On-The-Record Briefing By President's Special Envoy For Sudan NatsiosAndrew Natsios, Special Envoy to Sudan
Department of State
December 20, 2006
MR. NATSIOS: I just came back on Saturday from a trip to -- a week-long trip to Sudan. I went to Abiye, which is an area of Sudan that's just north of the traditional lines separating the north and the south. It is an area of great contention. It floats in a sea of oil and it was one of the side issues with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And there is a big impasse over how to deal with it.
I also went to Malakal, where there was an incident two weeks ago in which more than 150 soldiers and a few civilians were killed, northern and southern, so it was the first incident in three years. It was over, essentially, a warlord who -- or a militia leader who would not -- who was causing trouble. And I went to both places to show my support and the support of the U.S. Government and the President for dealing with the issues that led to these two controversies in these two cities.
I was supposed to go to Darfur, but the province is in such turmoil now in terms of violence, instability, and chaos, I couldn't get into the airports. Most of the airports were closed because there's so much fighting. I was also supposed to see President Deby in Chad and he was in the front lines with his troops battling a rebel movement in his own country. And so I had to cancel that part of it because he was with the tank formations in the front lines.
I did meet also with Minister Solana, Javier Solana at the European Union about this issue along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium -- or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of course, the Belgians will, I think as of January 1st, join the Security Council.
My most important -- the most important part of the trip, however, was a two-hour meeting with President Bashir about the issues in Darfur and in Chad. I raised a whole series of issues and proposed some options for him to consider. One was a cessation of hostilities and the renewal of the Ceasefire Commission which has been defunct, essentially, since May. There is an African Union proposal for a two-chamber solution to the political problem of having noncombatants on the Ceasefire Commission -- I'm sorry, noncombatants, I'm sorry, the political problem of having non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement on the Ceasefire Commission.
Without the Ceasefire Commission, you can't enforce a ceasefire and you can't bring incidents up and you can't go through a logical process of determining who started them and what caused them. And so we proposed this option.
I also suggested that the efforts by the Sudanese Government to break up meetings of the commanders of all the rebel forces that were now broken up into eight or nine separate movements in Darfur, that these efforts to break these commanders' meetings up was not helpful and that they needed to facilitate a unified position among the commanders so that there could be one peace agreement, not nine peace agreements.
I offered to be an intermediary for -- with my colleagues from Europe or the UN with Chad, because there have been three attempts by the Sudanese Government and the Chadian Government, with other countries in Africa, for a ceasefire between the two countries, because Chad is destabilizing Darfur and the Sudanese Government is destabilizing Chad. And this is making the conflict in Darfur much worse, much more uncontrollable, there's far more weapons moving into the region as a result of this. And so we cannot deal with the problem of Darfur unless we deal with the problem of the relationship with Chad and Sudan.
I brought up two other issues. One is the fact that as of January 30th, the moratorium on the normal visa processes is up. The Sudanese Government had set up a system a year-and-a-half ago that made it easier to process visas so that humanitarian aid workers for the UN and NGOs could get in and out of Darfur more easily. It was crippling the aid effort because in order to get through this process, you need to start in, sort of, early December and if there's no extension of this moratorium, it will have a severe effect on the humanitarian aid operations. I asked them to extend that moratorium for at least a year. Yesterday, they announced that they're extending it for two years, which is very good news.
Finally and most importantly, there is a showstopper in Kofi Annan's plan that was negotiated in Addis six weeks ago at a meeting I attended along with African leaders, European leaders, Arab leaders. The Chinese were there, the Russians were there, and we arranged a compromise on getting peacekeeping forces into Darfur. And that is now at an impasse. It's paralyzed because the Sudanese Government does not want any blue helmeted or blue beret people from the United Nations, even if under the Addis Agreement, in Darfur.
And I said, "Well, if you don't have -- you don't allow them in, then Kofi Annan's plan is dead. We need to understand that it's dead." We still support it. We think that if you compromise on this issue, that we can go ahead with the plan. We understand that troop-contributing countries are unwilling to contribute troops unless they have blue helmets on."
Two, unless there are -- all three phases are implemented, phase one, two, and three of Kofi's plan; the light support package of health -- technical support to AMIS, which is phase one, the heavy support package, which involves about 2500 troops and civilians' support to AMIS and then 10,000 troops in phase three; effectively, if we don't have phase three, we can't have phase two because troop-contributing countries are saying, "Who is going to protect our technical support people under phase two if there are not additional troops under phase three?"
