Memories of all-nighters and William Zartman...

Stand Director of Operations and all-around smart guy Yoni Levitan recently commented on one of my posts, saying that in his mind the situation in Darfur is just about "ripe" for resolution. If he had known how long I stayed up researching that concept for my thesis in senior year, he may have chosen different words. Ahhhh, coffee gut, sleepless nights, five minute dance breaks, how I miss it all!

Anyways, the point is that this guy I. William Zartman basically began the academic study of civil wars by suggesting that they only end when the time is "ripe for resolution." A civil war is considered ripe for resolution when both sides find themselves in a "mutually hurting stalemate": i.e. no one has the upper-hand, both sides feel that they have little to gain from continued violence, and both sides will continue to take losses if the situation remains the same. Since Zartman first suggested the idea, there have been lots of additions and elaborations to the theory, but it's still the same basic idea: international pressure to end a civil war will be most effective when the timing is right. Often the timing is right after some big event or change happens that makes both parties realize the pain and loss of continued fighting.

Other factors that affect the timing and effectiveness of a resolution would be:

- the role of outside actors
- the presence of spoilers (parties with nothing to gain and everything to lose from peace, e.g. warlords who gain power and money during war by hoarding valuable resources such as coltan or diamonds but would lose it all if peace allowed the government to establish legitimate trade avenues and businesses)
- the cohesion and unity of the negotiating parties.

I agree with Yoni in many ways. I believe the time is ripe for resolution right now for a number of reasons many of which he points out.

1. The government has recently realized that it can be painful to continue fighting, both because of the attack on the capital by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement last May and because of the possible arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court. In the beginning of November, President Bashir of Sudan declared a unilateral ceasefire and began offering some concessions to the rebel groups, a step in the right direction.

2. The impending arrival of the Obama Administration with Senator Clinton as Secretary of State and Susan Rice as top UN diplomat signals a new era in American foreign policy, including pledges of multilateralism and action against genocide. It's not clear how this team will react yet to the situation in Sudan, but it clearly presents an opportunity for a new approach.

3. There seems to be a concerted effort by both African and Arab leaders to convince President Bashir of the benefits of peace. This has not always been the case (especially on the part of Egypt) so it is welcome news. In particular, people are talking about the Qatari initiative, which seems to hold some very good ideas.

4. Oil prices are down, exposing the government to economic realities a bit more. China also seems to be taking less interest in protecting Sudan recently, possibly because of their own economic worries.

The key challenges?

1. Getting the rebels together. There are still numerous different groups in slight competition with each other, leaving no real negotiating partner. The Justice and Equality Movement and Sudanese Liberation Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur are the two major groups, but there are tons of other little ones. Many of them feel like their position can only get better from here so are not super-eager to negotiate, partly because of international criticism of the government. The key is to make sure that the most important ones who are capable of disrupting any peace process are included while the trouble-makers are ostracized.

2. Implementing and monitoring any agreements, including disarming Janjawiid and other militias. There are so many disparate and rogue elements within the region of Darfur now that it is hard to say who really has enough control there to implement agreements or take steps towards peace.

3. Making sure that the camps for internally displaced people do not ignite fresh violence. Generally speaking, people in these camps have no interest in peace with the Government after so many years of abuse and must see some sort of benefit to negotiations in order to support them.

4. Making sure that the North-South peace agreement continues to be implemented and does not fall apart.

There are probably many more factors that I can't pull into my head right now, but those are some ideas to stew on for now. If now really is a "ripe" time for resolution, then it is the perfect time for Canada to step up its diplomatic role. Especially with the international coalition that seems to be forming around the Qatari initiative. With some serious pressure, Canada and the US could help the situation become even more ripe and push both sides towards peace. They could also help monitor any agreements that are made to build confidence on both sides.

And if you have managed to read through this tome of a post, then you might as well leave a comment to let me know what you think!

No comments: