By Anisha Desai
We started our second day in Juba with a briefing by Mia on the refugee camps in Chad and the situation in Darfur. What can be said about Darfur? Outrage. Anger. Fury that the “international community” does nothing meaningful to stop the carnage? I could go on and on…..
Our delegation had some meetings that morning – with H.E. Minister Awut Deng Acuil and with H.E. Minister Anne Itto – the former minister of for human resources, labor and public service and the latter minister of state for the ministry of agriculture and forestry and deputy secretary general for the southern sector of the Government of National Unity in Sudan. We divided into two groups to go to these meetings, hoping that with smaller numbers we could have more broad-ranging discussion, which can be quite difficult with larger groups.
Every one of the government officials we met with spoke of the need for equal opportunity for all regardless of gender, ethnic group, or religion. All recognize the need for education for all in order for South Sudan to have meaningful and sustainable development. The illiteracy rate is astronomically high — into the high 90 percent of the population.
Another issue continuously brought up was the state of implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 between Khartoum and the South. This isn’t the place to go into the elements of that agreement, which you can find at the United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS) website, but the agreement was to more equitabily address disparities of power and resource sharing between Khartoum and South Sudan so that sustainable peace might be possible. Fully implemented it is to pave the way to local and national elections in 2009 and then for a referendum in South Sudan in January of 2011, when the people of the South can vote to separate from the north and establish an independent nation or remain as part of the greater Sudan.
It is safe to say that across the country few people really understand the terms of the CPA and the importance of its full implementation if peace and development are really possible throughout the country. Many believe that if the CPA isn’t implemented, peace will not be attainable for Darfur, and/or that war could break out again between Khartoum and South Sudan, which would widen and engulf the entire country – the South, Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the eastern part of the country. If this were to happen the impact on the entire region is hard to imagine.
When we met with David Gressly of UNMIS and others from the UN team, they also stressed the above points about the CPA. While obviously sharing everyone’s grave concern about Darfur, they said that they had already been losing some of their resources to the peacekeeping forces for Darfur. Given the importance of implementation of the CPA, they are extremely concerned about the lack of focus on the CPA and concomitant lack of support from the international community.
In my view, it is fair to say that the future of all of Sudan is quite uncertain and perhaps hangs in the balance. So much effort went into crafting the CPA, it is hard to understand that its implementation has not had the same attention to detail. As I’ve thought about how much went into the CPA, I’ve also pondered the negotiations of the Darfur Peace Accord – which was not given the same time and consideration and was rammed through finally even as it was clear that the majority of the rebel groups were not at all satisfied with its terms. Clearly that was an opportunity lost, and here we are three years later and Darfur continues to burn. Would the Darfur negotiations been more carefully crafted had all the oil been there and not in South Sudan?
While the first half of our day was taken up with these meetings, the Sudanese women we would soon been meeting were spending the morning together getting to know each other a bit and working through details of the day and a half we would all be spending together. They’d come from Darfur, from Khartoum, from the Nuba Mountains and eastern Sudan as well as from the south. Four women had driven overnight, their car breaking down on the trip – but they somehow managed to get to Juba! I’m not sure I’d have the same tenacity.
While they are facing different issues in the various parts of the country, they shared more than they’d realized. All are suffering the repression of the regime in Khartoum. All crave peace with justice and equality. All want universal education and access to health care for all. All of the women wanted free and fair elections in 2009. They wanted to meet again in a year – in fact, they wanted to expand participation among women’s groups and meet annually. They appreciated the free flowing and flexible tone of the meetings. All of us wished we’d had more time together. There never seems to be enough time.
Mid-day on Friday, our delegation gave a press briefing in Juba. I mention it to note that after it was over, a young journalist from Khartoum approached me and asked if he could interview me for a few minutes. He wanted to ask my opinion of the ICC and its possible indictment of Bashir. He said he’d not dared to ask his question during the press conference because certainly there would be spies there reporting back to the government. He’d already been reprimanded several times for his reporting and threatened with jail if he continued to say things in any way not supportive of the regime. His parting comment after our interview was, “Here in Sudan we all suffer under this regime.”
On our last night in Juba the delegation went to a restaurant overlooking the Nile. The setting was really beautiful and it was more than magical to watch night come to Juba along the storied river.
Saturday we returned to Addis.#########