So basically, the package does not work unless it's taken as one whole plan. You can't cherry-pick. You can't say, "I like this, I'll do this; I don't like this, I won't do this." If you start cherry-picking, you will essentially collapse the whole plan and that's the impasse at this point. We have told the Sudanese that we have to move along to our own strategic processes in the United States Government and we will do that beginning in the new year if we do not see some kind of progress on Kofi's plan between now and the end of the year.
And that means specifically that these 60 UN troops and civilians who are marooned in Khartoum right now, they're there now, and all the equipment that they've brought in with them is moved into place in Darfur by the end of the year. That's number one. Number two --
QUESTION: In what? Into place --
MR. NATSIOS: In Darfur. They're stuck in Khartoum now. They've been there for a couple of months.
QUESTION: These are military advisors?
MR. NATSIOS: Some of them are military advisors, some of them are civilian technical people, communications officers kind of thing.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) party essentially? (Inaudible.)
MR. NATSIOS: Yes, it's called the light support package. The total package is 102 people. This is 60 of the 102 are in Khartoum now. That's first. Secondly, we would like some resolution of the issues around phase two and phase three of Kofi's plan. And Kofi Annan has sent Ould-Abdallah, the retired Foreign Minister of Mauritania, with a letter, detailed letter about the three-phase package, about operational policy issues, and Ould-Abdallah, according to the UN, is going to remain in Khartoum until President Bashir makes a decision and responds to Kofi's letter.
So for us, we need to hear what that response is. For us to continue on the process of quiet diplomacy, of negotiation, and of a process to resolve Darfur, then we need progress that's operational, on the ground in Darfur for phase one and two by the end of the year and for an agreement by the Sudanese Government as to what phase three -- all of the modalities of phase three being agreed to in writing by the Sudanese Government. That's what we would like.
We have now done -- and what President Bashir and I agreed was this. He said that his government is still very -- has a psychological problem with 1706, the resolution that authorized the use of UN troops in Darfur, which was passed in late August. They had a problem with it for a variety of reasons I won't go into now and they have not seen any formal statement by the Security Council endorsing what was agreed to in Addis and then in Abuja with the African Union Peace and Security Council.
And they wanted a resolution. I said, "We are not doing a resolution between now and the end of the year on this issue. It takes months to do resolutions." He said, "What about a presidential statement of the president of the Security Council?" I said, "We can do that."
And so we drafted it on Friday, submitted it to the member states on the Security Council on Monday, and it was approved yesterday afternoon in record time. I want to thank the staff of the International Organizations office of the State Department and USUN and the member states who were very cooperative. And I do want to thank also the Chinese Government. Perm Rep Minister Wang was particularly helpful, I am told by Mark Malloch Brown, at the session in explaining the different provisions of this plan and how they work and how important they are. The Chinese are playing a very helpful role right now and we do appreciate that.
So we have done what President Bashir asked me to do. He asked for a PRST, affirming the Addis and Abuja agreement, affirming the command and control would be with the United Nations. And we would hope now that the Sudanese Government would respond by dealing with the impasse over the issue of the blue helmets and of phase two and three. And we're hoping that before Christmas, that the Sudanese Government will respond, but we have until the end of the year, essentially, to -- that's what we told them. But it would be nice if we could do that a little earlier.
Now if we make progress on this, I think it will be a confidence-building measure between the international community and the Sudanese Government, because -- you know, the Chinese are involved in this, the Arab states, the Arab League's involved in this, the African states, the Europeans. Javier Solana and I discussed this at length in Brussels last Friday. And of course, our government is involved with the Canadians as well.
The next step in this process, should the Sudanese do what we've asked them to do and endorse and make progress operationally on the elements of the Addis compromise, then we will look toward putting some proposals on the table to deal with the political problems in Darfur, because only a political solution will solve the Darfur crisis. UN troops are a stabilizing force. They will help implement a peace settlement, but a UN force is not a settlement. It's a necessary component of it.
And so we have already engaged in an effort to try to get the commanders -- doing this with other elements of the UN, the AU, and the international community, to get the commanders to develop one unified position on the protocols that would be added to the Darfur Peace Agreement that was approved, signed by one rebel faction of the government in May of this year.
