About the Author: Major General (Ret) Scott Gration serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan.
I am about to head to Darfur, after spending several days in Khartoum and Juba. While in Khartoum, I participated in a plenary session of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) to discuss the remaining issues regarding implementation of the 2005 North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). See below for a brief description of the AEC and for the text of a statement released by the AEC and its members following the plenary session.
The AEC was established as part of the 2005 CPA to monitor and support implementation of the peace agreement. It is made up of representatives from the Sudanese parties to the CPA, the National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, as well as international representatives from Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. The African Union, Arab League, European Union, and United Nations also participate as observers.
AEC Plenary Statement
The Assessment and Evaluation Commission held a high level plenary session on 4 May. Envoys and heads of mission of the witnesses to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement joined the representatives of the parties in the first meeting of the Commission since the national elections, a key CPA milestone.
The AEC is not tasked with election observation, but members were agreed in welcoming the peaceful conduct of the elections as an important step. They stressed that complaints in respect of individual results should be pursued through the channels prescribed by law. They looked forward to implementation of the understanding reached between the parties on additional Southern representation in the National Assembly. They welcomed the broadening of the political space which had resulted during the election period and called for continued efforts in pursuit of the democratic transformation envisaged in the CPA and the Interim National Constitution. They considered that administrative, logistic and procedural lessons could be drawn from the experience of the electoral process which could help to ensure the success of the upcoming elections in Southern Kordofan and the referenda in January 2011.
At this important point in Sudan's history, as new governments are being formed and newly elected representatives prepare to take office, all AEC members and observers reaffirmed their total commitment to the CPA and specifically to the fulfillment, successfully and on time, of the key remaining steps in its implementation -- popular consultation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the referendum in Abyei and the self determination referendum of the people of the South.
Discussion at the plenary meeting focused on the actions which need to be taken urgently to prepare the way for such success and for a peaceful transition in 2011 whatever the outcomes of the popular consultation and of the referenda. The parties briefed on the state of discussions between them. Recalling that the time remaining to prepare for the referenda is short, and that the AEC called in January 2010 for the immediate establishment of the referendum commissions to ensure that the necessary administrative, logistical and funding mechanisms can be put in place, the AEC concludes that the appointment of these commissions now is imperative.
The AEC welcomes the decision of the Presidency to proceed without further delay with demarcation on the ground of the 1/1/56 border and underlines the urgency of agreement in respect of those areas where the ad hoc Technical Committee has as yet been unable to delimit it. It stresses also the importance of completing the demarcation of the Abyei border as determined by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The AEC has consistently argued that border demarcation need not mean new barriers, and in this context it warmly welcomes the conclusions of the "Tamazuj" conference of border states and undertakes to assist in follow up.
The AEC welcomes also the steps already taken by the parties to prepare for negotiations on post referendum arrangements covering key issues on both possible scenarios, continued unity or separation. Success in such negotiations will be of vital importance to peaceful transition in 2011 and beyond. The AEC looks forward to the formal launch by the parties of these negotiations and underlines the readiness of the Commission and its members to assist with experience and expertise as and when requested. The Chairman informed the meeting of his intention to convene at regular intervals, in addition to the normal plenary and working group meetings of the AEC, an ad hoc group including all members which might receive briefings and help in coordinating such assistance.
Finally it should be noted that international participants in the meeting underlined their readiness individually and collectively to provide such assistance as may be needed to ensure the success of the steps specified in this statement, and other outstanding steps in CPA implementation, and to help support development in the war affected areas and across Southern Sudan. They noted that support for the referenda in particular would need to be available immediately on formation of the commissions and receipt of requests from them, given the tightness of the timetable.