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Diplomacy in Action

Sudan Panel Discussion with NGO Experts and USG Officials

FPC Briefing
David Abramowitz
Humanity United
Jehanne Henry, Human Rights Watch; Suliman Baldo, International Center for Transitional Justice; and Carne Ross, Independent Diplomat
Foreign Press
Washington, DC
October 22, 2010


Date: 10/22/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: From left to right, David Abramowitz, Humanity United; Jehanne Henry, Human Rights Watch; Suliman Baldo, International Center for Transitional Justice; and Carne Ross, Independent Diplomat participate in the panel discussion on Sudan at the Washington Foreign Press Center on October 22, 2010.  - State Dept Image
10:30 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Thank you and welcome to the second half of today’s briefing. I think this is also a very important part of the dialogue on Sudan. We need to hear from our colleagues in the advocacy and NGO communities who are playing a huge role in Sudan.

So we’re fortunate to have with us on our panel today four important members of that community: Mr. David Abramowitz, director of policy and government relations at Humanity United; Jehanne Henry, senior researcher on Sudan at Human Rights Watch; Mr. Suliman Baldo of the International Center for Transitional Justice; and Carne Ross from Independent Diplomat.

And so, we will have a quick round of opening statements from our colleagues and then we will go to a question-and-answer session. So I believe, David, you’re going to take the lead? Thank you.

MR. ABRAMOWITZ: Great. Thank you very much, and thanks to the Foreign Press Center for holding this event and inviting all of us to participate, and also a welcome to all of you here. Thanks for staying, and those who are abroad and joining us by conference call.

First, I just want to express, I think, the appreciation of a number of organizations, many organizations who are working on Sudan with respect to the increased level of urgency that the Administration, and President Obama in particular, has been showing towards the issue of Sudan. I think as it was laid out in the previous panel, events are really surging and coming to a head, and it was very important that there be a higher level of engagement, both as there was beginning in the spring, and then continuing on, in particular, with the meeting on September 24th in New York. And I want to congratulate UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for holding that meeting, and then the President for joining it, along with so many of his high-level colleagues.

I think that the issues were framed in the last panel. I’m not going to go into it. Let me just make a few points on some of the – three of the big issues, which is the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and post-CPA arrangements, the contingency issues that were discussed and that were raised in your questions, and finally, Darfur and issues relating to accountability.

First, with respect to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, I think one of the key issues that we have to look for in the coming few weeks, as talks in Addis start again with Princeton Lyman being out in the region and also President Mbeki from the AU High Level Panel being involved, is how much the international community is going to be continuing to coordinate and work to ensure that the progress that was made on September 24th continues. Many countries have a role – both as General Gration indicated and as Ms. Power indicated – Norway working on oil too; some of the key post-CPA issues relating to citizenship, borders, et cetera. And we really need to have everyone supporting the work of the AU High Level Panel.

I think President Mbeki is putting together a good team. And I think, despite some of the things that were said about the Abyei conversations that have occurred so far, I think that one of the really excellent things that came out of that was an indication that if the mediators are prepared to put ideas on the table and press forward with creative solutions, that they can engage the parties in moving towards the peaceful solutions that we’re all looking for. So that was very encouraging.

One of the issues that we need to follow very closely is what is going to happen on the border. As many of you may have seen, UNMIS has talked about trying to put some sort of forces in – on the border in hot locales. The government in Khartoum has expressed reservations about that. I think it’s very important to watch that. It’s impossible for UNMIS, with its current capacity, to actually create a buffer zone between the parties in case tensions go to a much higher level. But I think the idea of having at least pockets where there looks like tensions might be breaking out is a very good idea, and we have to see if they’re able to carry that forward.

That sort of leads to my second point, which is the issue relating to contingency planning. I was very pleased to hear a number of the government representatives in the last panel speak about that. There’s been – there has been some increasing efforts, both within the USG, but also with the UN agencies and others in Sudan to step that up. Obviously, we are all hoping that the negotiations succeed, and we need to keep our maximum effort on trying to ensure that the peaceful solutions are found, both on the issues relating to Abyei, which I think is linked to the broader set of issues, but also trying to ensure that if the worst happens, that we have both the resources in place and the planning in place so that there’s a seamless response. And I think that there’s work being done on that, and I think more needs to be done, and that’s an issue we’re following.

Finally, with respect to Darfur, obviously, this is a big challenge for the Administration. You’ve got this set of huge events that are coming up with respect to the North-South conversations and the diplomatic activity that’s happening in Addis. At the same time, they need to be pressing forward in Darfur. It’s – we’ve been very concerned about ongoing reports that have been going on all year about conflict in Darfur. I think others are going to speak about that more, so I won’t talk about that.

But I think that it’s really important that the Darfur issue is not lost and that a comprehensive solution is sought, and particularly that unhindered humanitarian access is provided. And I think that will be an important benchmark to be seen if Khartoum is prepared to look at the – all the Sudan issues and reach a peaceful solution to the range of complicated, center-periphery challenges that there are in that country and that have plagued it for its entire existence, and whether then we could really move towards the path of normalization that the Administration talked about.