There needs to be additional protocols added to make this more attractive and to gather more support among the other rebel movements. We believe the other rebel movements are now prepared to seriously negotiate these protocols. We think there needs to be a cessation of hostilities to make the political process work better. And so our next steps will be on this political route at the beginning of next year, if we make progress on the issues that I said were important earlier in terms of the actions of the Sudanese Government now.
So that's where we are at this point. There's going to be a transition, obviously, in the UN. I'm hoping to meet the Secretary General between now and the end of the year, the new Secretary General Ban. I talk with UN senior leadership almost every day now to make sure that we're not sending mixed messages, we're not confusing each other. The Europeans, ambassadors, and I -- and ministers talk literally almost every day.
Jan Eliasson has been appointed, which I thought was a very good choice. He's a very old friend of mine from 17 years ago. We started working together in the Somalia crisis of 1992 together. He was Ambassador here from Sweden. He was the Undersecretary-General of the UN for Humanitarian Affairs under Boutros-Ghali. That's where I first met him. And he has been chosen by the Secretary General, as I understand it, and Secretary Ban -- I think they've made an agreement over it -- as the Envoy to all countries except Sudan. In other words, any negotiation that needs to be done with African countries, the Perm 5, the Arab League, the European democracies, Canada, Japan, et cetera, would be done by him.
Ould-Abdallah's job is only to be the Envoy to the Sudanese Government for the Secretary General. And I'm sure that that arrangement will work and that we will facilitate our -- and coordinate our efforts as this unfolds.
QUESTION: Can you describe what -- more specifically, what the Bush Administration would have in mind if Sudan is not responsive on those specific areas?
MR. NATSIOS: Yes. I have told -- said publicly that I think making threats is not very useful, but we are going to take a different approach to this in January. And there is a plan to do that, but I am not going to go into the details. In fact, at this point, it's classified anyway, so I couldn't describe it to you.
QUESTION: The UN has, you know, had this responsibility to protect. And you know, at what point do you say, okay, Sudan's Government is not accepting outside forces, it's not doing anything. At what point do you put that in action, this whole notion?
MR. NATSIOS: That's what Plan B is.
QUESTION: The responsibility to protect.
MR. NATSIOS: That's what this is all about. And I might reiterate something I said at Brookings and I think in a press conference that some of you attended just after Brookings, which was, what, three weeks ago. The only interests the United States has in Darfur are around human rights and humanitarian issues. We have no geo-strategic interests there. We have no economic interests there. We have no diplomatic interests there; simply human rights issues.
And I can tell you I've been attending meetings at a very senior level, including the presidential level, since the crisis in Darfur started and I have not heard one person say one thing that would contradict that in all of these meetings. So the theories that are being advanced sometimes by people in Sudan that there's something else going on here, that there's oil that we want; we're unaware of any significant amount of oil in Darfur anyway. It's a small amount down in the southeast corner.
But we don't have any oil interest anywhere in Sudan. It's against the law. And then I think I told you that there was a report in Khartoum that we're interested in uranium in Darfur. There is no uranium that -- I can't find any evidence that there's any uranium for anybody to be interested in and we're certainly not interested and that is not driving any of our policies.
QUESTION: Andrew, what about the intelligence cooperation, though, and the fact that the guy who runs the Janjaweed is also apparently a key conduit for information about al-Qaida to us?
MR. NATSIOS: Actually, I've never heard that before.
QUESTION: Oh, yes, you have. (Inaudible) the last time I talked to you.
MR. NATSIOS: (Inaudible) is not the head of the Janjaweed.
QUESTION: But he's involved with --
MR. NATSIOS: Well, of course, they all are. They are all involved in it.
QUESTION: And isn't there a concern that we would somehow lose --
MR. NATSIOS: Let me just say to you I told the Sudanese this, I said it publicly three weeks ago, it's been reiterated to me at senior levels of the Administration.
The -- we appreciate the cooperation between the Sudanese Government and us on counterterrorism. It is not driving U.S. policy, it is not the first principle, it is subordinated to the human rights issues and its humanitarian principle. We have done a lot of things in the interagency process in making decisions as to what actions we're going to take. If that were driving it, I would not be sitting here right now and we would never -- I would -- there wouldn't be a plan B.
