11 January 2010 Special Envoy Gration on Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, January 11, 2010
(Gration updates on the situation in Sudan, including upcoming elections)
FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SUDAN SCOTT GRATION
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
TOPIC: SUDAN: THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE COMPREHENSIVE PEACE AGREEMENT
MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 2010 AT 9:00 A.M. EST
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. Thank you for coming out on this frigid morning.
Todayís a very special day for us, not only because we have Special Envoy Gration coming to talk to us, but also because itís the first time that we will be DVCing with the South African media hub. Itís an important occasion. Weíre getting information out to the source very rapidly. And Iím just very pleased to be able to share this moment with all of you.
So a few ground rules before we start. Youíre all here. We also have a connection with South Africa. Once General Gration has made his remarks, we will go directly to South Africa to have their questions posed for us. Once we finish with them, weíll come back here to Washington and you will be able to ask your questions. Immediately after, we will again DVC with New York. As usual, make sure that your phones off, please, or, at least, on vibrator. And when you ask your questions, state your name and your news organization.
Again, we would like to Ė the Foreign Press Center would like to welcome General Gration, Special Envoy for the President for Sudan.
MR. GRATION: Good morning. Thank you very much. It really is a pleasure to be here and to have this opportunity to get the word out on what weíve been doing in Sudan. You know, itís been five years since the CPA was signed. We just celebrated that anniversary on the 9th of January. Itís the longest Ė or itís an agreement that ended the longest running war in Africa, the civil war between the North and the South.
Since 2005, the National Congress Party and the Sudanese People Liberation Movement have made significant progress toward peace. The northern troops pulled out of the South. The ceasefire has largely held. The government of national unity was formed in Khartoum and the regional government of Southern Sudan was created in Juba. The oil wealth has been shared, and the historical grazing rights have been honored. The parties have reached agreements on the border with the disputed area, what we call Abyei. Theyíve passed legislation to prepare for the national and legislative elections, the popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile areas, and the two referenda on self-determination in Abyei and in Southern Sudan.
At the same time, peace remains incomplete. Thereís not been enough progress on the democratic transformation that was envisioned in the CPA. Violence in the South is too high. And insecurity and lawlessness in Darfur remain much too high also.
But over the last five years, the agreement has weathered a lot of challenges and has overcome some major hurdles. The parties should be commended for their commitment to frank dialogue and to peaceful engagement. The greatest challenges, however, lie ahead. Continued strong leadership from the parties is imperative. Sudan will face the first national election in 24 years this April. And while the record turnout for registration was a testament to Sudanís strong desire for democracy, we remain concerned about the ongoing restrictions to the freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press.
We will continue to support Sudanís elections, for theyíre an important CPA milestone toward democratic transformation. They are a key stepping stone to credible referenda in January of 2011. Just one year from now, the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei will choose whether to remain part of Sudan or to separate and form an independent country. This will be Africaís first country in nearly 20 years.
Credible referenda are vital. They should take place on time and their outcomes must be respected. Itís imperative that the parties and the international community begin to grapple with those tough issues that will result from the upcoming vote. We must all work diligently together in the next year to prepare Sudan and the entire region for the potential scenarios that will resume.
We urge both the NCP and the SPLM to continue to make compromises and equipment Ė excuse me, and commitments required to build confidence and to achieve a lasting peace in the region. We recognize that the problems of Sudan must be solved by the Sudanese themselves, but that the rest of the world should pitch in. And thatís why weíre working so closely with the other envoys to Sudan, with international groups like the troika. Weíre also working with Sudanís neighbors to find lasting solutions within a regional context. The United States is committed to peace in Sudan, and we will provide the leadership and support thatís required to achieve that objective.
At this time, Iíd like to open it up for your questions.
MODERATOR: And we will go to South Africa.
MODERATOR: We have 20 minutes on the schedule for questions from South Africa, so if you all just want to raise your hands and Iíll select someone, you come up and just identify yourself and your organization, please. Do you want to start?
QUESTION: Good morning, sir. My nameís Andrei (inaudible) of Media 24 in Johannesburg. Could you just comment on where in your view the Mbeki process, is President Mbeki process, is with respect to getting Sudan into a position to actually hold the election at this time?
