Press Conference in NairobiCharles Snyder, Acting Assistant Secretary
Released by the Bureau of African Affairs
April 8, 2004
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: [Introductory remarks omitted] Let me just tell you why I came: Basically, to encourage the parties to get on with finishing the final details in the Sudan peace negotiations. It's been a growing concern of ours that these talks are dragging on too long when both sides know very well what the answers are, what range within which the answers are to be found. They've been talking now for over six months on very much the same issues.
The good news is they've made fairly decent progress on some of the last remaining issues. I originally intended to take back to the United States with me my entire delegation to begin to take a serious look at where we were going on in Sudan given what's going on in Darfur and the serious violence and ethnic cleansing that's going on in Darfur; and I was not satisfied that enough progress was being made here at Naivasha to justify a continued heavy American presence.
The parties have assured me, both parties, both Vice President Taha and Dr. John Garang, they can complete this discussion with good will on both their parts by this weekend, by Saturday or Sunday. Because of that, I've left behind one American who's been in this process from the beginning as a sign of good faith that I believe they can finish this, and in truth, I do believe they can finish this.
I believe they could have finished this several months ago, if they'd had the political will. It's a question of political will, ultimately. And to lack political will in a context in which there's relative quiet -- there's a cease-fire in the south, things are, humanitarian aid is moving is one thing, but to lack political will in the face of the tragedy that's unfolding in Darfur is simply not acceptable, especially today, on the anniversary of what happened ten years ago in Rwanda. We all need to be mindful that we shouldn't allow our hopes to interfere with what becomes reality; and I'm hoping we can turn this Darfur situation around.
That's why I'm here. I'm more optimistic leaving today than I was when I came. I really didn't think I'd hear as much progress has been made as has been made, so I want to be at least guardedly optimistic on the talks. I'm not at all comforted about what's going on in Darfur, and we have a separate delegation up there working that process. There is some sign of movement on that, but again, I'm completely unsatisfied with how quickly that's going.
Thank you for your attention and thank you for putting up with me showing up late. And now I'll take some questions. (microphone feedback squeal) That's one way to cure jet lag. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Maybe could you elaborate a bit more on why it would be worse when many of the parties have encouraged you?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: They're into very detailed discussions at this point on a number of issues -- percentages in what will be the interim legislatures, that kind of thing. And they were pretty far apart -- seven or eight percentage points. Now they've come to an understanding on exactly what share of the legislatures, north and south, they will have in the interim period. They've come pretty close to an agreement on, and when elections will take place. They've come to an agreement among themselves on the issue of the presidency and how the presidency and the structures related to the presidency -- vice president offices, et cetera -- will be structured.
They've come very close to solving the two areas that remain in question: Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. IBA, they've agreed, will be settled according to their personal agreement provided everything else is done. So they're very close to a final agreement.
The issue of the capital hasn't been fully resolved yet, and there are a couple of minor issues related to these two areas that I mentioned that have not been resolved. Otherwise, 90 percent of the final issues have been dealt with. Now, they haven't signed anything, and I've been in this negotiation long enough to know that what's 90 percent complete one moment can be 60 percent complete the next. But I think, based on what they've said to me, I'm guardedly optimistic they will finish this.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). When you say that based on information you get from the parties, will reach an agreement by this weekend, do you mean a comprehensive peace agreement or an agreement on the upstanding issues?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: What the parties are calling it varies between a framework agreement and principled agreement. It's not the comprehensive agreement. That'll be the work of a month or so of lawyers and technicians. But my experience is, once the two principals in this negotiation, Vice President Taha and Dr. Garang, agree on the principle to guide their subordinates, the subordinates can very well conduct this work among themselves and be done.
So what we're talking about is -- and I don't know what they'll call it in the end, in fact, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) will give its name. Will it be the Naivasha Principles, the Naivasha Accord? I don't know what they'll call -- they could call it the Naivasha Framework Agreement. It doesn't matter what they call it, but it's the idea that the final principles to solve these last issues will be resolved. And then the technicians will turn that into an implementation, a timetable for elections, a timetable for security force reform, a timetable for the security issues themselves, how the armies make this cease-fire permanent between themselves, how the new army's formed, all those details.