QUESTION: But let me rephrase it. If plan B goes into effect, don't you think that Sudan is going to retaliate by stirring up even more trouble, perhaps --
MR. NATSIOS: I don't know. I don't want to --
QUESTION: -- helping al-Qaida people in Somalia, other places?
MR. NATSIOS: What is the statement the State Department always uses; I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals. I can't predict what they're going to do, but I can tell you that is not driving policy, nor is it going to constrain what we do.
QUESTION: Is the Sudanese Government aware of what your plan B is?
MR. NATSIOS: No. It's classified. I hope they're not.
QUESTION: So you do --
MR. NATSIOS: Well, it's not useful to make threats, because for four years now, since early 2003, the international community, everybody is making threats to Sudan. And what's happened? Nothing. It hasn't changed -- and it hasn't changed their behavior and none of the threats have been carried out. Look at -- there are 25 Security Council resolutions, (inaudible) resolutions. I think we should stop making threats that -- because the Sudanese Government is dismissing it. They're simply saying, "You've made these threats for four years, nothing's happened, and so we're ignoring you." I think we should stop doing that.
And I might also add you cannot have a collaborative negotiation with a government -- this is my experience. Maybe other people can do this. I don't see it working that way. If you're having a conversation with a head of state and -- you want to build up confidence that what you're agreeing to is going to be carried out. That's what confidence building measures are about. And whenever I've done this in another country, you don't sit there and say, "Well, if you don't do this, we're going to do the following ten bad things to you." That's not how I do it and I don't think that's how it works. You either choose a negotiated route, which is the route we're taking now, or you choose coercion. Coercion is part of diplomacy, but you don't negotiate coercion.
QUESTION: Are we talking -- we're talking sanctions here?
MR. NATSIOS: I'm not saying what we're -- I am not saying -- I am not saying what --
QUESTION: Can you explain the no-fly-zone? Wasn't that already approved in the previous resolution?
MR. NATSIOS: I am not going to say at all what's in the plan.
QUESTION: You made the point there that, you know, threats have been made in the past and they simply don't believe you.
MR. NATSIOS: No.
QUESTION: I mean, what makes you -- what can convince us that you are going to follow through with a plan B?
MR. NATSIOS: Time.
MR. NATSIOS: When's January 1st?
MR. NATSIOS: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication from your meetings with them that once this presidential statement's been done, that they -- that that will be the dealmaker, that they will now agree to phase two?
MR. NATSIOS: Say that again?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you said that what they said they wanted from you was (inaudible).
MR. NATSIOS: When we see the 60 people. When we --
QUESTION: No, no, no. I want -- from them, I mean --
MR. NATSIOS: They are happy with a resolution or with a presidential statement.
QUESTION: And did they tell you that if --
MR. NATSIOS: They're pleased.
QUESTION: -- they got the presidential statement, that then they would --
MR. NATSIOS: No. They said they would -- they would try -- the phrase was: Try very hard to change the policy in the blue helmets.
QUESTION: Andrew, you said that -- in answer to Dave's question, there is a plan to do that and you never gave the remotest indication what the "that" was.
MR. NATSIOS: Say that again.
QUESTION: You said in response to Dave's question, the first question --
MR. NATSIOS: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: -- there is a plan to do that.
MR. NATSIOS: To do what?
QUESTION: Well, that's what I'm asking. (Laughter.) What was -- what were you talking about?
MR. NATSIOS: What did I say?
QUESTION: I wasn't minding the responsibility of the text.
QUESTION: You said making threats is not very useful.
MR. NATSIOS: I don't -- I think when you're having a negotiation with a country, where there's a disagreement over what needs to be done, whatever the area is, you have a negotiation, you talk over what the problem is, see if you can arrange some steps that you could take to make some progress in the issues. That's what we're engaged in now. We did not make any threats to Sudan to get the CPA. There was no threat made.
There were things that happened, I mean, that psychologically affected both sides in Sudan and I can go through those, but none of them were threats. So I don't think that's useful right now, I really don't. I think we're going to reassess things at the beginning of the year if we don't see any progress in these things.
QUESTION: Just to recapitulate, the two things you want to see by the end of the year are, one, the actual movement of the 60-odd people now marooned in Khartoum.
MR. NATSIOS: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: And two, what exactly do you want to see on phase two or three, a verbal statement of --
MR. NATSIOS: Ould-Abdallah has asked for a -- Kofi Annan has asked through Ould-Abdallah, through this letter, for a clear statement by President Bashir that he accepts the Kofi Annan plan operationally, not a generalized statement of what we'll do, but specifically in detail what it is we're going to do to implement phase two and three.