Obviously, UNAMID has a role in trying to assist on that unhindered humanitarian access and civilian protection. I think more should be done on that, and that’s an ongoing conversation I know the Executive Branch, the President, and his team has been having with the UN. And finally, I think it was interesting that nothing was spoken about in terms of accountability on the last panel. Obviously, you’re all aware of the International Criminal Court’s actions with respect to the president of Sudan and also the AU High Level Panel’s efforts to try to come up with a hybrid internal solution with – that would create accountability for perpetrators of the violence that occurred during the height of the Darfur conflict. That’s going to be an issue that’s going to have to be looked on as we move through.

With that, I’ll just stop and turn it over. I’m sorry that went on so long.

MS. HENRY: Okay, good. Thank you. Thanks for being here. My name is Jehanne Henry and I’m with the Human Rights Watch. I spend several months a year in Sudan. And I just wanted to tell you a little bit about our main concerns, sort of moving forward right now at this critical period. So I’ll touch on Darfur. Silence there does not mean that the story there is over, that the conflict there is over; to the contrary. I’m also going to touch on two issues related to the referendum process itself. One is protecting minority rights, which some of the panelists on the previous panel were discussing, and the other is protecting civilians from other types of physical violence.

So first, on the issue of Darfur, the international focus on the referendum has been sidelining the Darfur story, perhaps leading to the impression that the conflict there has subsided. But in fact, the government is still attacking rebel positions and civilians, most recently in Jebel Marra, and the government has blocked off the area from international organizations’ access, and this means that we do not have accurate death tolls. It is not possible for us to accurately report on some of the conflict that’s occurring in Darfur right now.

Meanwhile, the government has launched a new Darfur strategy that focuses on improving security and accelerating the return of IDPs from IDP camps. And this raises concerns about the government’s intentions to dismantle the IDP camps, which it has stated in the past. And we would urge that all efforts be made to make sure that camps be treated in a manner consistent with international standards and that IDP’s rights be upheld.

On the referendum and issues related to human rights moving forward directly connected with the referendum, the panelists in the previous panel talked about the need to protect minority rights, so Southerners in the North and Northerners in the South; this is certainly a huge concern. There have been mixed rhetoric coming out of the government of Khartoum. Some authorities have been threatening people. Southerners would lose their citizenship rights, should the South secede.

Other officials have been much more reassuring. In the South, President Salva Kiir has been more reassuring. What we would urge is that both governments be very, very clear that citizens are not going to be stripped of their rights and that they will not be subjected to intimidation and attack and any form of physical violence. For example, in the context of demonstrations or public campaigning around the referendum, the pro-secession and pro-unity camps are already starting to speak out, and there is certainly potential for violence around campaigning season which is coming upon us ahead of the referendum. So we would urge much more scrutiny.

Keep in mind, that the UN mission in Sudan does not have a protection mandate in Khartoum and Northern states. Its protection mandate is operational in the South and we know the limitations there. So the protection of civilians, of minority populations, in particular, in Khartoum and other parts of the North, is a point of concern. It is not clear that there is enough in place to ensure that those populations who will be voting are protected.

In addition, other protection concerns around the North-South border and other parts of Sudan, should Southerners return to the South en masse because of uncertainties about the vote or their ability to vote, they could be indeed subjected to intimidation or attacks along the road; this has happened before. There is a likelihood that if violence against one minority population in one part of the country occurs, it will tip off retaliatory violence in other parts of the country. So protection readiness throughout the South is of equal concern.

There are flashpoints along the North-South border that are already well known. For example, in Abyei, the oil-rich zone that straddles that border has already seen clashes. There are several other areas as well, particularly in places where the Joint Integrated Units, which are units of soldiers from both the Southern and Northern armies, they are co-located in areas throughout the South and in Khartoum. Those Joint Integrated Units are not joint or integrated and they have, in fact, clashed in Abyei and in Malakal and in other places. So this is another flashpoint.

Finally, it is really important to understand the extent to which the SPLA itself poses security threats to civilians because of inter-Southern problems and political violence that we saw in the aftermath of the elections in the South. We did see the Government of South Sudan and its security forces engage in violence against civilians following the elections in an effort to deal with opponents of the ruling SPLM. This is something we need to keep an eye on, and we need to understand it as a separate issue. I mean, at times it is related to the referendum, at other times it is not. It is important to understand this for the future of Southern Sudan and how Southern Sudan will manage.

So, I will stop there with a final comment about the UN mission and Sudan’s ability to protect civilians throughout the South. As my colleague just pointed out, there are gaps in its ability to do this. It’s a very vast country. The idea of patrolling the border in its entirety does not seem realistic, but having forces ready to deal with very particular flashpoint areas could be possible, and it’s something that we want to keep pushing for.

And with that, I will stop. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Jehanne. Suliman.

