Sudan Democracy First Group

Building on the work of the AUHIP to end conflict in the Two Areas and across Sudan


June 2013


The future of the AUHIP

The need for a comprehensive approach to resolve the long standing grievances that fuel Sudan’s instability is long overdue. The ongoing fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Darfur illustrate this point.  This briefing uses the imminent expiry of the current mandate of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to recommend that:

The AUHIP mandate is renewed with sufficient capacity and a new focus on Sudan issues only. This recommendations aims to ensure that the democratization and governance element of the AUHIP’s mandate, as it currently stands, is fully utilized, enabling a comprehensive approach to be taken in order to address the fundamental causes of conflict within Sudan;
The continuity of the Sudan-South Sudan file must be ensured, but handled through an alternative mediation mechanism to be identified and authorized by the AU.

The comprehensive approach

The briefing defines a comprehensive approach as one that promotes inclusive and participatory democracy, ensures equal rights and develops a constitution representative of all Sudanese:

To develop the comprehensive approach, three complementary tracks are proposed: a unified public forum for Sudanese dialogue involving all actors; robust public debate; and the provision of technical support for negotiation, capacity building, advocacy and legal advice.

Sudan’s current constitutional process uses a draft text that is the sum of different peace deals rather than the result of inclusive national consultation:

The constitutional process should be broadened to enable a wide range of governance issues to be addressed, and to secure agreement on the basic functions of the state.


All interested Sudanese parties should be included in the process to define what change is required in Sudan and, as part of this, the AUHIP is encouraged to devote more time and capacity to take civil society consultation forward. Representatives from armed movements, a broad range of civil society actors and opposition parties, as well as the Government, should be included.

An enabling environment is essential, including goodwill confidence building gestures:

Cessation of hostilities ahead of national dialogue, although this should not be a pre-condition;
Unimpeded access for impartial humanitarian actors;
Release of political prisoners;
Guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of association;
Implementation of the ‘four freedoms’ for Sudanese and South Sudanese;
Lifting of the state of emergency.


The AUHIP stated in its January 2013 report to the AU PSC (PSC/AHG/3CCCLIII) that ending the war in the Two Areas cannot be achieved without putting in place inclusive political arrangements which will remove grievances that fuel Sudan’s crises. It also stated that democratic transformation remains the urgent task of the Sudanese leadership which will continue to need Africa’s unwavering encouragement and support.

The expiry of the AUHIP mandate on 31 July 2013 provides an opportunity to review progress over the last four years and learn lessons that should inform the next phase of mediation. It also presents an opportunity for the AU to support Sudan to develop a comprehensive national approach that links the regions to the centre and allows common grievances to be addressed collectively, rather than each region being addressed in isolation. This is essential to avoid separate peace deals that pit one group against another and invariably fail to deal with the root causes of Sudan’s chronic instability.

A comprehensive approach that addresses the need for national governance reform is necessary. It is critical that credible and inclusive political avenues are established to ensure that all groups can be encouraged to express and resolve their legitimate grievances through non-violent means.  Arguably, in the long-term, such an approach is in the interest of Khartoum as it will help avoid further fragmentation of the Sudan.

The urgent need for a comprehensive approach is clear. As the conflict in Darfur enters its tenth year, 300,000 civilians have been newly displaced in the space of five months. In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, about 800,000 civilians in rebel-held areas have received little or no humanitarian assistance since the conflict erupted over two years ago – the Tripartite Agreement aimed at addressing this concern, proposed over a year ago, was never implemented1. A further 200,000 civilians have been forced to flee to refugee camps in neighbouring countries.  The human suffering that is masked by these statistics needs to be brought to an end as swiftly as possible.


The recommendations below have been developed in consultation with experts on Sudan, Sudanese and South Sudanese civil society organizations and a range of other African and Arab civil society organizations interested in ensuring peace and stability in Sudan. The recommendations are intended to support ongoing efforts by the AUHIP, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the AU Chairperson as they reflect on progress to date and contemplate the next steps that will assist Sudan and South Sudan achieve the goal of becoming two mutually viable states. The recommendations are also relevant to other stakeholders in the international community in their support to the AU’s leadership on this issue.

