AFTER 22 YEARS of war and an estimated 2 million deaths, Sudan's Islamic government signed a peace deal on Sunday with the country's southern rebels. The agreement represents a concession, on paper at least, by the government. It has dropped its policy of imposing sharia law on the Christian and animist peoples of the south. It has agreed that southerners should hold a referendum, to be conducted in 2011, on whether to secede or remain part of the country. It has promised the south 50 percent of the nation's oil revenue and a measure of regional autonomy; it has awarded the rebel leader, John Garang, the title of vice president. Reports from Juba, the southern capital, describe delighted crowds cheering their erstwhile enemy, President Omar Hassan Bashir, who visited to celebrate the peace deal Monday. Some 4 million displaced people may now get the option to return home. One of the world's most destructive conflicts may finally have ended.
This is a tribute to the foreign mediators -- Kenyan, American, British and Norwegian -- who pushed the peace process forward. These same mediators now have a responsibility to ensure that the deal is implemented properly. This is going to involve the deployment of cease-fire monitors from the United Nations, an effort to disarm more than 20 government-backed militias that continue to roam southern Sudan, and political engagement to smooth out the inevitable arguments as implementation moves forward. But the hardest challenge will be to manage this process while responding forcefully to the genocide in Sudan's western province of Darfur. The first objective calls for some engagement with Sudan's government. The second calls for much sterner pressure on it.
The sponsors of the north-south peace process hope that the political opening it creates will help to pacify Darfur. The province's rebels took up arms out of a fear that northerners and southerners would carve up the country's resources while leaving westerners out, and it's possible that offering them positions in the new government of national unity could lay that original fear to rest. But the conflict in Darfur has developed way beyond its origins. The region's ethnic African people have had their villages burned by the government and its militia allies; they have been herded into camps for displaced people, and the camps depend on Western food aid that the government obstructs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how much it feels it can get away with. Probably about 300,000 people have died as a result of this violence and the related murder-by-starvation. It's going to take more than a bit of regional autonomy or representation in the central government to make peace in the wake of this genocide.
Peace in Darfur is going to require the deployment of a police or military force that gives people the confidence to return to their burned villages. The supplier of this force cannot be Sudan's government; its victims understandably don't trust it. Conceivably, ex-rebel units from southern Sudan could be deployed, along with an expanded version of the existing force supplied by the African Union. But these deployments aren't going to happen unless Sudan's government is forced to accept them. It was diplomatic pressure that pushed Sudan to negotiate with southerners, and diplomatic pressure can succeed again. But this will happen only if the government is made to see that international recognition and internal investment -- the two prizes that it craves -- are not going to come its way without a resolution in Darfur.
Peace in Sudan