The Future of Sudan: A View from Khartoum
His Excellency Ali Karti, Foreign Minister, Government of Sudan
Steve McDonald, Director, Africa Program, and the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
On January 26, 2011, the Africa Program in conjunction with the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity of the Woodrow Wilson Center welcomed His Excellency, the Foreign Minister of Sudan, Ali Karti to discuss his views on the historic milestone of the South Sudan Referendum, as provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and his country's desire to normalize relations with the United States.
The Foreign Minister explained that now was the time for the US and Sudan to begin a new chapter in their relations, in the aftermath of the peaceful and successful Referendum vote on January 9, 2011. He emphasized that President Bashir and the government have fully pledged to respect the results of the vote, (which were finalized on February 7, 2011) whatever they may be. The actions and posture demonstrated by Khartoum indicate, according to the Foreign Minister, their commitment to a sustainable and long-lasting peace.
While the Foreign Minister expressed optimism with respect to the future of Sudan, he also noted that the country still faced some contentious matters in the immediate future. Foreign Minister Karti spoke of the oil-rich region of Abyei, located in the center of Sudan, with ties to both the North and South. He talked about the complex relationship between the Ngok Dinka and the Missirya ethnic groups therein. The Foreign Minister acknowledged that the question of Abyei is yet to be entirely resolved and that a just solution is required in order to avoid the resumption of violent conflict. Also, the Foreign Minister remarked that, although Sudan has long contained a diversity of religious faiths within its borders, the religious communities (particularly amongst Muslims, Christians, and adherents of various indigenous beliefs) hav become a source of tension.
With regard to the US-Sudan relations, the Foreign Minister praised the US for its role in the realization of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), but also posited that, at times, the American government had taken some contradictory actions. Such gestures of inconsistency, the Foreign Minister argued, do not overshadow the positive role the US has played in this process. In light of the referendum and Sudan’s commitment to peace, the Foreign Minister called on the US to remove Sudan from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and to lift sanctions that have devastated the country’s economy. He went on to state unequivocally that US-Sudan relations should not hinge on the question of peace in Darfur and that the, “Sudanese do not need to be enlightened on the value of peace in their own territory. After all, we’re the ones that enjoy its fruits when it prevails, and conversely endure its consequences when it does not… The Sudanese will continue to strive for it even in the absence of the so-called incentives.”
Towards the end of Foreign Minister Karti’s presentation he said that, “It is therefore time for the US to commit fully and redouble its efforts and join hands with the international community to assist the government of North Sudan in stabilizing and resolving the situation in Darfur.” He concluded his remarks by saying that going forward, it should be recognized that North Sudan had been an essential ally to the US in averting terrorist threats, Darfur should become a place of positive engagement, and the North and South should celebrate the successful implementation of the CPA.