MR. BALDO: Thank you. I want to bring more focus to the impact of the referendum on Darfur, because it’s indeed the case that the focus on the referendum in Southern Sudan and the likely separation, or secession of the South, has drawn or overshadowed the situation in Darfur. It’s very preoccupying, preoccupying because the very organization of the peace process in Darfur has happened in relation to the referendum agenda. The idea is to have a peaceful settlement in Darfur before the referendum in Southern Sudan so that the referendum could at least be approached without this other problem.

So there was an external factor that led the mediation and all the international actors with influence on the situation to really put pressure on the Darfur movements and the parties to reach some form of agreement, as a result of which we have witnessed progress in Doha, where the talks are taking place. But it’s a preoccupying progress, preoccupying because the negotiations and the talks are now going between the government and one Darfur movement being the Liberation and Justice Movement. This movement is created by the needs of the mediation to represent a large sector of the population in Darfur – the (inaudible) tribe is (inaudible). And it leaves out two factions that are very representative with regard to their popularity on the ground.

I am referring here to the historical Sudan Liberation Movement and the following it receives in loyalty among the displaced. And the other movement is militarily very important, the Justice and Equality Movement, which has frozen its participation in the talks.

So, as we grow nearer to the signing of an agreement -- and there is a sort of a deadline for that, before the end of the year -- the situation on the ground is actually deteriorating for two reasons. Justice and Equality Movement is not going to accept to be left out of the peace, and is more likely to do more of military initiatives to prove its presence on the ground.

Secondly, we are witnessing an attempt by the government to suppress and to take out factions that are staying out of the peace process in Doha. And, hence, an escalation in the violence in direct confrontation between government security forces and those of the Justice and Equality Movement.

But, as happens always in Darfur, civilians are the primary victims of these bombings. In the (inaudible) area, for example, there have been recent waves of massive displacements of civilians from the (inaudible) area, whose little access to information is through the areas cordoned off. Therefore, there is an opportunism from the government when it uses the spotlight on the referendum to try and score some military agenda on the ground.

The scenario is as follows. An agreement will be signed with those present in Doha, government and the Liberation and Justice Movement. Other factions would have to join in through a process of declaration of commitment to such an agreement. In the past, with the Darfur peace agreement in Abuja, the government has used this as a tool to accelerate further division of factions in Darfur. And, therefore, a peace agreement in Doha may not necessarily lead to peace on the ground. On the contrary, it could lead to more chaotic violence on the ground.

We have witnessed of late some strands of this chaotic violence, inter-tribal fighting among Arab groups, groups of Arab origin in Darfur, because arms have been distributed so generously by the (inaudible) in the region, that each single localized dispute translates into major military clashes among tribal militias within the Arab communities, leading to significant deaths, equivalent, in fact, to violent deaths from direct confrontation between government and rebels. We witness casualties in these intertribal fights that are of the same importance in figures as those between the government and the rebels.

It is true that the direct proxy war between Sudan and Chad has been put to some rest. But the current escalation on the ground, of which, you know -- in which the Justice and Equality Movement is a key player, is an extension of that conflict. Therefore, that dog has not been kept silent from barking, and is still barking on the ground. And Sudan has still the ability of reigniting the front on the Chadian side of the border.

So, the referendum is not going to lead to a situation necessarily of calm on other fronts. On the contrary, I expect it will lead to further deterioration of the security situation.

My final comment relates to what happens next, after the signing, eventual signing, of a peace agreement. The process will be brought back to Darfur. Under the plans of the African Union High Implementation Panel, they will lead comprehensive political dialogue on the ground to bring all the stakeholders who are not present in Doha -- Doha is just a forum for the government and the rebels, so they want to associate all the other stakeholders displaced, the refugees, civil society, tribal leaders, new elected officials, and the like to the peace process.

The problem with that, the government has also declared a strategy for peace in Darfur which appropriates the proposal of the African Union for broadening the peace process and building consensus about it. And it's trying to drive that back to the ground. And, hence, there is a lot of distrust from Darfur movements, and they are already rejecting the government strategy for resolving the conflict on the ground.

My final comment relates to the situation of protection of civilians. Reference has been made to those southerners in the North and northerners in the South, but there is a dynamic dimension to this protection issue. There are 22 tribes of Arab origin in the transitional border between North and South who depend on crossing the border into Southern Sudan for part of the -- at least four months if not more each year, for their own livelihoods. These are nomadic tribes that have for generations, and since forever, been interacting with southern communities along that border. And a situation of deteriorating security for southern residents in the North would mean that the liberty of these tribes to continue crossing into southern Sudan and back into the North would be put at great risk if there were retaliating measures.

So, we are talking here about eight, nine million members of these nomadic groups in northern Sudan, and southern nomadic groups who also rely on crossing the border into that part of North Sudan. The independence of livelihoods is such that everything has to be deployed now and constantly, to really put the two parties before their historic responsibility to really ensure a peaceful outcome of this process.

