The Role of Southern Sudan in Regional Peace and Security
With: H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of Southern Sudan and First Vice President of Sudan
John Prendergast, Senior Advisor to the International Crisis Group
Pagan Amum Okiech, Advisor to the President of the GoSS for Diplomatic Affairs and SPLM Secretary General
Awut Deng Acuil, Advisor to the President of the GOSS for Gender and Human Rights and SPLM Secretary for External Affairs
On July, 24 the Woodrow Wilson Center's Africa Program hosted a policy address and panel discussion on the Sudan involving key foreign policy analysts and members of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) of Southern Sudan. The event's keynote address was delivered by His Excellency Salva Kiir who currently serves as head of the SPLM and President of South Sudan, as well as First Vice President in the Unity Government of greater Sudan. Kiir's speech was followed by a panel discussion featuring two of his government's key advisors, Pagan Amum Okiech and Awut Deng Auil, as well as John Prendergast, Senior Advisor to the International Crisis Group. Former US Ambassador Johnnie Carson moderated the discussion.
In his speech, Kiir laid out his vision of the role the SPLM and Government of Southern Sudan can play in the promotion of regional peace and stability, which he sees as fundamental to economic development. Kiir provided a detailed description of the actions his government is currently taking to encourage peace, both within the confederation of Sudan, and among other regional powers.
The Sudanese First Vice President began by updating his audience on the progress of the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which officially ended Sudan's decades-long civil war. Kiir felt that Sudan had made substantial progress, including the establishment and consolidation of his own administration; however, he complained of numerous obstacles that have caused the implementation of the CPA to stall. He accused the SPLM's CPA partners of intentionally thwarting the resolution of key disputes including the demarcation of borders and the partitioning of petroleum resources between North and South.
After discussing the status of CPA implementation, Kiir described his government's role in the resolution of conflicts both within and outside the borders of Southern Sudan. He gave an in-depth description of the SPLM's brokering of peace talks between Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda, which are currently taking place in Juba. He explained that his government is interested in bringing peace not only to the people of northern Uganda, but also to the people of Southern Sudan who have suffered greatly at the hands of the LRA. He insisted that continued fighting is highly undesirable to both his government and the Ugandan Government, and that he would be willing to offer amnesty to Joseph Kony and the LRA leadership on the condition that they fully surrender and disarm.
Following his prepared remarks, Kiir addressed a number of other pertinent issues in an informative question and answer session. He discussed the popular referendum on independence due to be held in Southern Sudan within the next five years, and stated that the promotion of peace and prosperity in the south was the best way for Khartoum to ensure a Southern vote for Unity by 2011. He also discussed the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and the transformation of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) into a modern military force.
After a short intermission, John Prendergast opened the panel discussion with a prescriptive analysis of the ongoing Juba peace talks, and the current status of CPA implementation. In his discussion of the problems inherent to each issue and the concrete measures that might be taken to address them, Prendergast outlined the respective roles that the government of Southern Sudan and the international community must play in both of these processes if efforts towards regional peace and stability are to succeed.
Prendergast observed that the Juba talks have, in just over a week since their inception, created "more friction than traction" between the LRA and the Ugandan Government. He argued that the biggest obstacle to progress is a "gaping disparity of expectations" between the two parties. While the LRA delegation in Juba has broad political objectives involving the large-scale restructuring of the Ugandan government to include LRA representation, the principle objective of the Ugandan Government is to disband the LRA. According to Prendergast, Joseph Kony and LRA members in the bush should be involved in the negotiations, as their principle demands for basic security and a promise of amnesty are more easily reconciled with the Ugandan Government's objectives. He further advised the international community to become more seriously involved both financially and diplomatically in the negotiations.
Pagan Amum Okiech, continued the discussion, situating Prendergast's remarks in what he termed the "bigger picture." Okiech began by looking at Sudan as an artificial political entity, whose "arbitrarily drawn borders" bear little correspondence to the situation on the ground, making the definition of a national identity problematic. He went on to examine the highly decentralized character of the CPA as a solution to this problem. Okiech stressed the need for the development of a multi-party democratic system to end Sudan's long history of political instability and violence. "Sudan is a seriously failed state," he commented, "we need a way out." Okiech concluded with a discussion of the SPLM's role as a catalyst for change.
Awut Deng Auil ended the panel discussion with commentary on the challenges facing the South Sudanese Government and the SPLA. She focused on the need to bring displaced persons back from Khartoum to the South in time for the referendum, a goal rendered more difficult by Khartoum's attempts to entice these people to remain in the North. Auil also reinforced Kiir's earlier comments on the modernization of the SPLA. While she noted the difficulties of the transition process, she emphasized the importance of a modern SPLA as a means of deterring attempts to undermine the referendum process. "Transformation is the responsibility of South Sudan," she acknowledged, "but we need international help. The SPLM, as a party, is looking at the transformation of the whole system and needs to build the capacity to transform all of Sudan into a democratic country."