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Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-Fires

February 2001

The following is an inexhaustive list of recent peace accords and cease-fires arising from protracted ethnic conflicts around the world. They reveal that despite the headlines of "intractable" ethnic conflicts, many efforts are being made to manage ethnic conflicts more effectively. Original texts of a wide range of agreements are also available in our Peace Agreements section.


Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-Fires in Asia
Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-Fires in Former Soviet Sphere
Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-Fires in Africa
Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-Fires in South and Central America

Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-fires in Asia


In the North East of India, it has a population of 1.5 million and is India's only majority Christian state (95%). When the British left India, Nagaland declared itself independent, a move which Delhi never recognised. There has been separatist violence ever since with state repression in return (In total, over 1,000 deaths since 1947). Things are complicated by significant in-fighting among the separatists along ethnic lines and the fact that Nagaland is a major route-way for the Burmese drugs trade. Three underground organisations, including the largest National Socialist Council of Nagaland Isa-Muivah, agreed to enter into a three month ceasefire with the Indian Government from 1 August 1997 to facilitate talks with the Government. The talks, sponsored by an American Baptist group, are being held in Atlanta (USA). The ceasefire has been subsequently extended and the government seem open to developing some form of federal arrangement.


Both India and Pakistan acquired new Prime Ministers during 1997. Both men have given signals that they are open to imaginative approaches in their foreign policies. While foreign minister in a previous government, Indian Prime Minister Inder Gujral implemented a policy of unilateral concessions to neighbours in the hope that cordial relations would bring mutual economic benefits. There has been press speculation that he would like to extend the 'Gujral Doctrine' to Pakistan. Prime Ministers Sharif and Gurjal have met three times this year, the first meetings between Prime Ministers for four years. They agreed to establish a 'hotline', arrange for civilian prisoner exchanges and relax visa restrictions. Subsequent meetings between their foreign ministers have led to the formation of working groups to discuss the Kashmir issue. Speculation on an elite level rapprochement subsided, however, after Robin Cook's faux pas during a recent visit to the region.


The UN's largest ever peacekeeping operation facilitated elections in Cambodia in 1993. They led to a permanent coalition arrangement with two prime ministers. In July 1997, Cambodia's second Prime Minister, Hun Sen of the Cambodian People's Party, launched a coup against his coalition partners in FUNCINPEC. A number of leading FUNCINPEC members were killed and others, including its leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, have been forced into exile. Elections are due to be held in 1998. The international community, having already invested $2bn into securing Cambodian democracy, is faced with a dilemma: does it refuse to recognise the legitimacy of elections which Hun Sen will probably rig, or does it offer to help the electoral process in the hope of rescuing democracy?


A peace treaty was signed on 18 February 1997 between indigenous Dayaks and Madurese migrants in the province of west Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo. This followed two months of clashes in which at least 20 people died and about 7000 people were forced to flee their homes.


The Burmese junta, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and the Karen National Union (KNU) held four rounds of peace talks between December 1995 and November 1996. These talks collapsed on 31 January 1997 when SLORC began a major offensive against KNU strongholds, forcing 20,000 people to flee into neighbouring Thailand.


On 7 January 1997, the Government held preliminary talks with the Muslim secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). MILF had not endorsed the Mindanao peace agreement signed by the Government and the Moro National Liberation Front(MNLF) in September 1996. The Government said that it was amenable to the MILF demand for self-government, but ruled out independence. A ceasefire was implemented on 23 January to facilitate further negotations. Peace negotiations were suspended in June following clashes between the Government and MILF in which at least 50 people died.


Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-fires in the Former Soviet Sphere


This post-Soviet collapse conflict between the Tajikistan Government and Islamic rebels has displaced 900,000 out of population of 6 million. The United Nations has been sponsoring peace talks between the two sides since 1994. In December 1996 a peace agreement was signed between the Tajik President Imamali Rakhmonov and the Islamic leader Siad Abdullo Nuri in Moscow. This helped reduce tensions but did not lead to a complete end to violence. In March 1997 the two sides agreed on a four stage plan leading to a final peace accord in June 1997. The plan involved the merging of the various armed factions and the armed forces, a power-sharing arrangement in the Commission for National Reconciliation, prisoner exchanges and the introduction of amnesty laws. Matters are complicated by the fact that neither side is in complete charge of its own armed forces (warlordism is rife) and the danger of an overspill of Taliban fundamentalism from neighbouring Afghanistan.


After a separatist war, the Russian and Chechen Presidents have signed a series of peace agreements. President Yeltsin was anxious to ensure the withdrawal of Russian troops before the Russian Presidential election. Final agreement on Cechenya's constitutional status, however, has been postponed until 2001. Both sides have agreed not to use force and to abide by the norms of international law, but apart from this matters seem unclear. Occasional border skirmishes have flared up, leading to the establishment of a joint commission of investigation. Just to make things clearer, the Chechen capital, Grozny, was renamed Dzhokhar Ghala, after a dead separatist leader.


Matters have been stale-mated since the Armenians successfully grabbed most of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992-4. In June 1997, the Minsk Group of the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe(OSCE) submitted a draft peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh to the leaders of Armenia, Azerbijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. It would give the Armenian speaking enclave of Nargorno-Karabakh autonomous status within Aberbaijan and the right to its own constitution.

Former Yugoslavia

The end of the war was precipitated by a NATO bombardment of Serbian positions, and post-Dayton, has been secured by 34,000 NATO troops. An extremely uneasy peace is in place. The Former Yugoslavia is now divided into three main zones, Serbia, and Muslim and Croat Federations, the latter two of which are in the process of coming together. There are numerous sources of instability in the region: internal turmoil in Serbia, the West's pursuit of 'war criminals', and the West's keenness to withdraw its troops. The key test, however, is the success of attempts by ethnically cleansed refugees to reclaim their homes in areas controlled by other ethnic groups. Of 2.1 million displaced Bosnians, 300,000 have returned home, but only 30,000 have returned to areas controlled by a different ethnic group.


Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-fires in Africa


Representatives of 26 Somali factions met in January 1997 to form a National Salvation Council as a prelude to the formation of a national unity government. The Council has subsequently collapsed and reformed a number of times, but the main problem seems to be the non-participation of Mohammed Aydid, the leader of one of the most powerful factions.


In 1994 the UN sponsored Lusaka peace accords were signed between the ruling MPLA and the guerrilla opposition UNITA. The country still remains divided, however, with the MPLA controlling the capital and most of the population, but with UNITA controlling 70% of the territory. Many of the Lusaka accords (for example, relating to government access to UNITA controlled territory and the demobilisation of armed groups) have yet to be implemented. It is hoped that a government of national unity can be formed, but UNITA, under Jonas Savimi, remains suspicious of MPLA intentions. The UN peacekeeping force is in the process of withdrawing. UNITA's main external backer, Mobotu in Zaire, has been replaced by the more hostile Kabila which could destabilise the power relationship between UNITA and MPLA. The MPLA has also begun to launch raids into UNITA controlled territory - especially aimed at the country's diamond mines.


Mozambique is something of a success story. It is four years since the 28 year old civil war ended and two years since the UN sponsored elections. FRELIMO and RENAMO seem comfortable with the democratic process.


War between the Sudanese government and rebel groups in the south and east of the country has been on-going for the last 13 years. Recently, the largest guerrilla faction, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which is backed by Ethiopia and Eritrea, has been making military gains. In April 1997, the Government signed peace agreements with a number of rebel groups, but not with the SPLA. In May, Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, met President Museveni of Uganda for talks mediated by Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi. The two leaders agreed on a new relationship following a series of border clashes and expressed a willingness to involve Johnny Garang, the leader of the SPLA, in future talks.