QUESTION: Are you aware that all of this is too late because of -- I mean, the spillover to Chad and CAR and UN troops, our UN troops out there?
MR. NATSIOS: I started this job on the 11th of September, oddly enough, 11th of September of this year. That's three months ago. I think we've -- we have a plan in place. We've got international support for it. The rest of the -- it was us versus the Sudanese before. It's now the world versus the Sudanese Government and the Sudanese Government knows that.
So we've -- we had an effective effort to unify world opinion on this subject diplomatically. There is a whole series of partners that have not -- were not involved before in this that are now involved in a constructive way in pushing forward this plan that Kofi Annan has put together. We have one plan. When I started, there were eight plans. And we -- I said we can't -- we're never going to get anywhere if we each negotiate a separate deal with the Sudanese Government. It doesn't work that way.
So we have one plan. We're pushing it. Every effort we make, every call I make is designed to push forward Kofi Annan's plan. Kofi Annan's plan, as far as we're concerned, is the way to deal with this right now. And I might add, we needed a way out for the Sudanese Government and this is the way out.
QUESTION: I want to ask, if you've got a plan B, is there -- I mean, you must have discussed that with -- you're saying it's the world against Saddam. You must have discussed that with other international countries and you believe you've got a consensus there?
MR. NATSIOS: I don't have a consensus on all the details. We have a consensus that action is going to be taken. And other countries have been saying this, I might add, in much more detail than we have.
QUESTION: And how long did it take you from going with the U.S. against Sudan to the international community united against Sudan? How long did that take?
MR. NATSIOS: Kofi took -- Kofi has to get some of the credit for that, a lot of the credit for that. But we did initiate, in September, an effort to have the Arab states involved in this, they were not involved before, and the Chinese involved in this. President Bush has called President Mubarak a couple of times. I've spoken to Abu Gheit, the Foreign Minister, and Amr Musa several times. So has Condi Rice. President Bush has talked to President Hu of China. Dr. Rice has spoken to the Chinese Foreign Minister several times on this. There have been multiple conversations by the President with Kofi Annan on this.
So there's a series of very senior-level conversations that have taken place. Prime Minister Blair and the President have discussed this. The Europeans are having discussions about this now and I agreed with Secretary -- with Minister -- with Commissioner Solana that we need to coordinate this very tightly together and we both know that's what has to be done about that.
QUESTION: Is the Arab League on board?
MR. NATSIOS: They are on board on the current negotiating strategy that we are pursuing.
QUESTION: Are they talking to the Sudanese?
MR. NATSIOS: Yes, they are. In fact, the reason that the light package was approved, which is phase one of Kofi's plan, is essentially, I think, to a great degree, because Amr Musa, the president -- the executive -- the General Secretary or Secretary General of the Arab League went and spent several hours with President Bashir and his senior leadership at a critical moment -- I think it was in October -- and said, "You really need to start engaging in this." And I do want to thank him for that. I don't always agree with Amr Musa, but on this, he was helpful.
QUESTION: Can you -- ask a little bit about what the other rebel groups want? You talked about protocols. Can you (inaudible)?
MR. NATSIOS: I was supposed to see two of the rebel leaders in N'Djamena when I went to Chad, but because of the fighting on the front lines, it got all disrupted. And then I was supposed to see another leader in London, but that visit got disrupted because of the changes in my schedule. And so I never -- I didn't see any of the rebel leaders on this trip. I was supposed to see three of them. Next trip, I will start seeing them. I've seen one when I came back from Addis in Paris. We had a long conversation. But our diplomats have been speaking to them at different levels.
QUESTION: So what do they want?
MR. NATSIOS: What they want is, number one, a protocol -- and all of them have agreed they don't want to renegotiate the entire DPA. This will take another year; we don't want to do that. We want to add protocols or appendixes to the DPA on issues that have not been resolved to their satisfaction.
The first issue that we've heard repeatedly by every faction is the compensation issue. There's $30 million in the DPA to compensate the 2 million or odd people who -- you know, who have lost their farms and their animals and their farming tools and all that and had their houses burn down, and $30 million doesn't -- if you do the addition, it doesn't go very far. And they -- actually, that's the thing that's enraged opinion in the camps against the DPA more than anything.