It's not just a matter of separation between Muslim North and Christian South. Government (inaudible) Muslims in Darfur, and there are millions now in IDP camps who are Muslims entirely. So it's about governance, it's about responsibility of a state towards its own citizens, and this applies also to (inaudible) southern Sudan. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Suliman. Carne?

MR. ROSS: I -- before talking about the diplomacy around the issue, I should explain my role. I was a British diplomat for 15 years. I founded Independent Diplomat to advise governments, countries, and non-state groups on diplomatic processes. One of our clients is the Government of Southern Sudan. We are advising the Government of Southern Sudan on the diplomatic situation. So my comments should be heard in that light, though I should also say that I don't speak for the SPLM, the government, they speak for themselves.

I've got just three brief comments about the nature of diplomacy today, as I see it. First of all, as you probably gathered, it's very complicated. There are multiple actors engaged: the UN, the AU, the Troika, the U.S., and IGAD. The issues between North and South and negotiations between North and South are themselves very complicated. They are technically complicated and they are psychologically complicated because, essentially, what we are looking at is a negotiation to establish the foundations of a relationship between two states. That is a very, very big deal, and involves a great deal of technical issues, as well as a huge psychological shift, particularly for Khartoum.

Throw into that mix the security situation on the ground is pretty volatile, there is a great deal of concern at the moment in the South about the security situation. This has led to the issue of emissary deployment rising up the agenda. The Security Council is considering this on Monday. I think that's a very important discussion, how that resolves itself. I don't know, but I expect that UNMIS will be redeployed, as people have committed to these trouble spots with a greater mobile capacity, and I also hope a monitoring capacity enhanced.

What this complexity means is that individual actors who are the kind of top of their pyramid, like Thabo Mbeki, have, by intent or by accident, got an extraordinarily important role in steering this process, both in chairing the talks between North and South, but also in a way in legitimizing the process for the rest of the world, particularly to Africa. Many African states are extremely nervous about this process, and the precedent that it sets for the rest of Africa.

One consequence of this complexity is that there is enormous amount of diplomacy going on, simply to keep the international community on the same page. In June there was a formal meeting of the Security Council where many countries spoke. In September there was this high-level meeting organized by the UN where 34 countries signed up to a kind of general communiqué about the process.

And in November there will be another formal meeting at the Security Council chaired by the British foreign secretary, no less, with the same attempt: basically, to bring all the international community on the same message, which is to keep the parties on time, on board for implementing the referendums in a prompt, timely, and free and fair manner.

I dare say, though, that despite all of this effort, the unity in the international community is, in my view, very, very fragile. If the talk of delay on the referendum starts to rise, as we approach the referendums -- I expect that to happen -- or if the process goes off the rails in any way, I do not see that unity enduring.

The other thing that's going on is, as you've probably gathered too, the pace of diplomacy is increasing very rapidly. We now have several different processes going on. We have the Addis talks -- or they're somewhere in Ethiopia, I'm not exactly sure if they're going to be in Addis -- beginning just next week between the North and the South. That will be, I expect, quite a long tendentious and very challenging process.

Secondly, this issue has moved to the top of the agenda of the UN Security Council. They will be discussing it on Monday. I would expect there to be weekly, if not more regular discussions, about Sudan in the Security Council. Everybody at the UN is saying this is the number one issue.

However, I would say perhaps one slightly skeptical word, which is that lots of activity doesn't necessarily equate to lots of progress. I would also suggest that the more activity there is on all these different tracks with scores of special envoys and foreign ministers doing the rounds, and all talking to each other and showing up in great processions of diplomats to tell the SPLM what to do, there is a bit of a risk of systems overload with so much diplomacy to follow. And with that risk comes, I think, a bit of a risk of miscalculation by the parties. As the pace increases, they're forced to make decisions more quickly. And when you make quick decisions, you may miscalculate, particularly if you're not getting all the information about all the discussions that are going on. And I am a bit concerned about that as we go into the next couple of months. That's all.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Carne. Okay, that concludes our round of opening remarks. We will move to the Q&A session. We have about 20 minutes for Q&A, which obviously does not do enough justice for such a complex situation as Sudan. So I ask our journalists to keep their questions short, and don't forget to mention your name and media outlet, and then we will take a couple of questions here, and then to our colleagues in Africa. We will start right here, quickly. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks very much. I have a question for Jehanne. I mean the international community has obviously invested a lot of time, effort, prestige, and other things in trying to secure the rights of the southerners in the post-referendum period and before the referendum. Why not invest that same amount of effort and time and prestige in keeping Sudan together while securing those rights for people in the South?

And, the follow-up to Suliman, who is responsible, do you think, for the situation that has led us now to be talking about the referendum? Is it the successive governments in the north that have failed to do right by the southerners, or is it the international community which, as you know, some people suspect that it has specific agendas in splitting Sudan?

MODERATOR: Those are two short questions.

(Laughter.)

MS. HENRY: Shall I start?

MODERATOR: Yes, Jehanne, please.

