Creating a Peace to Keep in Darfur

New report from ENOUGH and the Save Darfur Coalition details a process for ending the catastrophe in Darfur with a peace that will save lives.

Download the report (pdf)

Ending the catastrophe in Darfur requires international protection for civilians, a peace agreement that resolves the underlying political issues, and accountability for human rights abuses. Complete humanitarian access must also be assured. To achieve any of these goals, there must be meaningful consequences for individuals who impede efforts at protection, peacemaking, and humanitarian access. The deployment of an international civilian protection force, authorized last July by the UN Security Council, is moving ahead fitfully in the face of constant obstruction by the Sudanese government (and gross inattention by the Security Council to the pressing needs of the mission). While full and effective deployment of that force is necessary to save lives, it ultimately will prove insufficient unless it is accompanied by a viable peace process. Unfortunately, the current peace process is in shambles.

This paper outlines the urgent steps that must be taken to create a peace to keep in Darfur.2 ENOUGH and the Save Darfur Coalition have identified these steps through our field work, our consultations with key actors, and our own experience with peace processes in Sudan and elsewhere. In particular, we draw on the model used to negotiate the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the decades-long war in southern Sudan.

Appoint a single, empowered mediator.

One strong lead mediator must replace the dual AU and UN special envoys—Salim Ahmed Salim for the African Union and Jan Eliasson for the United Nations—who jointly and uneasily lead the process now. A single mediator is necessary, because a diffusion of responsibility leads inevitably to a diffusion of effectiveness. The single mediator should have substantial negotiation experience, particularly in Africa, and preferably in Sudan. The mediator must be fully empowered to drive the process and must be supported by a full-time team with expertise in all of the relevant issues under negotiation. The efforts of such a single, empowered mediator were crucial to the success of the negotiations that resulted in the CPA.

Support the mediator with coordinated international leverage.

But no mediator, however skilled, will succeed in isolation. For example, the CPA’s Kenyan mediator was backed by a “troika” of countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway—that had influence over the parties that the mediator did not have. The manner in which the Troika’s coordinated leverage supported the mediation to end the conflict in southern Sudan provides a general blueprint for success in Darfur. Indeed, real leverage has been glaringly absent since the beginning of the Darfur crisis. A coordinated international effort to back up the mediator with clear and focused incentives for and pressures on all key actors is essential to give peace a chance.

ENOUGH, the Save Darfur Coalition, and the Genocide Intervention Network have proposed a “Quartet” of the countries that have the most external leverage: China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of these countries has particular, limited leverage in Sudan. But combined, their leverage and influence can be decisive. The Quartet should consult closely with—and in some cases apply pressure to—regional states with interests in Darfur and Sudan, including Egypt, Libya, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia, and work with key AU states, such as South Africa.

Effective diplomacy cannot be bought on the cheap. A serious effort to address the Darfur catastrophe requires each of the Quartet countries to dedicate full-time staff in the region to continuously engage the warring parties and regional states while supporting the work of the lead mediator. In the case of the United States, President Bush’s Special Envoy, Richard Williamson, should have two full-time deputies working the Darfur and CPA issues as well as a field-based team with personnel in Khartoum, Chad, and Juba. Additionally, the French government, working closely with China and the United States, should invest more through the European Union in diplomatic efforts to resolve the political crisis in Chad. The mediator and Quartet must also include the proxy war between Sudan and Chad in their approach.

Even a well-resourced Quartet effort is unlikely to succeed if it sets up a peace process divorced from a commitment to peace enforcement. Throughout the five years that this conflict has raged on, virtually no multilateral costs have been imposed on the individuals most responsible for violence targeting civilians or for obstructing humanitarian relief efforts. The UN Security Council—driven by the Quartet, each of whom is a permanent member—must impose consequences in the form of targeted sanctions on key individuals, a comprehensive arms embargo, and additional support to the International Criminal Court. Quite simply, those who are most responsible for the crisis, including top officials in the Sudanese government, must bear a cost for promoting destruction and obstruction—a cost that outweighs the benefits they have been enjoying. No peace process can succeed that is isolated from the urgency of protecting civilians and ensuring humanitarian access.

Address the Darfur conflict in its local and national contexts.

A successful peace agreement must effectively address the local and national contexts of the conflict. In particular, the Darfur conflict cannot be resolved without resolving the vital issues of wealth and power distribution in Sudan.

