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Reconciliation in the Sudans


Stein Erik Horjen

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.
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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’...

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