MS. HENRY: Well, I mean, on the question of the protection of southerners in the North, I would argue that there hasn’t actually been enough attention on that. And I pointed out that UNMIS’s mandate doesn’t actually include protecting southerners in the North, and I am concerned that there isn’t enough sort of international readiness to deal with that, particularly if there are large population movements. I was glad to hear Samantha Power talk about those concerns as well, indicating that perhaps people are thinking about it. But what’s on the ground now in Khartoum, I mean, what’s the likelihood that, when something does happen, if there is any violence in the context of demonstrations or otherwise, that the UN or others would be able to come in and actually quell the situation – a big question mark.

As to your second question about sort of the merits of unity or secession, I mean, our framework is the CPA itself. So I’m a lawyer. I’m looking at this from the point of view of the rights that are already agreed to, so I really wouldn’t be the best person to talk about those larger political considerations of the merits of unity over secession. I think that’s very complicated. And obviously, it’s something that’s on all the regional actors’ minds.

MODERATOR: Suliman, maybe you can fill us in.

MR. BALDO: Yes, in relation to your question about the separation, I attribute it to the failure of Sudanese (inaudible) in the North to manage the country's diversity in a way that would preserve its unity. All Sudanese want to be Sudanese and this is the premise even of the southerners, but in their own identity. And what we have witnessed over the years is policies at the central level – economic, cultural, religious – that tended to totally ignore the rights of the peripheries and (inaudible) only South Sudan.

Let me give you the example of Darfur. Darfur, until the late 1980s, was the land which is a melting pot. Ninety-seven types, according to a survey in which I participated, of different origins were mixing, adopting Arab language, and uniformizing their cultural – because of the influence of the radio and media and education, national education and national civil service, and living in harmony and in peace.

When you have government policies that reverse these natural tendencies, pushing people to polarize along ethnic grounds – and this is what the Government of Khartoum had achieved – by, for example, for very short-sighted policies of (inaudible) tribes for political or counterinsurgency gains of the moment, then you reverse the real dynamics that could have encouraged people to create unity.

What I am worried about is not the separation between North and South. Next on the agenda would be that (inaudible) who are demanding self-determination, because they feel that they have been so marginalized in their own country that they don't belong there. And there is already talk, if you follow the discussions in Darfur (inaudible) of the right of self-determination for Darfur. So the issue is much greater than some agendas of foreign forces. It's the failure of ruling in (inaudible) Sudan, but particularly the current -- successive governments since independence, yes, but this particular regime here, which is here today, has really pushed this marginalization to the extreme by real manipulation of ethnicity for parties and for the military gains that do not take into account what is needed to create a harmonious population.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Suliman. Let's take a question right here, please.

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Mark Goldberg with UN Dispatch. David, you mentioned sort of the somewhat conspicuous absence of a mention of accountability or the ICC in the previous panel's discussion. Yet if you ask government officials, you know, "What about the ICC," they will remain at least rhetorically committed to the ICC action and in Sudan.

Yet, you know, the general creation seemed to lay out the potential of a normalization of relations with Khartoum, sort of as a carrot at the end of the negotiations. I am wondering. Is there a way to sort of square these two seemingly opposing ideas, ideals, or goals of U.S. foreign policy: one, supporting the ICC; two, supporting some sort of normalization of relations with Khartoum?

MR. ABRAMOWITZ: Thanks. It's a very challenging issue. If any one of you were following what would happen in Kampala for the ICC Review Conference, this whole issue of peace and justice and sequencing was really at the heart of a number of conversations. And, I think as we've seen in some of the actions in African countries in the lead-up, including efforts by President Bashir to establish stronger relations, it's an issue that's very much in dialogue.

I think, for many of us in the NGO community, our view is you can't have a sustainable peace unless you have accountability and justice. So there is always a sequencing issue about how you get to that place, but that's a very important element to remember. So, I think that the Administration, you know, has more than merely a rhetorical commitment to the ideas of international justice, if you look at their efforts both in Kampala and elsewhere. In this particular situation, I think that they're trying to figure out their sequencing issue.

And let's not -- remember that it's not only President Bashir who is subject to arrest warrants from the ICC. There are other actors, including those who have been involved in Darfur on the ground and others who are in sub-national roles, like Mr. Haroon (ph), that are subject to the warrant, and there can be efforts along those lines. And I think one of the issues that -- just building on some of the comments previously -- one of the issues around Darfur is looking at a comprehensive solution that includes accountability issues. And I think that's a key area where it can be done.

And one of the reasons that the advocacy community has been calling for some sort of additional high-level U.S. diplomat to focus on the Darfur issue alone is -- and as was reflected in Senator Kerry's legislation that is going to be, hopefully, moving during the lame duck session of Congress this November, is that I think that, as you could hear from the conversation here and on the last panel, it's enormously complicated issues that are coming to a head right now that range from humanitarian access all the way to trying to get the highest level of attention in the international community in a way that doesn't kind of blot out the capacities of the party. And having a high-level U.S. representative that focuses on Darfur only can actually help reach the whole range of issues that were discussed, as well as the accountability issues.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Dave. We will take a couple questions from our Africa colleagues.

