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RAY SUAREZ: Last Sunday, the government of Sudan signed a peace deal with rebels, ending two decades of civil war in the biggest country in Africa. Even amid these celebrations, the other war in Sudan, in the western region of Darfur, continued.
The peace agreement, signed in Kenya, was made between the Muslim central government, which controls northern Sudan, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, a force made up largely of Christians in the South. The deal ends Africa’s longest running war. Two million people have died from the fighting and from starvation, disease and displacement.
The pact has several power- sharing provisions. Government and rebel fighting forces will merge. Political offices will be divided between Islamic North and Christian South. The country’s substantial oil wealth will be shared. The South will be largely self-governing. The region will hold a referendum in six years deciding whether to remain in Sudan. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who co-signed the pact, said it was a hopeful moment.
COLIN POWELL: This is an historic agreement where the SPLM, the southern movement, has finally after 20 years of conflict come into a comprehensive peace agreement with the government in Khartoum. And now the peace can begin. This war, hopefully, will be coming to an end, although there are many difficulties ahead. And I hope that as a result of this agreement, the two sides working together can work together to solve the problem of Darfur.
RAY SUAREZ: But that peace pact does not address Darfur. In that region, government- sponsored Arab militias known as Janjaweed have waged a war on the African populace. More than 70,000 people have been killed since the conflict began nearly two years ago. Nearly two million have been driven from their homes into refugee camps.
Last year Powell labeled the murderous campaign “genocide.” But when asked Sunday whether the Sudanese continued to aid and abet genocide, the secretary of state was less forceful.
COLIN POWELL: It was my judgment that genocide was taking place, and I haven’t seen the secretary general’s latest report, but I look forward to examining it.
RAY SUAREZ: That report, released last week by the United Nations, says the situation in Darfur is only getting worse, and that the Sudanese government, despite promises to help, is instead deepening the humanitarian catastrophe.
For more, we go to: Francis Deng, a former Sudanese diplomat who’s now the representative of the United Nations’ secretary general on internally displaced persons, and Salih Booker, director of Africa Action, an organization which works for human rights in Africa.
Francis Deng, does this recently-assigned peace deal mean that the fighting and dying is finally ending in southern Sudan?
FRANCIS DENG: Well, may I just make a minor correction, I was the representative of the secretary-general until very recently. My term has expired according to term limit rules. About the peace agreement, I have to say it was a momentous event and was received in Africa with a great deal of euphoria and enthusiasm.
But as I sat there looking at the celebrations, I have to say that I was reflecting on what all that meant. And what it means is this agreement has come after ten years of negotiation that intensified over the last two years. And although a peace could obviously could never have come too soon, I think it is a reflection, if you look at the size of the agreement, the volumes, the time it has taken, the details, it’s evidence of the fact that we are dealing with a very profound, deeply divisive issue. And one has to wonder whether the devil is not yet in the details.
It means that the parties, because of what divides them so profoundly, were really expecting to keep fighting for a long time. So when peace comes now, in a sense they’re not really fully prepared for peace. So that the SPLM, which will become the government in the South, has to now take steps to shift from warring to peace-making. Secondly, it’s a government – it’s a peace agreement between the government and the SPLM –
RAY SUAREZ: Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement?
FRANCIS DENG: Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement — and there are a lot of others outside who are very significant politically, particularly the political parties in the North and certain elements in the South, too.
And thirdly, you are dealing with a situation where there is war, I’m sure it will come to that, in Darfur, and challenging whether the Darfurian situation will act as a spoiler, whether those who are not in the peace process or in the agreement will act as spoilers and how much will the international community continue to be involved and supportive the way they have been of peace. These are questions still to be addressed.
RAY SUAREZ: Salih Booker, your colleague sounds a little skeptical. Do you see in this deal at least creation of conditions for peace to finally come to southern Sudan?
SALIH BOOKER: Well, I certainly do. But this is one of the most complex and challenging peace agreements in the world, perhaps in history. But of course the North-South civil war in Sudan is actually the world’s longest running conflict — 37 of the last 48 years since Sudan got independence in 1956.
So it is a very important agreement. It’s historically significant. And it also represents to a very significant degree a victory for the people of the South. It is the southerners’ ongoing struggle for self-determination that has now been universally recognized that they have a right to self-determination — under the terms of this agreement — it will be six years before they can vote on whether they want an independent state or remain within Sudan. But it is enormously important, and deserving of celebration for the people of southern Sudan.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, now that that process has been completed, does it create some possibilities for now turning attention to Darfur? Does it help anything in Darfur?
SALIH BOOKER: Well, the optimistic view is that this peace agreement is going to help broaden the process of democratization in Sudan, the entire country. By changing the composition of the central government, by including southerners, the assumption is that the central government will then be more disposed toward ending the violence in Darfur and political negotiations.
