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Sudan: SPLM Convention Marks Milestone

Heather Hwalek, Office of Sudan Programs Group
Washington, DC
June 3, 2008

A dancer celebrates in Juba, Sudan, January 9, 2007. [AP file photo]

About the Author: Heather Hwalek works for the Department's Sudan Programs Group.

In the United States, there has been much focus on the Democratic and Republican parties’ National Conventions to be held later this summer, when they will nominate candidates, establish a party platform, and rally their members for upcoming campaigns. Last month, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) held its own National Convention in preparation for what will hopefully be Sudan’s first free and fair national elections, to take place in 2009. Plans for national elections are an integral part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which, signed in 2005, ended 21 years of civil war between the SPLM, a Southern-based opposition movement, and the National Congress Party, based in the North, and which currently controls the central government.

The SPLM’s first National Convention was held in 1994, at the height of the civil war, in secret and under threat of aerial bombardment. This second Convention brought together more than 1,500 delegates from every Sudanese state, and many from the diaspora, representing all the different religions and ethnic groups that make up Sudan, together in the auditorium of Juba’s brand new Cultural Center. Members of all the other political parties in Sudan were invited to commemorate the landmark event, and the State Department, along with many other foreign missions, was invited to observe this unique political gathering in Sudan.

Besides taking care of official business, such as democratically electing party leaders for the first time and developing the party’s platform on key issues heading into elections, the Convention attendees also knew how to have fun. Party leaders chanted to rally the crowds, delegates joined in singing and dancing, and even the Secretary General of the SPLM took his turn reading a poem and leading the crowd in song. A marching band in bright red uniforms performed patriotic songs while the audience cheered on. And the event did not go unnoticed by members of the international community – in addition to the many members of the diplomatic corps in attendance, actor Ben Affleck even put in an appearance!

The successful SPLM Convention marked a significant milestone, not only in the transformation of the SPLM into a national political party, but for the democratic transformation of Sudan as a whole, and helps set the stage for what will be a very important and exciting year in Sudan’s history.


Peter in U.S.A. writes:

i want to see the video of splm 2rd convention

Posted on Wed Jun 11, 2008

Harry in Pennsylvania writes:

Did the SPLM convention address the ongoing conflict in Darfur? Were there representatives from Darfur in attendance at the convention?

Also, was anything done to ameliorate the ongoing tensions over Abyei?

Posted on Mon Jun 09, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ DipNote Blogger Heather Hwalek -- Heather,

My question's real simple.

Are they tired of killing each other yet?

Posted on Fri Jun 06, 2008

DipNote Blogger Heather Hwalek writes:

@ William in Nevada -- Successive elections took place before the Convention at the boma (village), payam (district), county and state levels to determine which delegates would attend. Many of the SPLM leaders who had been working in Juba or Khartoum thus had to return to their home districts, giving them the chance to connect with their constituents and provide information. Transportation for most of the delegates coming from within Sudan was provided by the SPLM. They traveled mostly by plane on regularly scheduled flights or charter flights. About 75 delegates from the Sudanese diaspora, representing more than a dozen countries, also attended the Convention with assistance from the U.S. government.

Posted on Thu Jun 05, 2008

William in Nevada writes:

I have had my eye on Sudan for a while. I would like to know how the word got out to the convention delegates? Was there transportation provided or did everyone have to find there own way to the convention. I would like to know how the basic logistics of the event went? From implimentation to final farewell? The Sudan is going to be a success story in the comming years I believe, but the U.S. media will never portray this in the light it should be in.

Posted on Thu Jun 05, 2008

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