This first one comes from Jason Straziuso, from AP in Nairobi, Kenya. His question for the panel: What poses a greater risk of violence in the next year in Sudan, internal southern violence or a return to North-South conflict? Perhaps each of you could just make a quick comment on that.

MR. ABRAMOWITZ: Well, very briefly, I think the risks of both are high. I think that the dangers of an outright conflict between North and South along the border leading to a high level of civilian casualties, as well as the issues about southerners in the North is sort of the greatest challenge. But there are South-South issues that have been going on. They're ones that we really have to pay attention to. I think that the SPLM and President Salva Kiir have been trying to reach out to a bunch of the disparate elements, and we really strongly urge him to continue that. But more has to be done to try to avert the South-South violence.

MS. HENRY: Yes, I would agree that it's a combination. I think there are risks of both. But it is important to understand that some of the South-South tensions between communities in the South really exist independently in the North, even though a lot of the rhetoric that you hear in the South ties the two. So a lot of explanations about what's going on in the South include sort of pointing fingers at Khartoum. To an extent, maybe there are links, but to another extent there aren't links.

There are pre-existing and independently existing conflicts between communities that need to be managed. And the Government of Southern Sudan is a very young, new government. It does not have the capacity to reach out into the vast areas of the states to properly manage those conflicts. And it is a huge problem.

After the elections we did see some fairly serious patterns of human rights abuses committed by southern soldiers against communities that are affiliated with opponents of the ruling SPLM. Some of those issues have been quelled with the efforts of the president, more recently, Salva Kiir reaching out compromise with the so-called renegade commanders. But those issues are simmering in the background, and I would say that they certainly are going to become more exposed to us all in the days surrounding the referendum and after the referendum. So I would like to underscore that risk. But both risks are there, yes.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Suliman, which situation --

MR. BALDO: Yes. I don't expect a traditional warfare between North and South of the type that happened between (inaudible) and the issue of the referendum collapsed two years after the referendum was held in 1991. So the situation is not likely to be one of (inaudible) some resources areas where the (inaudible) tried to establish military presence to control resources that are on the other side of the current administrative border between North and South.

And then, perhaps instrumentalization of tribal militias in these areas, presidal of those transitional tribes that depend on livelihood on southern Sudan, in which case it will be a situation of chaos, chaotic violence and proxy war to try and destabilize the South.

There are the issues of tensions within southern Sudan entirely. I agree with Jehanne here, that there are particular dynamics that are proper to the South, and that are not necessarily linked to help to manipulating this, but the potential is also there through its command of some of the former militias who were under control of Khartoum to stoke these local tensions, and to create situations in the South to demonstrate the inability of the new government to be in control in southern Sudan.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Suliman.

MR. ROSS: I would only add to all of this one other issue that's not been mentioned is the Lord's Resistance Army is very much seen as a source of conflict by the government in the South. The Lord's Resistance Army is now very present in the DRC, Sudanese border areas. I have seen reports having them as far North as Darfur. They are a very unpleasant, aggressive source of instability, which I think all of us should be aware of and calculating in this very -- this witch's brew that we've got.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Carne. The next question comes from Ivo Vegter of the Daily Maverick, in Johannesburg. Question: South Africa has sent several trade delegations to Sudan. It has also been very involved in civil service training, especially for bureaucrats in the South. How much value do such efforts have in cementing a peaceful resolution in the region? Are they enough? And which do you view as more important?

MR. ABRAMOWITZ: Well, let me just take a first shot at that. I think that the needs of the southern Sudan, the government of southern Sudan, to build its capacity and able to have a successful, stable environment with good governance is critically important. If you go to Juba and meet with members of the government and the SPLM, they are very, very good people. But it's quite thin, and they need to really build up that governance.

I think the efforts by South Africa have been excellent. They really -- they have made a difference. The United States was discussed as expanding its efforts in the South in order to try to help develop both the economy in the South, as well as the governance. But more needs to be done. The South, the government of southern Sudan itself, needs to make a greater commitment to improve its capacity, to improve its transparency. And I think anything that the international community can do to do that is not only welcome, but urgently needed.

MODERATOR: Would anyone else like to comment?

MR. ROSS: I would just say that this is a very long-term task. Viewing this as a short-term sort of intervention to stop conflict is wrong. I have been in several post-conflict situations, including in Kosovo. It is a very, very long-term task to build up effective government from an admittedly very low base in southern Sudan. I would simply send that message to South Africa and other donors and countries involved in the effort.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Carne. Ivo had a follow-on question regarding the referenda: Do calls for a postponement until border issues have been settled and agreements about debt, oil revenue, and water resources have been finalized, do those arguments have any merit?

MR. ROSS: If I may, I mean, I don't think those arguments are currently accepted in the international community. I think there is a belief that we have got to make as much progress as possible on these outstanding issues before the referendums take place, in order that the post-referendum relationship between the two entities is clear, that there is some framework for that, that the basic principles have been agreed. I don't think anybody feels it's likely that all of these issues will be wrapped up by January the 9th.

