Academic journal article African Studies Review

Comparing the SPLA's Role in Sudan's 1997 and 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreements: To Spoil or Not to Spoil

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Comparing the SPLA's Role in Sudan's 1997 and 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreements: To Spoil or Not to Spoil

Article excerpt

Abstract:

In 2012, of the ten ongoing intrastate conflicts in Africa, half had seen at least one relapse into violence after an agreement had been signed between warring parties. This statistic tells the story of stalled and failed peace processes on the continent, but it does not point to potential causes for these failures. By comparing the Sudan People's Liberation Army's divergent decisions during different peace processes in 1997 and 2005, this article finds that changes in the group's grievances and cost-benefit analysis influenced its leaders' decision to participate in or spoil a peace process.

Résumé: En 2012, sur les dix conflits civils en cours en Afrique, la moitié au moins avait vu au moins une instance de recrudescence de violence après un accord qui avait été signé entre des factions opposées. Cette statistique raconte l'histoire des processus de paix bloqués et échoués sur le continent, mais elle n'explique pas les causes possibles de ces échecs. En comparant des décisions divergentes de l'Armée populaire de libération au Soudan au cours des processus de paix tentés en 1997 et 2005, cet article conclut que l'évolution des réclamations des groupes de rebelles, ainsi qu'une analyse coûts-bénéfices faite par les dirigeants en place, ont eu une influence sur leur décision de participer d'une manière productive ou destructive aux processus de paix en cours.

Key Words: Sudan; South Sudan; conflict; peace agreement; Sudan People's Liberation Army; Sudan People's Liberation Movement; civil war; rebel; secession; Horn of Africa; East Africa

There is little debate among scholars and policymakers that intrastate conflict is currently the most prevalent type of armed conflict. In fact, of the thirty-one armed conflicts that were ongoing in 2012, all but three occurred mostly within the boundaries of one state. Conflict recurrence is another dominant feature of modern armed conflicts, with half of these intrastate conflicts seeing a return to violence after an earlier agreement was signed between warring parties. On the African continent, the numbers are similar. In 2012, of the twelve ongoing conflicts in Africa, all but two were intrastate conflicts, and half of these had seen at least one relapse into violence after an agreement was signed (Kreutz 2010; Högbladh 2011; Themnér & Wallensteen 2013). These statistics tell the story of stalled and failed peace processes, but they do not point to potential causes for these failures.

Why have these peace processes not achieved lasting peace? The problem does not seem to be getting combatants to the negotiating table; rather, it is making sure that all of the key combatants are at the table, and keeping them committed to staying there. This need to recognize the key combatants in an armed conflict is usually overlooked by researchers, who often treat rebel groups as unitary actors. The empirical evidence, however, shows that of the five African conflicts with at least one failed agreement that were active in 2012, all of them had multiple rebel groups fighting against the government and each other (UCDP 2012). Each of these rebel groups can decide to participate in or withdraw from a peace process at any given time, or never enter the process at all. Understanding why a rebel group decides to spoil the peace process is essential if policymakers hope to successfully end a violent conflict.

I argue that changes in a rebel group's grievances, and its assessment of the costs and benefits of violence, lead to changes in a leader's decision to participate in or spoil a peace process. Specifically, I argue that an increase in a group's grievances, a decrease in the costs associated with violence, and an increase in the benefits of violence will lead to a decision to spoil a peace process. In order to explore this argument, I contrast the Sudan People's Liberation Army's (SPLA) decision to spoil the 1997 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with its decision to sign and abide by the 2005 CPA. …

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