Reconciliation in the Sudans

by Stein Erik Horjen (Author)
©2016 Monographs XIV, 204 Pages
Series: Religion and Society in Africa, Volume 2


In 2005, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the longest civil war in African history. Stein Erik Horjen argues that although this second civil war was not a religious one, religion still played an important role in the conflict. Ensuring freedom of religion was a high priority for the SPLM and for the Sudanese churches, which were instrumental in preparing the ground for the 2005 agreement in the same way they had been in facilitating the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972.
Focusing on the pivotal role of the Sudanese churches through a grassroots peace process called People to People, Horjen examines the churches’ work in ensuring the success of the peace talks between the SPLM and the government sealed by the 2005 Peace Agreement. Taking up the role as the voice of the voiceless, the Sudanese churches challenged and criticized the military and political leaders in regards to abuses of power.
In Reconciliation in the Sudans, Horjen details the tremendous suffering of the people during recurrent conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan. Understanding the history will allow the reader contextual insight into the latest conflict that erupted in South Sudan in 2013. The failure of including mechanisms for reconciliation in the CPA can be considered a main reason for this latest war.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Translator’s Note
  • Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1. Sunday Morning in the Cathedral
  • Chapter 2. The People Along the Nile
  • Chapter 3. The War No One Would Win
  • Chapter 4. Religion in Conflict
  • Chapter 5. Interfaith Dialogue
  • Chapter 6. Suffering and God
  • Chapter 7. Sudanese Christianity Since the Time of the Apostles
  • Chapter 8. Peace in Addis
  • Chapter 9. A People Divided by War
  • Chapter 10. Peace Initiatives
  • Chapter 11. One Voice
  • Chapter 12. Kejiko
  • Chapter 13. Wunlit
  • Chapter 14. New Power Struggle in the SPLM/A
  • Chapter 15. Kisumu
  • Chapter 16. Sudan Ecumenical Forum
  • Chapter 17. Let My People Choose!
  • Chapter 18. Entebbe Talks
  • Chapter 19. Comprehensive Peace Processes?
  • Chapter 20. Methods
  • Chapter 21. Back in Juba
  • Chapter 22. The Long Road to Peace
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

← vi | vii →


Biblical passages are taken from the Revised Standard Version (the Common Bible), © 1973 by Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Briefly About the Terminology in This Book

I have chosen the term “Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army,” or “SPLM/A,” for the whole movement during the civil war. I never managed to draw any significant distinction between the political movement and the military wing before 2005. From then on, SPLA became the name of the South Sudanese army. For the time after 2005, I use SPLA (the army) and SPLM (the party) independently. Consequently, I use “Southern Sudan” for the south before 2011, and “South Sudan” for the country after independence.

The division into regions and states in South Sudan changed in the course of the story I am telling, which is reflected in the text. ← vii | viii →

← viii | ix →


The civil war that raged in Sudan between 1983 and 2005 has been the longest lasting war in Africa. It was not the first, and sadly not the last. Generations in Sudan and South Sudan, the Two Sudans, have become more used to war than peace.

Peacemaking in the Sudans has become an industry, a job for high-level negotiation experts, politicians and diplomats. The AU, IGAD, the UN and many countries have been involved. Swarms of research institutes, training institutes, peace organizations and NGOs try to feed into these processes with their expertise. World media have followed the peace talks, eagerly waiting for a breakthrough, the final agreement.

Less attention is paid to the engagement by local actors trying to contribute to a lasting peace. They are the local capacities for peace, as Mary B. Anderson would call them. The American peace researcher points to the fact that people who work locally for peaceful coexistence are always more numerous than the people who contribute to violence and hatred. The most important instruments to build peace and reconciliation in a society are found among the local resources with competence.1 This is precisely what the Sudanese churches did in their endeavors that had great importance for the negotiations towards the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Local chiefs sat together and ← ix | x → made far-reaching peace. Military and political leaders had deprived them of responsibility for their own situation, but local leaders took it back with the churches’ help.