Local Darfur context. After multiple failed peace efforts and meandering consultations, the issues at stake in Darfur are fairly well understood. Any final agreement will have to address the following:

  • A substantial sum for individual compensation to be paid by the government
  • International monitoring of a cessation of all forms of state support for the janjaweed militia structure
  • International monitoring and support for encampment of all forces in Darfur (government, rebel, and militia)
  • Administrative arrangements for Darfur
  • Power sharing for Darfurian constituencies
  • A comprehensive plan to address the humanitarian, livelihoods, environmental, and development challenges that Darfur will face in the aftermath of the conflict

The lead envoy should jump-start the process by producing a comprehensive draft agreement that addresses these core issues. But the draft will only help move the process forward if it is—and is seen to be—reflective of the needs and interests of stakeholders, rather than a third party position.

The draft should therefore be circulated to key constituencies for peace, including traditional leaders and community leaders in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees, Darfurian civil society groups, women’s organizations, political parties, and diaspora organizations such as the Darfur Leaders Network. Broadening the peace process is essential to creating a sense of ownership among Darfurians. There will be contentious debates over the specifics of the wealth, power, development, and security arrangements of any robust agreement, so the mediator must establish a formal process—involving envoys from the Quartet as well—to solicit regular feedback from key stakeholders. In particular, it is essential that meaningful input in the negotiation process be decoupled from merely having guns. The previous practice of giving seats at the table to almost any combatant has had the perverse effect of encouraging the factionalization of armed groups and giving armed groups a greater say in determining the future of Darfur than their unarmed counterparts. Moreover, as support for a draft agreement expands, the mediator and the Quartet in cooperation with the civilian protection force must be ready to act decisively to isolate spoilers.

Various rebel factions have refused to participate in previous peace processes for different reasons at different times. One overarching concern stems from the realization that any negotiation is skewed by the much greater negotiation experience and capacity possessed by the Sudanese government. This concern is amplified by the rebels’ keen awareness that the government has mastered the techniques of divide and conquer, accentuating mistrust that already exists among different rebel leaders. Naturally, the personal ambitions of individual rebel leaders also have played a role.

The mediator and Quartet can address these problems in several ways. First, they should make clear that they are committed to a fair outcome, broadly supported in Darfur. Second, any final agreement must include international guarantees that the Quartet and other international actors are committed to fulfilling. Third, a vigorous process of consultation with Darfurian civil society will limit the ability of individual rebel leaders to put their personal ambitions ahead of a broadly acceptable agreement; as such, individual leaders will abstain from the process at their political peril. (As mentioned above, the mediator and Quartet must be prepared to isolate spoilers.) And finally, members of the Quartet can help facilitate capacity building to enhance the ability of Darfurians to negotiate with the central government.

Very soon there will have to be agreement to confidence-building measures that demonstrate a baseline of good faith, especially on the part of the government. One such measure may be a ceasefire. A recent rebel offensive and renewed attacks against civilians by the Sudanese military and allied militia demonstrate that neither side feels any incentive to stop fighting right now. Newly energized diplomacy by an empowered mediator and the Quartet, however, may make an early ceasefire more realistic.

National Sudan context. If it is to be sustained, any peace agreement for Darfur must also serve as a component of a comprehensive approach to a lasting peace in Sudan. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has consistently taken advantage of the international community’s inability to focus on Sudan as a whole. As the international community was mesmerized in 2003 by the possibility of ending the war in southern Sudan, the NCP took the opportunity to carry out its scorched earth campaign of human destruction in Darfur. After the signing of the CPA in January 2005, the NCP saw that the international focus shifted to its crimes against humanity in Darfur, accompanied by haphazard efforts to address that crisis. Not surprisingly, Khartoum took the opportunity to undermine implementation of the CPA, a key component of which is the democratic transformation of all Sudan.10 The lead mediator and the Quartet must, therefore, include implementation of the CPA in their mandate. Moreover, adjustments to the CPA will inevitably be necessary to ensure equitable access of Darfurians and all Sudanese to national power and wealth, which for far too long have been controlled by a minority elite (and, under the NCP regime, controlled by a minority of that minority).


To date, international actors, including the United States, China, France, and the United Nations, have sought more to manage the Darfur crisis piecemeal rather than solve it completely. Now is the time to appoint an empowered mediator and support that mediator with an international Quartet of powers that have leverage and interests in Sudan. The mediator and Quartet must simultaneously protect humanitarian access, push for full and effective deployment of the UN-AU civilian protection force authorized last July, and vigorously pursue a viable peace process. That peace process must address both the local and national issues that underlie the conflict, ensuring that resolution of the conflict in Darfur complements full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the conflict in southern Sudan and that provides a blueprint for the democratic transformation of the entire country. The problems of Darfur cannot be solved without solving the problems of Sudan and vice-versa. The time has come, finally, to get it right in Sudan. The long-suffering Sudanese people deserve as much.

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Information About the Enough Project:

ENOUGH is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. With an initial focus on the crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, and northern Uganda, ENOUGH’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. ENOUGH works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. To learn more about ENOUGH and what you can do to help, go to


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