MR. ABRAMOWITZ: I think that -- just to follow up on that -- I think that the issue "finalized" is really the big concern about that question, in the sense that I think the parties are aiming towards a framework agreement, as was just mentioned, where the large-scale issues can be settled. Under the CPA itself, of course, there is a transition period until July 9th in which the parties can continue to work on finalizing a number of these elements.

So, the fact that the referendum occurs on January 9th is not the end of the conversation. And I think, inevitably, because of the ties between North and South, there is going to have to be some sort of modality for the two sides to continue to cooperate. Obviously, as you all know, the oil issue is one in which the North has the infrastructure for delivering the oil to market, the South has the actual deposits. So there is going to be a continuing need for an ongoing conversation regarding how that will move forward, and those things can be done after January 9th, when the referendums -- referenda are held on time.

MR. BALDO: The situation has been created in southern Sudan where the expectation is that the referendum will be held on time. And the SPLM is not at all in a position to accept, I believe, any form of delay. There are practical technical considerations, logistical considerations that may force a delay, in my assessment. But it has to be demonstrated, and it has to be seen that everything is in target to do our maximum for the referendum to take place on the time it has been provided.

And, therefore, then it becomes more acceptable to the SPLM to say, okay, a delay could occur by this amount of time, because there is no lack of will to make it happen on time. This is my reading of the situation.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Suliman. We have time for approximately two more questions. Let's start with this gentleman right here.

QUESTION: Hodari Abdul-Ali from Give Peace a Chance Coalition and WPFW. I want to come back to the issue of the unity of Sudan. There seems to be a glee on the part of many organizations and international players to break up Sudan, both North, South, and Darfur. And I want to remind people that the CPA stipulated that the SPLM and the NCP should campaign for unity. And this seems to have been lost. And many African countries in the AU have spoken for the importance of Sudan's unity.

And I wanted to ask Ms. Henry what safeguards have been put in place that you have observed for those persons who want to campaign for unity in the South? And I am glad -- because I was in Sudan as an observer for the elections in April, I went to both Khartoum and Juba, and I am glad you mentioned the heavy-handedness that the Government of South Sudan has exhibited toward other southern players. I mean this is -- they want to blame everything on Khartoum. And certainly Khartoum is not blameless. However, there was a lot of corruption and intimidation of other persons in the South who wanted to campaign outside of being official candidates. And I am glad you brought that up.

And my question to Mr. Baldo is, what pressure is being put on JEM to join these Doha negotiations, if Doha represents, at this point, the best possibility to find a peaceful solution in Darfur? Because this has been going on endlessly. And we want to know what can be done to get some of these other players who just say no, or who stay in hotels in Europe or other places. It's easy to say no, and it's easy to pressure the government. But what pressure is being put on some of these other supposedly leaders or representatives of the Darfurians to join the peaceful negotiations?

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. I think there are a couple of questions in there. But Jehanne, if you want to start?

MS. HENRY: Yes, let me take that. Regarding the unity question, the CPA does say that unity should be made attractive. And one of the ways that the agreement lays out for unity to be made attractive is through a series of democratic reforms to be undertaken by the government of national unity. And those include legal and institutional reforms, and they include making the governance systems in Khartoum work to protect minorities: the Commission for Non-Muslims, the constitutional court, reforming the national security laws so that the much-feared national security and intelligence service agents, who are currently arresting and detaining people for very long periods of time without bringing legal charges, and also who engage in ill treatment and sometimes torture in cases that we have documented, the reform of these institutions.

And I think one of the things we have noticed documenting the human rights patterns in Sudan over the last years is that those reforms haven't taken place. Those human rights and democratizing reforms that were supposed to occur under the CPA haven't largely taken place. So that's just a comment on this whole concept of unity in the CPA, as it was described.

The issue of freedom of expression and the freedom to campaign is something we are also really concerned about. Whether you are interested in unity or secession, it's critical that both governments -- the national unity government in Khartoum and the government of southern Sudan and Juba -- that both governments provide the protections and the freedoms to the journalists to be able to report on these things. And we have documented for years restrictions on freedom of expression in Khartoum in the North, and increasingly we have found cases in -- I wouldn't say increasingly, but over the last few years of looking at the situation in the South, particularly during the elections, we found cases of serious restrictions on expression there, too, including arrests of journalists during the elections.

Southern Sudan currently doesn't have media laws on the books. That is one of the issues that the journalists there are fighting for. And it needs to have a regime whereby expression of political opinion, particularly in a voting process like an election or a referendum, are protected. So it's good to flag those, and it's certainly one of our key concerns with respect to both governments.

MODERATOR: Suliman, did you have a comment?

MR. BALDO: Yes, a response to the type of pressures put or not put on the JEM, the Justice and Equality Movement had a presence in Chad. And the agreement to expel it from Chad was actually a tremendous form of pressure on it to join the peace process. This was the key driver of this bilateral agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Government of Chad. But many international actors had a key role in bringing the two to reach this pacification agreement between the two countries, so that the JEM is driven to the peace process.