Peace can never come from outside. It is therefore not correct to say that the United States, Norway, Kenya or any other external actors brought peace to Sudan. The parties themselves must make peace with one another. At the same time, international actors can contribute by financing negotiations, offer ideas and suggestions and support the parties to make the right choices. They can also provide incentives or even threaten parties to reach an agreement. Without pressure, there is often no progress in peace negotiations; but haste can bring its own punishment, for example, if the parties do not finish negotiating all the questions that require a solution. A good peace is a peace that lasts; haste is seldom a good recipe for making a good, lasting peace. A good peace is more than an agreement; it is the process that took the parties to the agreement that made peace sustainable. Leaving difficult issues aside can be tempting for those who want to see results, but often these issues reoccur. Such an issue is reconciliation. The CPA signed in 2005 made no reference to reconciliation; this was a toll that waited to be paid. This happened in December 2013, when a new civil war broke out in Southern Sudan.

Similarly in the other Sudan from 2011, the conflict between Khartoum and the people of Nuba and Blue Nile is an example of an issue that the CPA had not managed to solve.

2015 gave birth to a new peace agreement, the Compromise Agreement between Salva Kiir’s government in Juba, the SPLM in Opposition led by Riek Machar and a group of former political leaders in South Sudan represented by Pagan Amum. It is still too early to judge whether this peace agreement will hold, but the name indicates the imperfectness of that truce. A compromise is never optimal, and hardly creates any enthusiasm. Nothing is gained except perhaps a temporary cessation of hostilities. Late December 2015 the factions started to return to Juba. That was a good Christmas message and created some hope in the war-torn population. Sustained peace is still far ahead, but as long as people in the Sudans know the direction, they can continue walk along that path.

There is always much to learn from previous failures and successes. This book is mainly a record of how the churches in Sudan and their international partners managed to play a decisive role in peacemaking between 1999 and 2005. It was in those years that I had the opportunity to work with them as a peace advisor in Norwegian Church Aid. Later, as development a bureaucrat ← x | xi → in the Norwegian Government, I took part in the ambitious attempt to rebuild Sudan after the CPA. The last two years before the independence of South Sudan in 2011 I was stationed as a Norwegian diplomat in Juba.

This book is slightly revised from the Norwegian version published in 2014. The world has changed, and so have I, so I have made some small corrections and alterations I felt were necessary.

Nairobi, December 2015

Stein Erik Horjen
← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →


The following abbreviations are used frequently in this book:

← xiv | 1 →

· 1 ·


It was Sunday, July 10, 2011. We had arrived early to get seats in All Saints Cathedral, the Episcopal (Anglican) cathedral in Juba. The church was full to overflowing, and a film team transmitted the service to screens and loudspeakers outside the church, so that people who were sitting a long way off to the parking lot could follow it. A lot had happened since my first visit to Juba more than ten years earlier. At that time, the civil war was still raging. Juba was a garrison town then, run by the Sudan Armed Forces. The population was small and the situation was tense. Soldiers from the SPLA surrounded the city, and at times rockets were shot towards the town, scaring the civilian population. Now, what had once been a guerilla movement had become the country’s army.

We had celebrated South Sudan’s independence the day before. Together with the cheering crowd we witnessed the Sudanese flag lowered while the new colorful South Sudanese flag had been raised on what must have been Africa’s tallest flagstaff. The people were exultant. More than thirty African Heads of State had come to join in the celebration, and their private airplanes had neatly found their place on the small strip that is called Juba International Airport. Thousands of South Sudanese citizens waved their flags and listened patiently to the speeches in the blistering heat. Soldiers stood in their ranks, ← 1 | 2 → dripping sweat, and some totally dehydrated and fainted. Everyone did their utmost that day. I spent most of my time ensuring that Crown Prince Haakon, Minister Erik Solheim, and three members of the Norwegian parliament got a place to sit at the VIP Tribune, water and something to eat in the course of the day.

That was yesterday. This Sunday morning, our guests had returned to Norway, and the other prominent visitors had likewise departed to their homes. Together with the South Sudanese Christian community, we now wanted to thank God for the miracle that had taken place: The war was over, peace had come, and people had finally gotten the independence for which they had fought for so many years.


XIV, 204
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (May)
Sudan People's Suffering of people in Sudan People to People Government of Sudan
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XIV, 204 pp.

Biographical notes

Stein Erik Horjen (Author)

As Special Advisor on Peace and Reconciliation at Norwegian Church Aid, Stein Erik Horjen has been immersed in Sudanese studies since the late nineties. In 2006, he began working for the Norwegian Government as a Development Advisor and later as a diplomat in Khartoum, Juba, and Nairobi. Horjen has a master’s in theology from the University in Oslo and has been an ordained Minister in the Church of Norway since 1989.


Title: Reconciliation in the Sudans