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November-December 2010

Vol. 35, No. 6

Sudan: Peace progresses

In October 2010 the Government of South Sudan held an All-Southern Sudanese Political Parties Conference (ASSPPC) under the title "Southern Sudanese united for a free, fair, transparent and peaceful referendum" as South Sudan prepares for the January 9, 2011 referendum to decide its likely future status as an independent nation. The current president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has been effectively promoting peace dialogue and reconciliation to heal the wounds of past internal conflicts between former opposing militia groups in the South. The following article was written by Jennifer Schutzman, an intern with the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

In the opening address of the meeting that brought together 23 political parties in the South, Pres. Kiir reminded the parties that "we are members of one family, Southern Sudanese irrespective of political affiliation, creed, ethnicity, or geographical location. Our destiny is one as a people and we must together work to achieve our common goals."

The Government of South Sudan invited every organized party in the South, regardless of past alliance, even reaching out to Southern Sudanese who are currently involved with political parties in the North. Kiir stated that the meeting was "about the future of Southern Sudan, which is greater than the interest of each and every one of us as individuals and as political parties."

He further confirmed that the conference was not to mesh the opposing parties into one stronger power but instead to "share difficulties and seek counsel from your friends in order to avoid unnecessary conflict … " He insisted that the only way is to manage individual conflicts of interest through "dialogue and openness."

A unique and inspiring emphasis was placed on reconciliation. Kiir stated, "In the spirit of reconciliation I appeal to all of us to forget the past ... let us seize this moment to take the collective responsibility to guarantee the future of our people … let us forgive one another and pursue common goals and interest to better the livelihood of our people … life is precious and sacred and it should not be sacrificed for the selfish aims of political leaders … [I] appeal to the gallant armies of the Sudan and all able bodied persons to shun war and value [lives] of their children, women and the old in society."

He issued an executive order granting all officers amnesty who rebelled against the current Government of South Sudan. Major Gen. Gabriel Tanginye, Lt. Gen. George Athor Deng and Col. Gatlak Gai were promised official pardons contingent on all three rebel leaders laying down their arms.

The final communiqué of the conference included the following agreements: 1. The parties affirmed their commitment to peace, reconciliation and adherence to the principles of democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights and respect of multiparty system. State-owned media and private media both in the north and south should give equal opportunities to proponents of unity and to those of secession; 2. The vote should be free, fair and transparent. Campaigning must be orderly and responsible and desist from provocative actions or utterances; 3. In the event that the decision is unity, the south should be prepared to participate in the constitutional review process that will follow, in order to safeguard the gains of the south in the new dispensation in the country. In the event that separation is the choice, the Southern Sudan government shall establish a National Constitutional Review Commission; it will convene an all party constitutional conference to adopt a constitutional system and an interim broad based transitional government; and 4. A leadership forum with the chairpersons or representatives of all Southern Sudan political parties should be formed, tasked with the follow-up and implementation of resolutions of this conference. The forum shall meet at least twice during the remaining period to the referendum.

Leaders of the non-dominant political parties were equally excited about the conference. Sule of the United Democratic Party confessed he "never thought he would one day be granted the honor to address an all southern political parties' conference." Akol of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement for Democratic Change said, "If there are people who still doubt that I will work against the interest of the people of southern Sudan, they must know now that our differences have been resolved by this conference." This proactive approach to conflict resolution brings communities in the Sudan hope.

After decades of war, the people of Southern Sudan are determined to achieve peace. They are enthusiastically working together through regular dialogue.

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