The Sudanese Government has told us privately and told other donors privately they're willing to substantially increase that amount. In fact, one senior member of the government said, "If we could buy our way out of this, we would do it." They know they've got a mess on their hands.
The second issue is representation by the different rebel groups and ethnic groups that are represented by them in the regional provincial government. So there's an issue around representation. The third issue is the disarming of the militias, including the Janjaweed; who will do it, how will it be done, and when it will be done, the operational requirements for that.
Now I might add; that is the most important issue. If these groups, these groups that have been armed as allies of the factions and the Sudanese Government are not disarmed, there's not going to be any peace in Darfur no matter what -- how many agreements we sign. They will still have guns. They will turn to brigandry, which is what's happened in many other post-conflict settings if you do not have a plan for disarming them and resettling them. And that is an issue that I think is of central importance.
I might add, for me, the most important part of the UN's presence in Darfur under the Addis and Abuja agreements is not just to protect the people in the villages. It's to do the disarmament. I've watched the UN do it and they've done it very successfully in a number of other countries. They have learned the technique of how you can effectively disarm, after the peace agreement, armed factions. I watched them do it in Mozambique. They're much better at it now than they were then. They made some mistakes in Angola. They made mistakes in Mozambique. They are much better at it because they've done it so many times.
The African Union has never disarmed anybody because basically, this is the first peacekeeping operation they've engaged in. I think the disciplines and the protocols, standard operating procedures of UN peacekeeping have really evolved a lot in the last 15 years.
And it's in some things like logistics, communications, transportation units. It's disarming groups, it's DDR, it's resettlement of combatants back to their farms. It's accounting systems to make sure stuff is not stolen, that money is accounted for. It's personnel systems. It's the legal documents between the government and the peacekeeping force. What happens when someone gets killed with a peacekeeper? Who is liable? Do you pay taxes or don't you pay taxes?
These are -- there's a standardized document now that the UN uses. The African Union has never done this before. They have no legal agreements with most of these -- with Sudan or any other country on this sort of operation. And so there's debates constantly on issues that are already settled by the UN before they go into a country. Not to go into too much detail, but the fact is the UN offers a whole series of disciplines that we think are critically important to the implementation of a Darfur peace agreement. And that's why I personally want them there.
QUESTION: You mentioned your next trip, when (inaudible) it is scheduled?
MR. NATSIOS: It's going to be in early January. I haven't got the exact dates or where I'm going to go or -- but we're working on it now.
QUESTION: Do you think you would -- one of the stops will be Khartoum and meetings with the government?
MR. NATSIOS: We'll see. I don't want to presume anything.
QUESTION: Since the deadline will have passed, it's only natural that -- right?
MR. NATSIOS: Not necessarily natural. We'll see. What happens between now and the end of the year will affect the purpose of my trip.
QUESTION: Andrew, would you describe -- you went out of your way 10 minutes ago to praise the Chinese --
MR. NATSIOS: Yes.
QUESTION: -- on the recent action. Would you describe for us the Chinese interest in Darfur and the same with the Arab League?
MR. NATSIOS: Well, I think the Arabs, particularly the countries in the region in North Africa, don't want another simmering conflict with the rest of the world. It's not just with the West. The Africans are very upset about this. They say this -- they see this as -- for what it is and I think they want this resolved. And this is resolvable.
Unlike other conflicts that have been going on for a long time, I think there's something we could do in the next year to get this taken care of. I might add this is the third war in Darfur in 20 years and I told President Bashir our objective in this is to create an atmosphere and a platform so that the issues are dealt with now, so we don't have another war in three or four years.
QUESTION: And the Chinese?
MR. NATSIOS: I'm sorry. The Chinese interest in this -- and number one is, you know, they have oil interests in Sudan. They want a stable state at peace because they can, in fact, do their oil exploration and their oil pumping much better under those circumstances, so they have an interest in a peaceful and stable Sudan. There are powerful centrifugal sources that have been pulling Sudan apart since it was formed and those are still present. The difference is there was not much to fight over until they discovered the oil. It was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now it's enormously wealthy, potentially.