Some of that work has already been done, but it will have to be completed in the context of these principles, so the principles are the key to resolving the rest of this. So there'd be some time, but I think if we get the principles, it truly is irreversible.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) German Radio (inaudible). Kofi Annan has not, has not excluded anymore that military action might be necessary in western Sudan. What is the peace for southern Sudan worse having war in western Sudan, first question; and second, is America prepared to send troops, for example, on behalf of the UN to western Sudan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: Let me take the first and easier question first, which is, I think if this negotiation wraps itself up by Saturday, it'll be very encouraging to the process in Darfur. It'll say that serious agreements can be reached among parties that have been very fierce combatants on the field. I mean, you know, two million dead in 18 years of civil war, for Garang in the south to come this close to an agreement with the north and to finally get one certainly should encourage the parties in Darfur that a negotiated way out of this is possible.
Also, the new system that we'll set up will allow for some accommodation within itself for these kind of outliers like what's going on in Darfur, so the settlement in Naivasha will clearly make -- be a good example for the Darfur process.
On the second question, I've been on the road for a while. We're not seized with the question of a U.S. presence or not-presence. I believe Kofi said he would not rule it out. He's not asking for it. There's no Security Council resolution, and so I've learned long ago never to ask a hypothetical question if you don't have to.
A PARTICIPANT: Any other questions? (Inaudible).
QUESTION: John Tanzer (ph), Sudan Radio Service.
The concurrent resolution of the U.S. Congress dated 30th of March has stated clearly that some senior Sudan government officials have been kind of linked to 9/11 terrorism attack, and if evidence is found, they will face the consequences. Are you talking about U.S. going to Sudan like they went to Iraq and Afghanistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: No, we're not talking about that at all, and the congressional resolution speaks for itself on that subject. The truth is, evidence would have to be found, investigations would have to be conducted, none of that's been done. The resolution is what it is. It's a joint statement of the congressional feelings on some of the lead players in the Government of Sudan.
It doesn't have any particular action, consequence today. It could in the longer run, but it doesn't today.
QUESTION: Rebecca (Inaudible), Sudan Radio Service.
You talked about the situation in Darfur, which everybody knows, but talking about peace in Naivasha, I would go back also to Sudan and say it's not only Darfur. Even in the last two weeks there has been very bad incidents in Midwest Upper Nile and the whole of Upper Nile, and the areas of the Shilluk Kingdom and the torching of the villages and all these things.
What will the signing of the agreement mean to a common man in Sudan if it happens on Saturday or Sunday while villages are still being torched?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: I think you can see that one of our concerns, and I said it coming in, is this is taking too long, and you cannot hold parties that are this hostile to each other in a state of suspended animation forever.
The fact that the cease-fire has held this long with very little enforcement other than the civilian protection and the VMT says that the parties were sincerely interested in that. As it dragged on, trouble began in different places. You've made two examples: The Shilluk Kingdom and a couple of other places. We protested strongly to them and pointed out the need to close this deal so that outliers like this will be treated within a comprehensive settlement within a real cease-fire.
They've taken our point on that. That's one of the reasons, I think, I still remain somewhat hopeful that something good will come out of Darfur. They've restored that cease-fire. They restored the sanity to the area, and so that it's not getting worse in the southern area.
But you're right. If you're the common man, you have to ask that question. What does this mean if they can't even honor the cease-fire they've already made? It's the question we have to ask ourselves in the broader context: How can we make a peace agreement between the north and the south if the west is in flames?
The answer is, we can't. It won't work. There has to be humanitarian access, a reasonable cease-fire in place in the west of Sudan for this peace agreement, which will begin to transform Sudan and the conditions in Sudan.
It will take time. And the common man has been patient for 18 years. He's going to have to be patient a little while longer, but not indefinitely. This can't go on in this current state of play, neither fish nor fowl. The system can't stand it. That's why you're seeing these flare-ups.
And it concerns us. That's the reason I came here with the intention of actually taking my entire delegation out to take a hard look at where we're going. What have we got after this amount of time? Are we kidding ourselves? Like some would make the argument in Rwanda, we kidded ourselves that the peace negotiation was so important, we -- and missed the warning signs of genocide.
I don't think that's quite accurate, but that accusation has been made. And I wanted to reassure myself by talking to the experts who are, frankly, the people out here, that we weren't making that mistake; that we really were right; that things were changing; and that Darfur was not a symptom, but maybe a last flare-up of an old system and an old way of operating. But we're going to take a hard look at that.
They told me enough things today that I'm leaving one man behind, and I've told the delegation in Darfur to continue working, but only work provided the parties are talking in good faith -- not that they're playing us for more time, not that they're stalling for more time. It's too late for that. Too many people have been injured in this process, and too many people are now being injured today in Darfur.