MR. GRATION: Thank you, Andrei (ph) and appreciate your question. The Mbeki high-level panel, I believe, will be critical to peace and lasting security in Sudan. President Mbeki comes with high regard and credibility. Heís put a great deal of effort into learning about the situation not only in Darfur, but also in Southern Sudan. He has relationships with leaders in the region and with the two parties, so heís in a perfect position to provide the leadership and direction and facilitation to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in this last year and also to get an agreement in Darfur.
We believe that President Mbekiís efforts and the high-level panelís efforts on accountability and justice will be critical, because we know that there cannot be a lasting peace in Darfur unless thereís accountability and justice. We also understand that he comes with the mandate from the African Union, and that is so very important. And so our plan is to continue to work with President Mbeki and his group. We have been in constant contact with him over the past six to eight months. We have regular telephone calls, and Iíve met personally with him on numerous occasions. We will continue to work together because it is only in the spirit of cooperation that we can achieve a lasting peace in Sudan.
QUESTION: Hello. My name is Donna Bryson. Iím with the Associated Press. Iím wondering, first, if you could discuss what you see as the roots of the continuing violence in Southern Sudan Ė what you said, the violence is too high. And what is being done on the part of the international community to bring that under control?
And secondly, can you give me your opinion on whether you think the referendum will happen and why or why not?
MR. GRATION: Yes, thank you, Donna. First on the rising violence, we are very concerned about the rising violence that weíre seeing in Southern Sudan. I know thereís been a great deal of allegations that whoís behind it and what is causing it. But the bottom line is we need to move forward. We need to come up with solutions. There needs to be more effort and conflict mitigation and getting out in front of the problem and not just reacting to it. Right now, it seems like we hear about problems after theyíve already occurred, that 139 died last week.
What we need to do is get out in front of this to prevent these kinds of problems, to resolve the issues between the tribes, between the communities that are fighting. We need to figure out the source of the guns and ammunition and equipment, and we need to reduce those. We need to work with the Government of Southern Sudan to increase the agility and mobility of their security forces. There needs to be more communications Ė excuse me, more roads, more transportation, and more ability for security forces to get to these problem areas in a timely manner.
We will work with the Government of Southern Sudan to bring about these changes. And we will try to work with them to quickly come up with solutions so we can stop this trend. Because as you know, thereís been already roughly 2,500 people killed in a year. Thatís much too much, and we need to stop this right now.
Let me just Ė I forgot the second part of your question. It was about the referendum, whether I think it will take place? I believe that the referenda will take place. I believe that right now I see political will. I see cooperation and I see continued commitment on both sides to have this take place.
One important step that must take place first is the election. We believe that the election is a very important piece of implementation of the CPA that demonstrates the spirit and the letter of the CPA, that brings about a political transformation and a democratization process that is critical. We are very encouraged that almost 79 percent of the people of Sudan registered to vote; thatís four out of five people of the 20 million eligible voters, 16 million came out to register. Thatís a tremendous thing, and we believe that we should encourage that kind of participation in the democratic process.
We believe itís important in the election to have proper administration logistics, that we get the adequate voter education out there that we have security and transparent processes. Because it is these same processes that will be used for the election that will be required to ensure that we have a credible referenda, both in Abyei and in Southern Sudan. And we need a credible referenda so that, when it is complete, the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei will be able to say, ďYes, my will was demonstrated in my ballot, and that ballot has been accepted.Ē
The people of the North will say, ďYes, these people from these regions demonstrated their will, and weíll honor that.Ē And the international community will say, ďYes, this was a credible referenda and we will honor the results and support the decision of the people.Ē Thatís what weíre trying to achieve. Thatís why we think the election is so critically important, and itís important that it be held on time so that we donít get mixed up with the rains and other problems that will happen if we delay past April. And thatís why itís important that registration for the referenda start in July. And thatís why itís important that in January of 2011, both referenda take place. Next question.
MODERATOR: We have a question.
QUESTION: Francois (ph) from Bloomberg. I have Ė I wanted to get a reaction from you concerning the statement that was made by Oxfam and the other eight agencies a couple of days ago, who said that the CPA was on the brink of collapse. I mean you obviously think itís not on the brink of collapse. Why do you think itís not? And concerning the referendum, do you think that, given the tensions between the NCP and the SPLM, that post-referendum issues should be discussed before or after these elections, as a, you know, should we wait now for a few months until these elections have taken place to carry on discussing whatíll happen after the referendum? Thanks.
