Eastern Sudan No Longer Content to be Ignored: A Brief History of its Struggle

By June 9, 2014Reports

 

The current condition of Eastern Sudan stems from the Eastern Sudanese Front’s (“Eastern Front”) decades-long claim of marginalization. The current Eastern Front was created in March 2005 when two Eastern Sudanese factions, the Beja Congress and the Rashaida Free Lions, formed an alliance.[1] This alliance was largely the result of both factions feeling dissatisfied with the Cairo Peace Talks which began in 2004.[2] The NDA was to be the sole representative for Eastern Sudan during these talks; a decision which the Beja Congress and Rashaida Free Lions did not like. They withdrew from the talks prior to a signed agreement.[3]

In January 2005, the Beja Congress held a demonstration in Port Sudan which led to around 20 deaths and around 150 arrests of Beja Congress members.[4] In April 2005, the Eastern Front announced it was ready for war with the Sudanese government.[5] They felt ignored by the “Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum” and alleged an “unequal distribution of Sudan’s wealth.”[6] No large war erupted like that in nearby Darfur or South Sudan, but the Eastern Front carried out attacks, the most significant of which were the oil pipelines.[7] Sudan relies heavily on oil for its income and it is used by various Sudanese rebels to gain political advantage. Although the pipelines are in East Sudan, that area does not benefit from the wealth of oil exports and remains the poorest part of Sudan.[8]

After encouragement by Eritrea, the Eastern Front’s ally, peace talks commenced in June 2006 and resulted in the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (“ESPA”).[9] The agreement is filled with sections relating to establishment of Eastern Sudanese roles in Sudan’s government and courts, land ownership, ceasefire of violence and hostility, and integration of the Eastern Sudan Front combatants into the Sudanese armed forces.[10] However, it is Article 19, 22, and 33 which are currently under criticism for their lack of enforcement. In Articles 19 and 22, the parties agree to establish a fund for reconstruction and development of East Sudan, as well as the amount to be given each year to the fund, through 2011.[11] Further, Article 33 states the parties agree to convene the Consultative Conference on the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (“CCESPA”) which would build support for and provide a forum for carrying out the ESPA.[12]

At first, there was adherence to the ESPA. In June 2007,President Omar Al-Bashir appointed eight former Eastern Front leaders to parliament.[13] However, implementation is all but halted at this point. In January 2011, a “splinter group” of the Eastern Front, known as Federal Alliance of Eastern Sudan (“FAES”) merged with the Justice and Equality Movement (“JEM”), a large Darfur rebel group.[14] They want an end to domination by the National Congress Party led by President Al-Bashir.[15] Additionally, the Beja Congress joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front in November 2011.[16]

Further, in November 2013, International Crisis Group released a report marking concern over the current situation in East Sudan.[17] Some groups have even been calling for a separate state.[18] It appears, as of late, the Sudanese government is trying to counteract this negative publicity. Recently, in May 2014, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Aide, a former Eastern rebel leader, met with diplomats in Berlin. They stated their visit was in an effort to seek consultation on “peace and prosperity in Eastern Sudan”.[19] Unless the Sudanese government begins to act on the agreement it made almost eight years ago, it appears that the Eastern factions may rise again in opposition. In a country already in shaky peace agreements and civil war, this would ensure further distrust and a longer road to another ceasefire.  

-Written by Lindsay Sanders


[1] International Crisis Group, Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East, (November 26, 2013), Page 5

[2] Id., at Page 4.

[3] International Crisis Group, Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East, (November 26, 2013), Page 4.

 [4] Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities: Beja, (Accessed June 5, 2014),   http://www.minorityrights.org/?lid=4012&tmpl=printpage.
 [5] Eastern Sudan rebels prepare for war with show of force, sudantribune.com, (April 2, 2005),   http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article8845

[6] Id.

[7] East Sudan Insurgency, trust.org, (July 10, 2013), http://www.trust.org/spotlight/East-Sudan-insurgency.

[8] Id.

[9] International Crisis Group, Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East, (November 26, 2013), Page 7-9.

[10] Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (October 14, 2006)

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

 [13] Al-Bashir appoints former Eastern Sudan rebels in federal parliament, sudantribune.com, (June 26, 2007), http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article22562.
 [14] Eastern Sudan rebels merge with Darfur JEM, sudantribune.com, (January 9, 2011), http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article37539.

[15] Id.

 [16] Military: Beja Congress, globalsecurity.org, (Accessed June 5, 2014), http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/beja.htm

[17] International Crisis Group, Sudan: Preserving Peace in the East, (November 26, 2013).

[18] Id., at Page 24.

 [19] Presidential Aide seeks European support for Eastern Sudan, sudantribune.com, (May 11, 2014), http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article50956
WagingPeace

Author WagingPeace

Waging Peace is a UK human rights organisation campaigning against genocide and systematic human rights violations in Sudan.

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