You know, there are -- they haven't explored all of the potential, but one of the reports I heard about indicates that Sudan may have the largest oil reserves in the world, unexplored oil reserves in the world. Abiye is floating on a sea of oil. That's complicating the negotiations in some way. But the difference is this is in the interests of the central government and of the outlying provinces to resolve, because if they can resolve it, there's a huge amount of potential wealth that can build up the development of the country in a way that would benefit the whole country. If these oil reserves are as large as some experts are telling me, there's more than enough money in Sudan to bring Sudan from one of the poorest countries in the world to being a middle income country and it won't take forever to do it.
You know, there's been a 12 percent growth rate just this year and the projections are the Sudanese Government -- the Sudanese economy will double in the next six years. It doubled in the last six years. I've seen the difference since I've been there between what Sudan looks like now versus when I went there 17 years ago for the first time. It was a huge difference. It's the difference between going to one of the poorest countries in the world to going to a country that's on the edge of becoming what the Gulf states look like.
QUESTION: Can you talk about, you know, this problem as being solvable within a year, but what --
MR. NATSIOS: Well, I mean, you're not going to get all the damage repaired, but creating a structure and a peace agreement and a process that will lead to the stabilization of provinces.
QUESTION: I just wondered if you could comment on the more immediate issues. I mean, we're hearing that Oxfam has evacuated its humanitarian aid workers from significant camp and -- I mean, what can you say for people who are talking of immediate humanitarian crisis in some of these camps?
MR. NATSIOS: Well, the first thing is they asked me. I said, "What is it that I can help you with?" And they said, "Could you please get the ban -- the moratorium extended a year?" I did. I asked them to do it; they did a two-year extension. That helps because they were -- see, what was happening is people would leave and they couldn't get back in the country. And right now is the time that you have to start applying for the visas for people that have to come back from the Christmas break -- the Christmas vacation at the end of January. We want to be able to get them back in the country quickly and this moratorium extension will allow us to do that.
Two, we need a ceasefire. We need a ceasefire. Now, if the Government of Sudan believes that a cessation of hostilities right now is not feasible for a variety of reasons -- I heard President Bashir's comments; I'm not going to repeat them, but I heard what he said. Perhaps what we need is a humanitarian cessation of hostilities in order to provide the assistance that is now being denied to many of the camps.
Now, you know, when people get denied -- people in camps, they keep some of their food that they get as -- and they don't eat it, just because they know this could happen. But after several months of this, things -- the nutritional conditions in the camps will begin to deteriorate. We have not seen that yet, but we're going to see it shortly. And so I think one thing that I may be presenting in January, depending on how things unfold between now and the end of the year, is perhaps a humanitarian ceasefire that would allow the UN agencies, the ICRC, and the NGO community to provide assistance to people not just in the camp, but also in the villages, because they're also feeding people in the villages and providing health assistance to them so that they don't move into the camps.
QUESTION: That means getting all these, now, eight or nine, whatever, rebel commanders on board?
MR. NATSIOS: That's correct.
QUESTION: How many rebel groups are there?
MR. NATSIOS: Well, I had dinner in Khartoum with some -- an old friend of mine who used to be President of the University of Khartoum and he assembled some intellectuals, older men, most of whom were educated in the United States, and they're former ministers and justices and newspaper editors. And they were very interesting in their analysis of what was going on and what had to happen.
What was your question again?
QUESTION: How many rebel leaders -- how many rebel groups are there?
MR. NATSIOS: I'm sorry. One of them told me he counted 19. Now, I don't get that. I mean, the AMIS force showed us nine -- a list of nine and they had this really elaborate chart as to how they had all broken up in smaller groups. We think it's around eight or nine. I've got to explore with this -- it was a member of Parliament, actually, who told me they counted 19, because some of the groups have now subdivided. Who knows?
QUESTION: In broad terms, I mean, early in this conflict, the idea -- when John Garang was still alive, you had this idea of a new Sudan, this unity government, and that would change what's happening in Darfur because you'd have this unity government making decisions on Darfur. The North-South peace process seems just as fragile right now. Do you think the unity government has any impact on this Darfur or the southern Sudanese?
MR. NATSIOS: Well, I think it does. It's certainly had a constraint on the central government in some respects. But more importantly, it is constantly an example of how things could move in a constructive fashion. You know, if we didn't have the CPA, I'm not sure I would be very optimistic that something could be worked out. But we have an example of a 22-year-old civil war that killed 2.5 million people coming to an end. There's been no fighting except for the Malakal incident, I mean, formal fighting for three years now. You didn't have that and -- you know, you had it -- there was a brief period in the 1970s where there was peace, but in the last 22 years, the only peace in southern Sudan has been since -- even before, there was a cessation of hostilities during the process that led up to the negotiation, successfully, of the CPA.
