Sudanese Parties Must Prepare to Make Compromises, U.S. Says
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington — Obama administration officials say there is “no more time to waste” ahead of referendums on the independence of Southern Sudan and Abyei that are scheduled for January 9, 2011. U.S. officials also warn that the governments of northern Sudan and Southern Sudan will be held accountable for the treatment of minorities in their respective areas and the ability of all citizens to freely participate in the electoral process.
The U.S. special envoy for Sudan, General Scott Gration, told reporters in Washington at an October 22 briefing that with only 79 days left until the two votes, the parties in Sudan must be prepared to come to a new round of talks in Ethiopia in late October “with an attitude of compromise” and need to “make a strategic commitment to work together to avoid war [and] to achieve a lasting peace.”
The parties also need to come to an agreement on who will be allowed to participate in the referendum in Abyei. “They are going to have to work very hard and very fast to get an agreement,” he said.
“The entire world is watching and will make judgments based on how the parties approach these talks, on how they act in the next couple of months,” Gration said.
He called on the government in Khartoum to demonstrate its good faith by transferring funding it had agreed to provide to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and to grant visas to international election monitors and aid workers in preparation for the elections.
The referendum commission must still finalize its voter registration procedures, hire, train and deploy more than 10,000 registration workers, and distribute voter registration materials to registration sites, he said.
Gration said questions over the future citizenship of mostly Christian Southerners living in northern Sudan, and mostly Muslim Northerners living in Southern Sudan will need to be worked out by the parties themselves, but said the United States wants to ensure that all Sudanese “have protection of their human rights and physical security through this turbulent period.”
“We’re holding the parties accountable to make sure that all citizens remain safe until their citizenship is ultimately sorted out,” he said, and that they are protected in a way that meets international standards.
Samantha Power, a special assistant to President Obama and senior director for multilateral affairs at the White House, said at the briefing that Obama administration officials had met October 21 with a multifaith Sudanese delegation as part of an effort to reach out to Christian and Muslim communities to ascertain their intentions and desires, “both in terms of where they vote and in terms of their ultimate destiny.”
She said the United States and nongovernmental organizations are thinking through contingency situations ahead of the vote, including ways to ensure that minority populations on both sides feel safe and secure in casting their votes, providing freedom of movement in case they want to leave and making humanitarian resources available in case there is an influx of people on the move.
Power said “it is impossible to overstate the high level of attention” that the Sudanese situation now commands in the White House. She also said a September 24 United Nations communiqué on Sudan that called for the referendums to be held credibly and on time and included a pledge to recognize the results regardless of the outcome reflects an “unprecedented show of international unity” in a conflict where the parties have “a rich history of playing actors in the international community off against one another.”
While acknowledging that the preparations for the referendums are behind schedule, Power said that unlike previous occasions when Sudan was in conflict, the global cooperation ahead of the election marks “a rare case in which the United States and other international players are teaming up to shine a spotlight on events on the ground proactively ahead of a key event.”
“The previous tragic chapters in Sudan’s history demonstrate that we need to work with this broad range of actors to do all we can to prevent an outbreak of violence rather than simply react later to events on the ground,” she said.
At the briefing, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said the United States is also providing “a pathway towards a more normal relationship” with the Sudanese government, but said such a relationship will require Khartoum’s full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the South, the January 9, 2011, referendums and the resolution of remaining issues between the two sides.
“It also requires the Sudanese government to move forward with a comprehensive resolution of the problem in Darfur,” Carson said.
The Obama administration has offered incentives such as changing some U.S. licensing procedures to allow additional trade and investment in Sudan, as well as an exchange of ambassadors and the prospect of lifting economic sanctions and actively supporting international assistance and debt relief for Sudan if Khartoum implements its CPA commitments and ends the conflict in Darfur.
“We want and desire a better and a stronger relationship with all of the people of Sudan,” Carson said. “But that will be contingent upon their ability and desire and will to live up to the commitments that they have already made and that they now need to fulfill.”
The September 24 United Nations communiqué ( http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/2010/147942.htm ) on Haiti is available on the website of the United States Mission to the United Nations.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)