JEM did go to Doha, did sign a framework agreement in mid-February of this year. And with -- that agreement between Chad and Khartoum actually provided for the JEM to assemble its forces in one area, and the framework agreement signed in Doha allowed for -- there was a declaration of cease fire.

However, what happened with that, the government immediately started circling these forces, because there was an opportunity there to militarily crush them, since they did not longer have the support or the possibility of seeking haven in neighboring Chad. And the failure of that campaign by JEM forces scattering for -- the close-in of government forces is what has led to a serious escalation and, literally, confrontations between the government and the forces of the Justice and Equality Movement.

The demand of Justice and Equality Movement to go back to the Doha negotiations is very simple. The process, the peace process, has taken its leaders from Darfur to Doha to take part in the negotiations. They ask they be allowed to go to Doha, to Darfur, to establish safe passage on which they were – the assumption was that they would be free to go and come back when they called – the negotiations are in recess. That hasn’t happened. And this draws attention to the fact that the process has, in fact, siphoned out of Darfur hundreds of field commanders who are sitting in hotels in Doha – and I’m not talking about political leaders – field commanders, and who are staying now there for months under the pretext of the peace process. Forces on the ground are, therefore, rendered more vulnerable to any campaign in -- a counterinsurgency campaign by government.

Therefore, there is a lot of complexity in how the dynamics of war and peace play out in this peace process. JEM is saying no, "We will not be in that position of being shut out of the field; we need to go back," and that’s the obstacle.

QUESTION: Hodari Abdul-Ali follow-up. They were given a respite after they invaded. I mean, what stopped them from going to Doha today?

MR. BALDO: Well, the argument currently that there hasn’t been a decisive victory for either side, not for the JEM -- neither for the government nor for the JEM. And therefore, they will not accept an agreement in which they were not party during the negotiations. And that’s why I predict there will be an escalation of fighting on the ground if there is an agreement in Doha without the Justice and Equality Movement, the one that has the real forces on the ground.

QUESTION: You should tell them to go. They’ll follow you. (Laughter.)

MR. BALDO: Yeah, I mean, it’s --

MODERATOR: We’ll have an opportunity for a little bit of follow-up after the official press briefing. I think we have one more question in the back of the room, and we’ll wrap up with that. Please go ahead, sir.

QUESTION: My name is John Tanza, VOA Sudan program. My question is regarding the role of Egypt in the whole situation, because historically, Egypt colonized Sudan and the Egyptian Government has been on record saying the unity of Sudan is what they prefer. What kind of messages are you getting from the Egyptian authorities? And this question is directed to David and Ross.

MR. ROSS: Well, that is a very good question. The Egyptian position is very interesting. This morning, there was a press report that Egypt is calling for a delay in the referendums. I don’t think that press report is actually correct and I think this is partly to do with the U.S.-Egypt dynamic – let me put it like that delicately. The U.S. does not want talk of delay at this point. And I think any sentiment from Cairo that Sudan – the message should be that Sudan should be kept together, or that the referendum should be delayed for further negotiations about keeping the country together, that is going to be suppressed internationally.

I wanted to introduce a broader comment about this sense of glee in the international community at the separation of Sudan. I have to say I don’t see that at all myself. Instead, I see a very weary reluctance to get into this at the UN, which is, of course, a body of states, and the AU, likewise. There has been enormous reluctance to get into this process, and indeed, really, quite a strong mental antipathy towards it, including from the likes of Ban Ki-moon, who was once -- once said that we should work for the unity of Sudan. Jean Ping has said the same thing; Thabo Mbeki is saying the same thing.

But all three of them have now shifted over the last year -- and the last year has been very important, psychologically -- to a dawning recognition that when the vote comes – and it has to come under the CPA – the very large majority of people in the south are going to vote for separation, and we just have to deal with that reality and make sure that happens peacefully.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Carne. David, the final word.

MR. ABRAMOWITZ: Well, just briefly, I think that you’ll find Cairo is quite conflicted on these issues. They have very serious national security concerns and economic concerns that are involved in the separation of north and south water, which has not been an issue that we’ve discussed being a critical one. I think that, at the end of the day, Cairo does recognize, as does the others that have called for unity in the past, that there is a certain direction that the people of southern Sudan are going, and I think they will understand and accept that reality.

My understanding is that at times they’ve played a helpful role over the last few months of trying to bring the parties together for further conversations. I think that suggests that they – one of their key objectives is to make sure that there’s not outright conflict breaking out south of their border, and I think that we’ll see them being part of an effort if there is a peaceful resolution of joining that effort.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, David. Okay. That officially concludes our briefing today. I want to thank all of our colleagues in the media who may have attended the longest briefing in FPC history, so thanks for hanging in there. I also want to thank our colleagues from the advocacy community for your insightful comments and unique perspective. We appreciate that.

Thank you all very much for coming today.

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