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The Future of Sudan

Andrew S. Natsios, Special Envoy to Sudan
Remarks to Catholic University
Washington, DC
October 15, 2007

Good evening. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’d like to spend my time this evening talking about the current situation in Darfur, our efforts to achieve full and timely implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and what further steps are needed to realize our goals. In particular, I want to emphasize that our efforts to end violence in Darfur are closely linked to the successful implementation of the CPA. Rebels in Darfur are asking us why they should negotiate a peace agreement for Darfur if the North/South agreement is not being implemented properly. Our efforts on both fronts must go hand-in-hand and we will not agree to a peace for one part of Sudan that comes at the expense of another.

Sudan is a top priority for this Administration. Our goals are to:

  • Provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to the millions of people who have been affected by violence in Darfur;
  • Promote a negotiated settlement to the Darfur conflict and support the deployment of a robust international peacekeeping force;
  • Ensure the full and timely implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
  • Encourage the peaceful evolution of the Sudanese state to a stable, multi-party democracy through national elections
  • Improve the bilateral relationships between the GOS and the USG but only after the crisis in Darfur is resolved and the CPA is implemented.
  • And encourage a Sudanese state at peace with its neighbors

While we have a relationship with the Sudanese government on counter-terrorism issues, this relationship has not prevented us from elevating our other human rights concerns to a pre-eminent position in our policy toward Sudan.


Let me turn first to the situation in Darfur. As a country and as a government we are appalled by the atrocities that have occurred in Darfur and the United States has made solving conflict in this region a priority. Unfortunately, in the past few weeks we’ve gone from a period of relative calm to a situation that is increasingly chaotic and violent. Some of this is due to the fact that we frequently see an upsurge in violence at the end of the rainy season in Sudan. In addition, different groups on the ground are jockeying for position and attempting to demonstrate their military strength and improve their political leverage before talks begin shortly in Sirte, Libya.

This has led to horrific acts of violence by both rebel and government forces in the past month. In late August, splinter factions of two rebel movements – the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the SLA/Unity launched an attack in Kordofan that killed over 40 police officers and triggered retaliatory government bombings in Haskanita.

On September 29 and 30, the 7,000-strong African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) suffered its greatest loss since its initial deployment in 2004 when armed groups – again widely believed to be splinter factions of two rebel movements – viciously attacked the African Union base camp in Haskanita, killing 11 peacekeepers, looting supplies and vehicles, and destroying the buildings.

The government’s retaliatory attacks in Haskanita, reportedly a rebel stronghold, have razed the town and led to the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. This was followed by brutal attacks in Mujahariya, again resulting in the mass displacement of civilians and the evacuation of NGOs. The situation is so fluid right now, that AMIS has not been able to confirm responsibility for these attacks, but whoever the perpetrators, these attacks must stop.

In addition to attacks by government and rebel forces, we are also seeing an upsurge in violence among Arab tribes in Darfur, with estimates as high as 600 killed this year in intra-Arab fighting. They are fighting over land they have taken from Fur, they are fighting over Arab-owned land, and in some cases, they have joined the rebels and turned their weapons against the government. Long time government allies, including the Abala Rizeigat, have become increasingly disillusioned with the government and its policies and broken promises. Most disheartening, the Southern Bagara Rizeigat, who stayed neutral through most of the fighting, have abandoned their neutrality and are taking up arms on both sides of the conflict.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced this year, and a lot of that displacement can be traced to Arab on Arab violence. Many Arabs in Darfur did not participate in janjaweed atrocities and do not believe the government represents them. We must be sure that Arab tribes are included in peace talks or the war may continue regardless of a political settlement.

The civil war has has led to a profound change in social structure in Darfurian society. Even if peace were to happen tomorrow, many people will not be able to go back to their old way of life. Many young men from nomadic tribes who participated in janjaweed atrocities have been incorporated into the Sudanese armed forces on a monthly salary and have moved into cities. They have little interest in going back to a nomadic lifestyle, but there has not been much thought given to what their life will look like in the future. Similarly with IDPs, many will decide not to return to remote, rural areas.

All over Darfur, animal herds have been decimated by drought, banditry, and deliberate destruction. First they were stolen from one tribe to another, now these animals are being sold in massive numbers in surrounding regions and are being transferred out of Darfur. It will be decades – if ever – before this wealth is rebuilt. Because of this, the economy in Darfur has undergone a profound transformation and it is very unlikely that it will ever be able to return to what it once was.

All of this violence – and the related cost in terms of human suffering and destroyed livelihoods – highlights the importance of deploying the UN’s heavy support package and the UN/AU Hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) to Darfur as soon as humanly possible. The United States has been working with the United Nations to recruit the necessary troop contributors, and with a few exceptions, the UN has received an abundance of offers. The Department of State is also expanding seven of the African Union’s base camps to hold two additional battalions that will serve as protection for the UN’s heavy support package (HSP) units. Among other units, the HSP includes engineers from China that will help prepare the infrastructure for larger deployments of peacekeepers early next year. We are also providing training and equipment to African battalions that will deploy as part of the UN mission.

As important as it is to get peacekeepers on the ground, the only lasting solution to violence in Darfur is an inclusive political agreement. The United Nations and African Union are providing renewed leadership and – despite significant obstacles – new talks are scheduled to begin on October 27 in Libya. Even if talks are not starting out on the best footing, it is important that they start and that we keep everyone focused on finding a political – not military – solution to Darfur.