This peace agreement also means a lifting of the state of emergency in Sudan, so there should be greater space for political freedoms, for freedom of the press, freedom of speech and assembly. And so the assumption optimistically is that this agreement could really trigger a much broader process of democratization.
The critical view, however, suggests that the government, by signing an agreement with the southerners, can now devote its military resources toward the fighting in Darfur. And of course the situation on the ground in Darfur, the facts on the ground are that conditions are deteriorating, security is worse, and the humanitarian crisis is greater. The genocide continues.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, how is it going to go, Francis Deng? You’ve just heard which way the two forks in the road point, either to worse violence or better conditions.
FRANCIS DENG: Well, you know when you consider this is a war which is not only the longest in the world, but has cost so much of lives– over 2 million people dead, 4.5 million displaced, and many have gone to refuge abroad– this is reason to be joyous about the achievement of the peace.
But let me say, what this peace has done, what this agreement has done is try to reconcile two seemingly incompatible visions for the Sudan. In the North you have the Islamic Arab vision led by the Islamic party that is now in power. In the South, you have sort of a pluralistic, secular Africa- oriented vision.
What this peace has done, what this peace agreement has done is to more or less combine a separatist independent, almost independent South with the notion of a national unity. And the hope of the international community is that the six years will make unity attractive enough so that when southerners come to vote, they will vote for unity instead of for secession even though at the moment most southerners are more inclined toward secession if they were to vote today.
RAY SUAREZ: But if you are sitting in a refugee camp in Darfur today, is a government that may now include half its officers from the South, an army that will now arguably include half its officers from the South, be less likely to torment you, more likely to let you return to your home?
FRANCIS DENG: Absolutely. What actually the agreement promises is that the SPLM — specifically John Garang — will be part of the national government. He will be first vice president in an almost shared presidency. And the SPLM has been sympathetic to the cause of the South just as it had been to the cause of Nuba Mountains and southern Blue Nile that are now covered by the agreement. And there is no way the SPLM is going to join a government that will continue the war in Darfur. (inaudible) is right, (inaudible) says that the government may think they can now devote their energies in the war in Darfur.
At the same time, the SPLM and John Garang in particular is being urged to do something that will help the situation in Darfur. It’s a question of where you put your priorities. I think we should strengthen the agreement, we should get the southern SPLM involved in the government. And once they get active in the government, they will have an impact on the situation in Darfur. Otherwise the peace agreement itself would be endangered if the government continues to fight and expect the SPLM to be a party to that war.
RAY SUAREZ: Salih Booker, you mentioned that the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is worsening. In fact, attacks went on even as the peace deal was being signed over this past weekend. How has that been able to continue? Why in your view has Darfur stayed on the world’s back-burner?
SALIH BOOKER: Well, certainly the government believes the international community is not going to intervene, and therefore it can sort of do as it pleases in a way still in Darfur. So in December the Sudanese government launched a major offensive in Darfur even while it was still engaged in peace talks with the Darfur rebels in Abuja, Nigeria. There is a very small African Union peace observing force in Darfur, less than a thousand troops.
They don’t have a mandate to protect civilians. There are some two million civilians internally displaced who need protection. And the international community has just been unwilling to change the mandate of the African Union force, to give it a United Nations Security Council Chapter 7 mandate to protect civilians and also to increase the size of the force and ultimately that would mean needing contributions from countries outside of Africa.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let me turn to Francis Deng at that point because until recently you were working for the U.N. in that process. Would the change suggested by Salih Booker of giving the U.N. more power in this situation change the situation on the ground in Darfur?
FRANCIS DENG: Well, actually my mandate as representative of secretary-general concluded with the mission to Darfur. I saw what was going on there and I got some intimate sort of accounts of what was going on from the officials, talking to them, not just as representative of secretary-general, but as a Sudanese who is concerned about the country. And I found out that it is really unrealistic for the international community to expect the government to rein in the Janjaweed, to punish them as criminals, when in fact it was they who saved the day for the government in the war with the rebels.
So I think while it is important for the humanitarian issue to be addressed and for the protection of civilians to be given priority, ultimately what is involved is a political settlement. And a foundation has been laid in the peace agreement that has just been signed between North and South. And basically the Sudan government was relieved when after threats of international intervention the AU, the African Union, came in to say this is an African problem to be solved by the Africans and that of course shielded the government from international intervention.
But there is not enough capacity in the African Union to deal with the level of the crisis for the protection of civilians. So what is needed is there has been a lot of rhetoric on Darfur, a lot of outrage but not enough action. Africa Union needs a lot of support in order to enhance its capacity to meet the challenge and that has not yet been forthcoming.
RAY SUAREZ: Francis Deng, Salih Booker, gentlemen, thank you both.