The recommendations deliberately focus on the Sudan perspective regarding the need for a comprehensive national approach to address the country’s conflicts. Whilst Sudan-South Sudan relations are directly linked to peace in the Sudan, it has been recommended that issues pertaining to relations between Sudan and South Sudan are international in nature and should be addressed by an independent mechanism separate from the AUHIP. However, it is recognized that South Sudan, like Sudan, has serious internal governance issues and needs an inclusive constitution making process. Given the links between the two countries, it is hoped that the Sudan-focused recommendations below, in particular how the Sudan-South Sudan file is mediated, will have positive implications not just for South Sudan’s relations with Sudan, but also for its internal issues.


The AU is encouraged to consider the following to build on the important work the AUHIP has accomplished and to ensure sustained and effective engagement on Sudan:

The Sudan-South Sudan file is an international issue requiring extensive resourcing and sustained close attention. At the same time, the Sudan specific issues are vast, with vital challenges including: democratization and governance; and peace and security, particularly in relation to the Two Areas and Darfur. Separating the Sudan file from the Sudan-South Sudan file is the best way to provide each with sufficient capacity and, therefore, attention. Retaining all these tasks under one mediator may lead to major challenges and necessitate a sequencing approach which runs counter to the comprehensive approach.
A new mechanism, authorized by the AU, is therefore recommended to resolve the outstanding Sudan-South Sudan issues (including settlement of the final status of Abyei and ongoing border demarcation) and ensure implementation of the various agreements already brokered by the AUHIP.
Any new mechanism(s) for the international file needs to be linked to commitments already made under the current AUHIP mediation process where these are not yet implemented. Where these are already agreed, such as the nine agreements from September 2012, the imperative is for their full implementation, facilitated by increased capacity.
The AUHIP mediation should continue, but its mandate should focus solely on Sudan. The mediation should comprise a sufficient number of members of an appropriate stature and expertise who are adequately resourced to fulfill the mandate.
The AUHIP mandate should comprise two main elements: (i) democratization and governance; and (ii) peace and security. These two tracks should be implemented in a parallel process as both must be advanced simultaneously to ensure a sustainable peace is achieved across Sudan. The overall file should remain under one AU mechanism to avoid the challenges and duplicity of having two competing mediators, as was the case with the AU/UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur.


A comprehensive national approach to resolve the long-standing grievances that fuel Sudan’s instability is long overdue. This was recognized by the AU Panel on Darfur (AUPD), headed by Thabo Mbeki, in its 2009 report to the AU PSC. Yet, the AUHIP has not prioritised work in this area, despite being granted an explicit mandate to promote democratization (amongst other tasks), and a more specific directive in October 2012 to work on the promotion of democratic transformation in Sudan and South Sudan.

Definition and scope: A comprehensive approach fundamentally means promoting inclusive and participatory democracy, ensuring equal rights (amongst individuals as well as regions) and developing a constitution representative of all Sudanese. It must be a broad and inclusive process that is effectively monitored by the AUHIP and other independent observers. It should comprise of three complementary tracks:  a unified public forum for Sudanese dialogue involving all actors; robust public debate; and the provision of technical support for negotiation, capacity building, international advocacy and legal advice.

AUPD recommendations: The spirit and letter of the AU Panel for Darfur (AUPD) report recommendations of 2009 should be implemented as part of the comprehensive approach to Sudan mediation that this briefing recommends the AUHIP promote.

Leadership: It is to be expected that a comprehensive inclusive approach will not be accepted by the Government of Sudan, given its preference for directing the international community to deal with one conflict at a time, thereby avoiding having to address the systemic problems. The international community, led by the AU, must therefore be prepared to be clear and emphatic on the need for a comprehensive approach.

Coordination: Existing separate tracks of mediation relating to the conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas need to be brought together under a common national framework. This framework should build upon relevant AU PSC Communiqués and UN Security Council Resolution 2046. This will facilitate a national discussion that articulates center-periphery relations in terms of power sharing, wealth distribution and cultural and constitutional rights, amongst other issues.  All interested Sudanese stakeholders should be offered an opportunity to participate in this national debate.

Towards a national dialogue: The secession of South Sudan in 2011 rendered Sudan’s current constitution a legal anachronism. Although the Government of Sudan has initiated a constitutional review process, its shortcomings remain apparent. The draft text under consideration is the sum of different peace deals rather than the result of inclusive national consultation. The constitution review process should be broadened to enable a wide range of governance issues to be addressed, and to secure agreement on the basic functions of the state. This could take the form of national dialogue addressing a whole range of human rights issues, including ethnic and religious discrimination. A particular area to include would be land and water rights, especially for those displaced by development schemes. The national process should be accompanied by a people-to-people consultation process.