MR. GRATION: Iíll take the second part of your question first, and that is about the post-2011 issues. Itís my view that we need to start right now to work on these issues. The international community has provided some technical assistance, but itís up to the parties right now to start talking about and agreeing to the outcome on these very, very tough issues. And I believe that it has to be resolved before the referendum takes place. So we only have a year, and within that year we have the campaigning, the election cycle, so I believe that we need to come up with a process now so that we can work with the parties and the parties can work between themselves to come up with solutions on citizenship, on the North-South border demarcation, on the sharing of resources Ė and that includes the oil Ė grazing rights, the Nile waters. Thereís so many issues that have to be decided that we cannot wait until the referendum is here, until the people have made their will known. It will be too late at that point. These must be done right now, and weíre encouraging the process to start and we are in constant communication with the parties to help them come up with a process and a methodology to get these talks started.
In terms of why Iím optimistic, sure I know thereís challenges ahead and sure weíre disappointed that thereís things that should have been done and could have been done that have not been done, and we will continue to urge the parties to make the commitment and to have the political will and the leadership to resolve these tough issues that have not been resolved as of yet. And these issues include whoís going to vote in Abyei and other tough issues that have to be decided even before we get to the post-2011 issues. But I am optimistic because Iíve seen progress. I just Ė take a look at what happened this last week as Dacharazi (ph) went over to Chad, and what happened in the latter part of December when Foreign Minister Faki came to Khartoum.
The thawing of relations between Chad and Sudan are critical, and these next months of confidence-building, as we look at implementation of the Dakar agreement and border monitoring, will be absolutely critical to the future stability and security in Darfur. As we come up with solutions that involve the JEM, the Justice and Equality Movement, that demobilize the Sudan-backed Chadian rebels, these solutions will bring more peace and stability to Darfur. And weíre very, very encouraged at the initiative between Chad and Sudan to resolve these longstanding issues. As you all recall, itís not that long ago when fighting was actually taking place, when Chadian rebels went across the border into Chad on the fourth of May, when rebels threatened within a mile of NíDjamenaís presidential palace, and within 13 kilometers in Omdurman of threatening the presidential facilities in Khartoum. This was only a little while ago, and yet today weíre seeing a thawing of relations. So that is a tremendous progress, in my view.
The second thing was Abyei. In 2008, we saw the city or the town burn down. Fifty-thousand residents had to flee south. On the 22nd of August, the ruling from The Hague, the Court of Arbitration, came down. And that was able to come down in a peaceful way because the SPLM and the NCP came together and put out a joint press program. They put out a joint task force that helped brief the leaders and the people on what was going to happen. I saw that 70 traditional leaders were brought to Khartoum. Many of them went on to The Hague for the ruling.
This kind of cooperation, this kind of working together, this kind of grappling with the tough issues that result in peace, is at the foundation of what the CPA is about. And itís because weíve seen Chad-Sudan, Abyei, the registration, the passing of all the laws prior to the end of last year, the two referenda, the Popular Consultations Law, the National Security Act, the Trade Union Law, and others Ė this came after lots of hard negotiation, a lot of long meetings and late nights. But we saw them working together to achieve a solution, an agreement that could be implemented. Itís this kind of effort that gives me hope that we can achieve the democratic process, that we can have a credible election, and that we can have a referendum on time. Thatís why Iím optimistic. But Iím not naÔve in knowing that itís not going to be tough. It will be tough, itís going to demand dedication on the part of the parties, and it surely will involve work from all the international community to achieve the end that we all seek, and that is a better future for the people of the Sudan.
QUESTION: Hello, General Gration, my name is Naos Hume from the South African Broadcasting Corporation. With all the positive things that you have said with regard to the peace movement, where does President Umar al- Bashir fit in, particularly considering that there is a possible arrest warrant out for him in any country that is willing to do so? And in that equation, do you expect the African Union to be supportive of possibly arresting another African president with a view to what has already occurred with the president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, who is now sitting at The Hague?
MR. GRATION: Yes, really, weíll leave the decision of the African Union to them. I will just say that from our point of view, we believe that any solution in Sudan, especially in Darfur, where there were mass atrocities and people need to have restitution and justice, we believe that any long-term solution will have to have accountability and will have to have a component of justice. The details are still being worked out. President Mbeki and the high-level panel have proposed some options of courts and hybrid courts, and we support the ICC and have urged the Sudanese to put forth the information that the ICC is requesting.