On 18 April 1997, the Government of Chad signed a peace agreement with the rebel movement Armed Forces for a Federal Republic (FARF) led by Laokein Barde. A seven point plan was drawn up which included a general amnesty for FARF members, their integration into the national army and the civil service, the transformation of FARF into a political party and the possibility of establishing a truth and reconciliation commission.

Western Sahara

In May 1996 the UN had suspended attempts to conduct a census in advance of a referendum on the future status of Western Sahara. The mandate for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was due to expire on 31 May 1997. This spurred the UN into attempting to solve the issue. On 17 March 1997, former US Secretary of State, James Baker, was appointed as special envoy by the UN Secretary General. Baker visited the area in April 1997 and the UN extended MINURSO's mandate. In June 1997, Baker held talks with Moroccan and Western Saharan delegations in London and then mediated face-to-face talks between the two groups in Lisbon. [The Economist speculated that this referendum approach could be replicated for Spain's North African territories, Melilla and Ceuta, which Morocco claims and Spain doesn't particularly want].

Sierra Leone

A peace treaty was signed in November 1996 to end a six year civil war between government forces and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). A Commission for the Considation of Peace was established by the two parties. On 15 March 1997, the leader of the RUF, Foday Sanhok was ousted by his own party for allegedly 'thwarting the peace process.' Sierra Leone's President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, welcomed Sanhok's overthrow and expressed a willingness to work with the new RUF leadership. A coup by junior army officers in May 1997 forced President Kabbah to flee, with the coup leader, Major Johnny Paul Koroma declaring himself head of state and abolishing political parties. Nigerian led attempts to restore the civilian regime failed. Massive instability and human rights abuses followed. On 1 June 1997 Koroma announced the establishment of an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) with Foday Sanhok, former RUF leader, installed as deputy chairman. In mid June, AFRC accepted the deployment of ECOMOG and UN peacekeepers and a 10 point peace plan.


In August 1996 the Abuja peace agreement was signed between the three largest factions in Liberia. It was overseen by the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which has responsibility for National Disarmament and Demobilisation Commissions. Demobilisation was due to be complete by 31 January 1997, but there was a high non-participation rate. Elections were scheduled for 30 May 1997, with ECOMOG due to pull-out in November/December 1997. Matters have been complicated by the emergence of vigilante groups who have been attacking former combatants in apparent revenge attacks.


Recent Peace Agreements and Cease-fires in South and Central America


An agreement between the Mexican Government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army(EZLN) was reached in February 1996. It covered rights for indigenous cultures but was not implemented. In November 1996 the EZLN withdrew from talks with the Government and issued a defiant New Year message. In June 1997, the Popular Revolutionary Army(ERP), a left-wing guerrilla group in the southern state of Guerrero, declared a unilateral ceasefire in order to allow elections to go ahead. It refused to disarm.

El Salvador

After a civil war which cost 75,000 lives, the story in El Salvador is mainly one of how the FMLN (previously the left-wing guerrilla force) adapts to constitutional politics and, equally, how the right wing Arena Party accommodates its rivals. The FMLN made significant gains in elections in March 1997, during which Arena attempted to portray them as unreformed revolutionaries and the FMLN insisted that they were Social Democrats capable of good governance.


A peace treaty which was meant to definitively end the 36 year old civil war was signed between President Alvaro Arzu and rebel leaders in December 1996. The Norwegians acted as mediators. As part of the treaty, the army is to be cut and an amnesty for the military is to be introduced. Land reform, bilingualism in education and re-training programmes for ex-guerrillas are also promised. There are fears, however, that Guatemala's Indian population (comprising of one third of the population and with links to the guerrillas) will be the losers in this reform process. In February 1997 a Truth Commission, headed by a UN official was established. In June 1997, demobilised troops from the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Army (URNG) elected a new leadership charged with transforming the group into a political party capable of achieving power.


Ever since the Sandinista's lost power in 1990, Nicaraguan politics has been under-going a process of normalisation (though not strictly a peace process).

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