Ratification: Sudan’s ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance reaffirms the country’s commitment to democratic reform and provides the people of Sudan with a legal instrument to measure progress and hold their political leaders accountable.  This ratification tool should be utilized by the AU to hold the Government of Sudan responsible.


Definition: An inclusive approach requires that all interested Sudanese parties are able to come together through an agreed process to define what change is required in Sudan, and when and how it should happen. At a minimum, it should include representatives from armed movements, a broad range of civil society actors and opposition parties, as well as the Government. Determining which individuals should represent this broader constituency is always a challenge. However, fundamental principles, such as non-discrimination, transparency and equality, should be the criteria used to determine participation in the decision-making process. New and re-emerging groups, such as trade unions and youth movements, have an important voice in governance and democracy matters and should be central to the national discourse.

Enabling environment: An enabling environment is essential to facilitate broad-based and effective participation by all interested stakeholders in the national political process. Ideally a cessation of hostilities on all fronts would be agreed ahead of the national dialogue, but this should not be a pre-condition. In addition, a number of goodwill gestures should be pursued in the interim to build confidence in the credibility of the process:

Unimpeded humanitarian access for impartial humanitarian actors must be achieved and, if necessary, localized cessation of hostilities agreements negotiated;
Release of political prisoners and those detained on the basis of their perceived links to Sudanese opposition and rebel groups;
Guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of association should be provided, in accordance with the interim constitution;
The Government of Sudan needs to lift the state of emergency and ensure that security forces observe minimum standards of human rights and international humanitarian law;
Guarantees for the implementation of the ‘four freedoms’ that were pledged to citizens of both Sudan and South Sudan in September 2012 should be provided (i.e. freedom of residence and movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and to acquire and dispose of property)2.

As part of the dialogue itself, numerous legislative reforms could be agreed, including reforms to the National Security Act, Elections Act, Criminal Code and the various Public Order laws. Ultimately, existing human rights laws such as freedom of expression and freedom of association would need to be amended to comply with international standards.

Consultation: To ensure meaningful participation by independent civil society actors in the national dialogue, a number of models are instructive. For example, the AUHIP could replicate the consultations that were launched in 2009 to inform the AUPD’s report for the AU PSC, this time implementing the consultations Sudan-wide. However, the AUHIP is encouraged to take measures to ensure interference and monitoring by government security officials, and government vetting of civil society representatives, is not repeated. Civil society representatives within Sudan (and South Sudan), as well as those residing in or visiting neighboring countries, should be protected from persecution and harassment.

If civil society cannot be represented at all stages of the process, at the very least mediators should ensure a mechanism be put in place to communicate civil society voices at all times. Consultation with civil society has suffered under the AUHIP during its handling of the Sudan-South Sudan file, reportedly under pressure from the two parties. The AUHIP should devote more time and capacity to take civil society consultation forward and ensure it has meaningful impact.

Signed by:
Africa Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
Africa Democracy Forum (ADF)
Agency for Independent Media, South Sudan (AIM)
Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)
Arab Coalition for Darfur (ACD)
Darfur Bar Association
Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC)
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
Governance Bureau, Sudan
Human Rights Institute of Southern Africa (HURISA)
Kush Incorporated
Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)
Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG)
South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA)
Sudan Consortium
Sudanese Human Rights Monitor
The Gender Studies Centre, Khartoum
Zarga Organization for Rural Development (ZORD)


1In February 2012 the AU, LAS and UN made a Joint Proposal for access (the ‘Tripartite Agreement’) to provide and deliver humanitarian assistance to war effected civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. The SPLM-N accepted it immediately but the Government of Sudan initially rejected it. Both parties eventually signed separate Memoranda of Understanding with the AU, LAS and UN on 4 and 5 August 2012 to implement the Tripartite Agreement. However, the action plan to implement these memoranda was not agreed due to irreconcilable differences between the two parties.

2On 27 September 2012 Sudan and South Sudan signed nine agreements in Addis Ababa, the second of which was the Framework Agreement on the Status of Nationals of the Other State.

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