But if you go to the south now, there's a hotel now with 70 rooms in it, a modern hotel in Juba. Food prices have dropped by 30 or 40 percent because all the roads are open. They're being de-mined. There's daily bus trips from Juba to Kampala, Uganda. There are merchants, new merchants coming up. There are more and more stalls being opened. There are trucks going in constantly, all day long, moving goods into Juba and to other cities in the south. The banking system has been stood up.
There are now banks, international banks that are now functioning in Juba, in Yei and a -- we started a couple of them -- AID did and they're really flourishing now. They're private banks. The roads are being repaired. The agricultural system is functioning once again. And you know, people say, "Well, all the CPA is not being implemented." Look, if all there is is peace and you don't have anything else, that's a huge plus because people were getting killed before, they were dying of starvation and famines. It was a civil war. They're not having any of that now.
I might also add the Government of Sudan has transferred a billion dollars in oil wealth to the south. Now, you know, is it as much as the southerners think they deserve? No, it's not and there's a big debate about that. But a billion -- can you imagine five years ago or ten years ago, the northern government giving the south, semiautonomous government a billion dollars in oil revenues? That would have been unheard of, but it happened.
And so there are some very good things that have come out of the CPA and I think we -- we always look at the things that are unimplemented. We need to look at what the effects have been on the average person. People going back to their villages for the first time in 20 years; some of them never actually lived there. They were born in displaced camps around the country. They're now moving back to their ancestral homes, taking back their farms, and peace has broken out. I think that's good news.
QUESTION: This is in the south?
MR. NATSIOS: In the south.
QUESTION: In the south.
MR. NATSIOS: Since we have one model, it is a model for what could be in Darfur.
MR. GALLEGOS: Last one.
QUESTION: In Darfur, what role do you see Minni Minawi playing or that -- I mean, the attempts to sort of bring the rebels into the government there have faced a lot of criticism about --
MR. NATSIOS: They have. I think all of the rebel leaders could play if they wish to constructive role. And my sense is that most of the rebel leaders and the commanders are making reasonable negotiating demands for these additional protocols that would be added to the DPA. There is one or two people, however, who really want to overthrow the Central Government and you don't negotiate something like that. They're making -- they're dealing with issues outside of Darfur and that is complicating things. But they are not that powerful. The great bulk -- 90 percent of the troops and the leaders and the ethnic groups I think are making -- have put on the table issues that I think are entirely reasonable and can be negotiated successfully.
QUESTION: Has Minawi been --
MR. NATSIOS: I met with him when I was there. Both trips, I met with him.
QUESTION: Has he been playing a constructive role or is has he been suppressing villages and raising villages?
MR. NATSIOS: Everybody's been fairly -- I shouldn't say that. Our evidence is the rebel movements, with a couple of exceptions, have not been burning villages down. There was one exception inNorthern Kordofan in July where one of the rebel groups went in and burned Samara villages down and then there was one other incident in the south. The rebels are not doing that.
QUESTION: Minawi is not doing that?
MR. NATSIOS: Well, I don't know about -- I was talking about the rebels that are, you know, close together.
QUESTION: I'm asking about Minawi.
MR. NATSIOS: I don't know. I've seen very contradictory statements and I have been unable to get a definitive answer to the question. It appears that some of the people who were under his command have done some bad things. There is a big debate as to whether he had any control over these people and whether he actually even knew about the incidents until after they took place. It's a debate. And there are very thoughtful people on both sides of that issue.
QUESTION: Is it your assessment that the government is behind the latest violence? I mean, what is the --
MR. NATSIOS: The government initiated in August. I mean, Hussein is the Minister of Defense. He went to Al-Fasher in August and he said, "We are going to crush the rebels militarily." I mean, it's not a secret. He said it publicly. It was in the newspapers. So they initiated a huge effort at a military solution to this problem and it's been a failure.
QUESTION: And they still think they can --
MR. NATSIOS: Oh, I don't know if they still think it. I think there are lots of people in the government right now who are saying this has been a failure, we now need to try a political route to resolve this. I think there are lots of people in the government saying that now.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
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Released on January 30, 2007