A Director's Forum with H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit
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H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, First Vice President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan
H.E. Lam Akol, Foreign Minister of Sudan
H.E. Lual Deng, Minister of State of Sudan for Finance
Moderator: Amb. Johnnie Carson, Senior Vice President, National Defense University
Implementation of Sudan's landmark Comprehensive Peace Agreement is "moving slowly, but in the right direction," Sudanese Vice President and Sudan People's Liberation Movement head Salva Kiir Mayardit told a standing-room only crowd at the Wilson Center on his first official visit to the U.S. since assuming the vice-presidency on the death of his predecessor John Garang.
Vice President Kiir, together with Foreign Minister Lam Akol and Minister of State for Finance Lual Deng, assessed the remaining challenges and tensions surrounding the landmark peace agreement between the Government and the SPLM, which brought an end to one of Africa's longest and deadliest civil conflicts. Difficulties in dividing cabinet seats, daunting economic and administrative challenges, and ways in which the SPLM might help in resolving ongoing crises in Sudan and Northern Uganda topped the agenda of a frank and wide-ranging discussion.
The agreement by which the nation's vast oil wealth is shared between northern and southern Sudan remains one of the most contentious in the transition process. Although most of Sudan's oil-producing areas are in the South, the CPA sets out a complex plan by which revenue is to be shared. Under the agreement, 49% of southern oil revenue is returned to the Government of Southern Sudan, and another 2% to state governments in the South, but there is considerable resentment over how much revenue is eligible to be shared under this scheme. These tensions are exacerbated by the ruling National Congress Party's (NCP) retention of the influential Energy Ministry under the accords. Kiir acknowledged that this arrangement was disappointing to SPLM supporters, but said that he would not jeopardize the peace process for the sake of a single ministry portfolio. He repeated a warning that he gave to President Bashir, saying that this "unfair" distribution would leave many southerners mistrustful of the Government and NCP, and increase separatist sentiment in the South.
Other challenges in the implementation of the peace agreement include the demarcation of boundaries between regions, which have been repeatedly redrawn since the country's independence in 1959. The redeployment of military units has not been fully effected, and there is little chance of repatriation for most of southern Sudan's hundreds of thousands of refugees until there are significant infrastructural improvements. He noted, too, that although the U.S. had been extremely helpful in providing assistance during the war and in facilitating the peace talks, newly announced sanctions on Sudan would have a detrimental effect on the peace agreement, since reconstruction projects in the South will not be exempted.
Without reconstruction and development, it will be difficult for the transition to result in a lasting peace, according to Kiir. "There must be a peace dividend. There is little reason for people to support peace if they have the same living conditions as they did in wartime." But along with these reconstruction challenges, there must be accompanying procedures to ensure that the money is well spent, Minister of State for Finance, Lual Deng said. "All of southern Sudan will be a construction site for the next six years" and so measures must be implemented to prevent corruption from diluting the impact of this rebuilding effort.
On the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Kiir was emphatic that the SPLM would play a role in the solution. He noted that although the SPLM did not have representatives on the Government negotiating team in earlier rounds of talks, he reiterated the SPLM's intention to be represented in the upcoming round, and its desire to play a role in shaping a joint negotiating position. One possible step that he suggested was giving the Government negotiators broader discretion, because "from our experience [negotiating the CPA], when the Government gave its mediators a looser mandate, the negotiations went better. If they had a freer mandate in Darfur, it would be a big step to bring peace." He was optimistic about the upcoming round of negotiations, saying that a peace agreement in Darfur could be reached before the end of the year.
In the question and answer session, Kiir discussed the conflict in Northern Uganda, noting that the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) had rear bases in Southern Sudan, a situation that he considered untenable. He encouraged the LRA and Ugandan government to seek a negotiated solution, saying that neither side could achieve a military solution, although both could worsen the suffering of the Ugandan people. However, if the LRA did not enter into negotiations, or begin a dialogue with the SPLM, Kiir said that they would not be tolerated in southern Sudan, "how can you have a guest in your house if he cannot talk to you?"
Sudan's upcoming chairmanship of the African Union at a time when it is facing international scrutiny and an AU peacekeeping mission is deployed in Darfur offers "both a chance and a challenge." As President Bashir, in his role as chairman of the AU, works to resolve continent-wide issues, he must also use this opportunity to resolve tensions and crises at home.
Prompted by an audience member, Kiir invited his legal advisor, Paul Mayor, to discuss the implementation of Islamic law under the peace agreement. Under the CPA, this law would not be applied in the predominantly Christian and animist South, but the details have not been worked out. Mayor noted that there were a number of outstanding issues regarding the application of sharia law, including where the law would be employed in the capital, Khartoum, and whether the CPA extends exemption from sharia law to all non-Muslims in Sudan or only to native Southern Sudanese.
Mike Jobbins, Program Associate, ext 4158
Howard Wolpe, Director