We face a number of significant challenges. At the moment, the rebel factions are placing significant obstacles in the way of a peaceful negotiated settlement. By now, almost all of the rebel factions have indicated to the AU and the UN that they will attend the talks, with the exception of Abdul Wahid who has so far chosen to remain in Paris. However, even for those who have agreed to participate, there are still serious divisions and disagreement about leadership. A particularly important group to get on board is the Zaghawa military commanders who have defeated the SAF in a number of battles, but who are unwilling to join with other groups or follow other leaders.

The SPLM, the Southern Party, is in the midst of several days of discussions with many of the most important political and military leaders in the Darfur rebel movement, representing at least 7 different factions. We are very encouraged that these groups are trying to reach a common negotiating position and negotiating team prior to the talks.

Another challenge is to make the Darfur talks as inclusive as possible – with the IDPs, civil society, women, and traditional chiefs, and marginalized Arab tribes represented and their voices heard. These groups need to be involved in the substance of the talks and not just included in the margins. The AU-UN negotiating team has made this a priority and we urge all parties to allow ordinary Darfurians to attend the talks and express their views.

We also know that a peace agreement that does not lead to the early voluntary return of refugees and IDPs to their homes, farms and villages – in peace and security – will fail. An agreement that does not solve the heart of the problem – returning the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa who were driven from their lands back to their homes – there will be no peace in Darfur.

The first order of business in Libya will be to focus on getting all parties to agree to a ceasefire and developing effective security arrangements that offer civilians protection from marauding government backed militias and bandits and that take heavy weapons out of the hands of the government backed militias and rebel forces. Other critical issues that will be looked at are compensation for victims of the crisis, guarantees of land and property, and reconstruction and long term development to address many of the underlying causes of the conflict. These are the issues that IDPs and other people in Darfur raise again and again with me and other envoys.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement

I now want to turn to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended 22 years of war between North and South, which killed 2.5 million people – 10 times more than the number killed in Darfur. Successful implementation of the CPA is a requirement for any lasting peace in Sudan. One of the CPA’s most important elements is to call for democratic elections – at all levels, in all parts of the country – by March 2009. These elections have the potential to transform not only the south, but also Darfur, the east, and other parts of the country.

I recently traveled to Sudan where I spent the bulk of my time focusing on the South and the border areas. I visited Bentiu and Thar Jath in Unity State, Malakal, Renk, Rumbek, Torit and Juba. I met twice with Government of Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir and Southern Vice President Riek Machar, visited the South Sudanese Legislative Assembly, and the SPLA Headquarters. I also visited Damazin in Blue Nile State, in Damazin, one of the three sensitive border areas along with Abyei and Nuba Mountains. While I wasn’t able to visit Abyei or the Nuba Mountains this trip, I did visit Abyei earlier this year.

The reason for my focus on the South over the past year is that we are deeply concerned with the health of the CPA. The overwhelming international attention on Darfur has overshadowed the CPA and implementation of the agreement has fallen significantly behind schedule.

Important deadlines have been missed, key issues like Abyei have not been resolved, and trust has been lost as tensions – especially along the border areas where armed units of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLA confront each other – are rising. This, we believe, is very dangerous.

We reject the idea that “nothing has changed” since the signing of the CPA. Much good has happened. Most importantly, the fighting and killing between the North and the South, the terrible loss in innocent human life – even worse than Darfur – has stopped.

For all the reasons mentioned above, peace represents its own dividend. But in addition, the South has been receiving significant amounts of money from oil revenues – transferred from the North as stipulated in the CPA. In 2006, the GOSS reports that it received $953.3 million. For this year, as of August, estimates are around $800 million.

Reconstruction has begun – too slowly – but it’s begun, in the South. You can see that if you go to any of these cities. We saw schools and government offices being built. People in the South are better fed, healthier, and more prosperous than I have ever seen in the 18 years that I have been travelling to Sudan. And the hope for a better future is there.

But there are also significant obstacles to full implementation. Redeployment of Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) troops was not completed by the July 9th deadline and both sides have forces outside of the agreed upon areas. With the continued militarization of border areas the chance for an unintended clash between armed forces is very real. And in the current environment of mistrust, the potential for any clash to escalate is unacceptably high. The status of Abyei needs to be resolved quickly. Reconstruction is only just beginning and many people have yet to see the benefits of a peaceful, democratic Sudan.

The current political atmosphere between the National Congress Party and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement is contentious and the SPLM has just suspended participation in the GNU until the NCP agrees to be more cooperative. There is blame on both sides. The “war of words” needs to stop and an environment of mutual respect needs to be created. The international community, especially UNMIS, can be helpful here – if we are allowed to be helpful. I might add that we anticipated – and I helped with the negotiations with Jack Danforth, Colin Powell, and Walter Kansteiner when they negotiated the agreement – we expected that enemies at war would be partners in peace and in the implementation of the CPA. That partnership really has not happened.

They are not enemies anymore, but they are opponents in a hotly contested national election in 2009. This is complicating the implementation of the CPA. As we move closer to elections in Sudan, we can only anticipate that the rhetoric and finger pointing between the parties will increase, which is an extremely unhelpful environment for the implementation of a peace agreement where cooperation, moderation, and compromise are essential.

We know that the challenges are tremendous. The international community needs to continue to find ways to support the parties responsible for CPA implementation. The U.S. has been scaling up a large aid program in the South and has been doing a lot of reconstruction work. Now is the time to revitalize implementation of the CPA, because the CPA is critical to peace and stability for all of Sudan. We must not allow the situation to deteriorate further. This means that the NCP and the SPLM must take action now to cooperate and compromise on outstanding issues. The issues around the Three Areas – Abyei, Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile – must be addressed soon, or they could precipitate a new conflict. Most importantly, the census must be funded and carried out and the border demarcation agreed so that elections can proceed on schedule in 2009.

Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.

Released on October 16, 2007

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