It's not acceptable, and we've made that clear to the parties. I think they've gotten the message. But the proof will be whether or not they act, not whether or not they talk, whether or not they act in a serious fashion, and the jury is out on that. Saturday will tell us whether they can make a deal. The truth will be in the next month, whether the fighting stops elsewhere and the process begins to unfold in a real, concrete way so that the common man will see the difference.
It will take six months from the time we get this and we get quiet in Darfur until I think the average man is reassured. He'll start to see real changes. He'll start to see real changes in the government in Sudan, the structures and how it relates. He'll start to see a real difference in terms of outside assistance making a difference in his life in a village somewhere in the south -- and frankly, his life somewhere in a village in Darfur, or somewhere in Beja, all over the country. It will take time. But this agreement is the essential point at this moment.
Why are we caring? Why are we setting a timeline? I have to make another report to the Congress because of the Sudan Peace Act. We have to begin writing that now. It has to be carefully done. There are certain requirements. That's the other reason I had to come to the parties and say, "I've got to write this report. If I write this report today, it's going to be very negative. It says that serious men could have arrived at a conclusion, and yet you haven't. So this is not negotiating in good faith anymore. Darfur makes it even more urgent."
But I told them, "There's still time to redeem this. You know, we're writing it, I can change it until the last minute." So we'll have to wait and see.
QUESTION: I'm (inaudible), Al-Jazeera Channel.
His Excellency, to what extent achieving a comprehensive peace in Sudan can help Mr. Bush in the election coming?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: I think any peace agreement and any American president responsible for a peace agreement anywhere in the world will get some assistance in terms of public acclimation and public good will in the United States.
Is this a huge accomplishment? It is for the people of Sudan. And it's not a huge accomplishment for the United States because, frankly, we moved in on an IGAD process. It's a huge diplomatic accomplishment for IGAD and for the Kenyans. They've labored at this for ten years.
We came into this about two-and-a-half years ago and took advantage of their good work and their good effort. And to this day, they're the ones that are continuing to push this process to closure.
We've assisted, we've pushed, we've cajoled, we've lent our weight, but IGAD has persisted over time in solving a problem in the neighborhood. And we've fallen in on this, and no one should suddenly start saying, you know, "The United States gets credit for this." We have a share in the credit of what I hope will be a great success for IGAD. But that's not the kind of thing that moves an American election.
It will be very nice and we'll be very proud and we'll make a lot of statements to prove we're very proud, but the truth is that IGAD is the one that, that started this and did the dirty work -- the day-to-day work that put those principles in place over time and represented the regional view of this thing, because this peace agreement has to be in the context of the region. The region has to stand behind it.
At the end of the day, there'll be a crisis somewhere else, and maybe the Europeans and the Americans will be looking the other way. The region is the one that will say to us, "There's something going wrong, you need to pay attention now," and will bring us back into this.
So I don't want to give anyone the impression the United States is trying to claim some credit for this. The truth is if this works, and I hope it will, IGAD deserves the lion's share of the agreement. And, frankly, if Vice President Taha and Garang take that last step, they deserve a great deal of the acclimation for taking the chance for peace. This is not easy after 18 years of war to take this chance and to change the system radically. They're at the edge of it. I hope they can walk over that last little bit of a hill together. We'll find out.
QUESTION: I'm Gladys (inaudible) from CNN.
I just want to ask what action the U.S. will take if they don't close the deal by this weekend? And the other question is, what will be the role of the person that you are leaving behind?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SNYDER: The person we're leaving behind has been in these talks for a long time, and he's probably our -- one of our key assets in these talks. He knows the details in and out, and they're at the point where that kind of detailed knowledge can be useful. He will offer his good will and his services where it can be done to the Secretariat, first of all, for IGAD who, I think, has been very active and will be more active in the next several days trying to bring this to closure. He'll also report back to us if there's something we can do that the parties need at the last minute so that I'll have a man right here that can get me immediately and I can take action on it. So that's why he's staying. I'm willing to give them this last chance because I hope after we have come this far they can get there.
In terms of what we'll do about it in the long run, one of the reasons we're bringing this team back is to take a look at that. That's still a hypothetical now. They haven't failed yet, but Darfur very much concerns us, and that's also under active discussion. And we haven't come to a conclusion yet until I take my team home and we talk to others who are involved in the Darfur process and elsewhere. So luckily for me, I can't quite answer that question yet. Maybe by the end of next week I'll have an answer for that question, but not today.