG
recognizes that unity must be preferred by, not dictated to the
Given Khartoum's despotism and tyranny, it is very difficult to
that in six years a fair self-determination referendum could
in a vote for unity. And it is even more difficult to imagine that
Khartoum regime, if unchanged, will abide by its commitment to a
referendum. Hence the need for security arrangements as they have
reported in the draft peace accord tabled at Nakuru during the last
session of the Machakos talks.

It is to these security provisions of the Draft Framework that Cairo
most strenuously objects, along with the degree of autonomy
granted to the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile (Abyei is
apparently to hold its own self-determination referendum some time
before the end of the six-year Interim period). In short, the
will not accept an agreement that makes it possible for the forces of
the SPLM/A to guarantee a self-determination referendum as
stipulated in
the Machakos Protocol.


So what does this augur for the future of the Machakos peace talks?
Notably, the resumption of talks has apparently been pushed back from
the previously scheduled July 23, 2003 date to August 6, 2003---a
of two weeks. (The delay according Khartoum's al-Ayam (July 20,
citing official sources, may be indefinite; this possibility was
partially confirmed by Khartoum's foreign minister, Mustafa Ismail
[Agence France-Presse, July 20, 2003]). Yet even as the resumption of
talks has been pushed back, there has been no qualification from Bush
administration diplomats of the bizarre comments by Danforth in
on the relative difficulty of outstanding issues (issues addressed,
course, in the Draft Framework):

"[Danforth noted] that the main bones of contention had been settled
year ago and that remaining thorns---'power- and wealth-sharing and
status of the capital'---were minor in comparison." (Agence
France-Presse, July 19, 2003)

"[Danforth said] wealth-sharing, power-sharing, security (and) the
status of the capital' were 'in my opinion, very solvable.'"
July 18, 2003)

What are we to make of these fatuous comments? Is it simply
of the fact that no substantial progress has been on any of these key
issues in the year since the signing of the Machakos Protocol? How
Danforth fail even to mention the critical issue of the three
areas (Abyei, Nuba, Southern Blue Nile)? Though Danforth appears
capable of such ignorance, the real explanation seems more ominous.
suggesting that the outstanding issues are not as difficult as they
been universally described (or even as numerous), Danforth is most
likely suggesting implicitly that the work of consensus diplomacy
went into the Draft Framework presented by Sumbeiywo is nothing
and thus that the issues can be readily addressed in some other

If the case, such expediency on the part of the US envoy would hold
clear potential to collapse the talks. If Danforth has in fact been
urging the SPLM/A to abandon the Draft Framework because it has
so objectionable to Khartoum, the Arab League, and Egypt, then US
credibility will be vastly diminished. By way of context, we must
remember that in speaking with Danforth in Cairo, the Egyptians will
surely have played forcefully their Middle East card ("you badly
need us
for any Middle East peace deal") and touted its power and standing
within the Arab world ("you need us now more than ever in the wake of
your war on Iraq"). The implied quid pro quo would entail the US
abandoning the Machakos draft accord.

But even as US expediency may be responsible for pushing back the
resumption of talks---to permit the drafting of a new document,
acceptable to Egypt---Danforth is simultaneously declaring that time
running short:

"'The two sides are going to have to come together and reach
on these points and I believe they can in a very short period of
said [Danforth]. 'Right now the United States has been keenly
interested, (as have) the British, the Norwegians, the Italians. That
interest cannot be sustained for ever." (Agence France-Presse, July

Time is short, it would seem, but not so short that a new draft
document can't be forced to emerge from the Machakos mediators. The
question of the moment is whether Sumbeiywo will allow himself to be
dictated to by the US (and by Egypt and the Arab League in support of
Khartoum's position of outright rejection of the draft accord).
characterized so positively the Draft Framework he prepared, in
consultation with other IGAD and "troika" (US, Norway, UK) diplomats,
can Sumbeiywo simply submit to such rejection of his best good-faith
efforts? We should know shortly. Certainly if he submits to this
dictate, Sumbeiywo will lose the confidence of the SPLM/A.

Meanwhile, Khartoum---which has made no effort to hide its contempt
Sumbeiywo and his efforts---is sending chief negotiator Ghazi Saleh
el-Din Atabani to Kenya to meet not with Sumbeiywo, but with
Mwai Kibaki:

"A top Sudanese official is on Monday expected to discuss with the
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki ways to resolve the current standoff in
Sudan's peace process, the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported
Ghazi Salah El Din, peace advisor to Sudanese President Omer El
is also expected to deliver a message from the Sudanese president to
Kenyan counterpart on the latest developments in the peace process."
(Deutsche Presse-Agentur, July 19, 2003)

Rather than deal with the IGAD mediators, Khartoum is attempting to
strong-arm the process by means of the new Kenyan government, which
seems to be taking less interest in ending Sudan's conflict. The
attempt is obviously to cut an independent Sumbeiywo out of the
diplomatic picture. This is quite possible since he is regarded with
some suspicion by President Kibaki, and he has lost his old power
(his connection to President Moi and his position as head of the
Now he has only his experience to support his position---experience
which of course includes successfully overseeing negotiation of the
Machakos Protocol. But this is likely not enough. With Khartoum,
Arab League, and Egypt---and apparently the US---all bearing down on
Draft Framework, he must either capitulate or resign.

But if Egypt has in fact weighed in so consequentially and so
self-interestedly---and without confronting forceful US diplomatic
support of the Machakos Draft Framework---it is difficult to imagine
that Sumbeiywo or anyone else can draft a new document that still
preserves what seems by all accounts the justice reflected in the
present document.

Justice, however, seems not of much concern at this moment of truth
Sudan's peace process---a state of affairs all too familiar for the
people of Sudan.