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July-August 2010
Vol. 35, No. 4

Sudan: At the crossroads

In late June, a conference on Sudan was held in Germany, arranged by the German-Sudanese nonprofit organization Sudan Forum eV, along with the Sudan Ecumenical Forum/Sudan Focal Point-Europe. The 150 participants discussed many of the complex and difficult issues at play as Sudan approaches the critical January 2011 referendum mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and they issued the following communiqué:

... [R]epresenting Sudanese civil society and political parties, faith based organizations ..., international non-governmental organisations and institutes, governments and government agencies, after lengthy and frank discussions of the ... socio-political situation in the country, and particularly preparations for the forthcoming Referenda and Popular Consultations as well as the situation in Darfur, state a “Kairos” moment for Sudan. ...

Being aware of the fact that there are only 197 days left for the Referenda in Abyei and Southern Sudan, and the Popular Consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, alarmed by the humanitarian situation in bigger parts of the country, conscious of the lessons to be learned from the recent elections, and concerned about the lack of a genuine democratic transformation process as well as about the ongoing conflict and once again increasing human suffering in Darfur, we commit ourselves and call upon all stakeholders, governments, political parties and civil society organizations in- and outside the country, to put the citizens, their rights and physical security in the centre of attention, and to step up efforts to safeguard a peaceful transition and future for all people in Sudan.

We call upon the Government of Sudan (GOS) to stop aerial bombardment and all forms of violence targeting civilians in Darfur, and to fully facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies. We ask the conflicting parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian laws, to stop abducting people and endangering humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. We call upon the GOS and the armed groups in Darfur to pursue a genuine peace dialogue and to obtain the support of the civil society including the IDPs through participation in the peace process. We urge the mediators to ... keep absolute neutrality, to regain and maintain trust, and to refrain from working out separate agreements with the warring parties. For the sake of the peace process in Darfur, but also for the sake of any peace talks wherever and whenever conducted, we ask the AU and the UN to strictly stick to the principle of guaranteeing free passage and movement of any negotiating party.

We note with concern, that the process of Popular Consultations might not meet the aspirations of the people in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, that the people in the two states are ill informed about the process itself, and that the bill does not provide a mechanism of arbitration in case the people feel their views are not taken serious.

We are alarmed by the fact that the preparations for the Referenda in Abyei and Southern Sudan are far behind schedule and time is running out.  We urge the partners to the CPA ... to immediately set up the Referenda Commissions and all other bodies necessary for conducting the Referenda. We welcome the joint Referendum Task Force and the process as just started under the auspices of the AU and supported by Norway, to negotiate the post referendum settlements, and call upon the parties to provide an open and transparent process, keeping the citizens informed, in order to especially allow those eligible to vote in the Referenda to make an informed choice.

Voters’ education and proper international monitoring ... [are] key to a peaceful conduction, and lessons need to be learned from the recent election process. We call upon all stakeholders to safeguard a timely, free and transparent self-determination process and to respect the outcome of such a process. Oil is a key element for the post referendum arrangements. Whatever the outcome, issues of the severely affected environment with serious consequences for human beings as well as livestock, the compensation for lost land and property, and the transparency of contracts urgently need to be addressed.

... We urge the governments in Sudan, and international and national (N)GOs, to regard the needs of the people with long term and flexible programs, including follow up activities, in a coordinated effort, based on proper analysis of needs, human resources, the social context and with the full involvement of local communities.

But all efforts will be in vain, if the people of Sudan will not be given the chance of genuine peace-building, reconciliation as well as trauma healing, and to define their own destiny. We call for the full support to enabling and conducting such processes, which will result in proper state building in peace and justice.

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