The US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, has expressed hope that opportunities will arise from the current turmoil in Sudan and South Sudan.
Addressing the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organisations in Washington last week, Ambassador Booth pointed out that the hearing “comes at a tumultuous time for both Sudan and South Sudan”.
“Sudan continues to respond to the grievances of marginalised groups with violence, particularly in Darfur and the “Two Areas” of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States where government forces have routinely engaged in indiscriminate aerial bombardments. Linked by geography and resources, Sudan and South Sudan’s interdependence could be a source of stability, but recent steps towards resolving bilateral issues have been overshadowed by the conflict in South Sudan.
“Speaking as someone who has been in the region almost continuously since December 22, working to bring an end to the fighting and to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table, I can assure you that the US Government has and will be fully engaged to support the President’s goals of two countries, at peace internally, with each other, and with the region. We stand ready to help both Sudan and South Sudan build a peaceful and prosperous future in which all Sudanese and South Sudanese citizens are respected, protected, and have a say in the governance of their respective countries.
Sudan also continues to suffer from internal strife and conflicts. In addition to multiple insurgencies, economic and social tensions escalated last fall as cuts to oil subsidies resulted in the largest protests seen under the National Congress Party’s rule. Unfortunately, the government responded with a violent crackdown on the protestors, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries, as well as nearly 2,000 arrests and detentions.
In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, despite the resumption of talks between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North and the Government of Sudan earlier this month, fighting continues. The fighting has taken an unacceptable toll on lives and livelihoods, with people unable to safely farm or access social services. Indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas continues.
Ambassador Booth pledged to “continue to work with both parties, and the umbrella opposition group of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, to urge them to take the necessary steps through the AU-led effort to achieve a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access—the latter of which has been denied by the Sudanese Government since the outbreak of the conflict over two and a half years ago, resulting in a serious humanitarian crisis.
“In Darfur, peace remains elusive as violence and insecurity have increased, resulting in further deterioration in the humanitarian situation. Last year alone, more than half a million people were newly displaced, primarily by inter-tribal conflicts and lawlessness, though fighting between government forces and rebel movements also increased. The United States has provided $7 billion to date in humanitarian, transition, and reconstruction assistance to help the people of Darfur. The United States continues to press the Sudanese government to allow greater humanitarian access in Darfur, and to engage with all parties for a comprehensive political solution. Reversing the cycle of violence in Sudan will require accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations. The United States will continue to urge the regional and international community to call for Sudan to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1593.”
Ambassador Booth said that “despite the horrendous conflicts that have continued and erupted over the past months, out of the turmoil lies opportunity for both Sudan and South Sudan. The Government of Sudan can make the choice to undertake a truly comprehensive and inclusive constitutional process and national dialogue on the country’s future. Similarly, the Government of South Sudan has a crucial opening to establish an inclusive, peaceful nation, representative of all, the kind of nation that is worthy of all they sacrificed in its creation.”
File photo: US President Barack Obama meets with Ambassador Donald Booth, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, in the Oval Office, on 28 August 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)