MODERATOR: South Africa, last question, please.
QUESTION: David Smith of The Guardian newspaper from the UK. What do you think, in your own view, would be the implications of a yes vote in the referendum? What would it mean for resources such as oil? What would it mean for neighboring countries? Would it be stabilizing or destabilizing?
MR. GRATION: Yes, David, itís a question that weíre all concerned with, and one that we spend a lot of time working on. Obviously, birthing of a nation is tough in any situation. Itís especially tough when you look at the history of Sudan. Since independence, the country has had wars for almost 40 years. The CPA ended 22 years of a civil war between the north and the south. So thereís a legacy here, a history here that makes birthing a new nation tough. The other thing that is a factor is that much of the infrastructure is run by nongovernmental agencies right now.
And over the past five years while the south has done a great job in being able to set up an autonomous government at the national Ė or at their southern level and also in their states, thereís more that must be done to set up a system of governance, to set up the social infrastructure, to come up with other ways of earning wealth besides just oil, whether they be industry, agribusiness, ecotourism. These are yet to be explored.
Just things like education Ė when youíre dealing with a population that at best is 15 to 20 percent literate, when youíre dealing with a healthcare system that is not coordinated, that does not reach all the citizens, these are issues that have to be dealt with. And so we all must work together to help Sudan have as best start as it can if it decides to become independent. And this will mean that itís going to take a lot of effort on behalf of the diaspora, on behalf of the neighboring countries and the international community to ensure that this country is birthed successfully and that it can be sustainable.
We believe itís possible, but weíre under no illusions that it wonít be very difficult. And thatís why we are working now to resolve the issues of post-2011, to grapple with the outcomes and the possibilities and the scenarios that could result from a vote for independence. We believe that right now, we have to start thinking about these issues. We believe that right now, we have to do the requisite training, that right now, we have to start building the infrastructures that will make southern Sudan successful if it decides to become independent.
This is a tough challenge, but itís reality. It could happen on the 9th of July of 2011. That means we only have 18 months to prepare for this eventuality, and we have no option but to succeed. If we donít succeed, the ramifications in terms of civil war, in terms of refugees, displacement, and other disastrous consequences are so dire, itís hard to imagine. Therefore, we have really no option but to dedicate ourselves anew to push in every way we can to ensure that if the Sudanese decide to become independent, that we do everything we can to ensure theyíre successful Ė a successful state for themselves, for Sudan, and for the region.
MODERATOR: Thank you, South Africa. We go to Washington now. Yes, please, Brian.
QUESTION: Iím Brian Beary. Iím from Europolitics, a European affairs news daily based in Brussels. I believe you were in Brussels recently discussing with the EU and what they could do. Iím just wondering, could you tell us a little bit about what you see Europeís role in this? And just going back a little bit to the question on the International Criminal Court, I mean, is this a factor at all in the north-south issue? I know that the EU, for example, is always very pro-International Criminal Court, and Iím just wondering if that issue has come up in the conversations with respect to the north-south issue.
MR. GRATION: Thank you very much. We believe that the EU has a very important role in Sudan now and in the future. In terms of the near term, as we prepare for the elections, we would encourage the EU to provide the election monitors that have been discussed, upwards of 300, that will allow us to have the transparency, to have the monitoring that we need to ensure a credible election. We really are requesting the EU to consider that very favorably. In addition to that, it will take a great deal of resources, financial resources, to be able to put this election on and the referendum on. Much of these resources will need to come from the international partners, of which the EU will be a significant donor. We urge them to become involved.
In the long term, the development of the infrastructures that I talked about, the development of governance, of government that I discussed cannot be done without the participation of the Europeans and the European Union. We have very close relations with the Contact Group, with the Troika. The Troika had a very important role in birthing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Naivasha in 2005, and we are working with Norway and the UK to continue to provide the support that the CPA needs to be fully implemented. But we believe that Ė so we believe that the European Union is an important partnership and a key element to ensuring that not only the elections and referendum take place as scheduled and in a credible way, but also that the future of Sudan continues to be bright.
In terms of the ICC and all that, our mandate really is to save lives and to help the Sudan be birthed in a way that it can be successful and it can thrive and be prosperous. Right now, we are working very hard in Darfur and in the south to put into place those things that are required to save lives and make a brighter future. That doesnít mean that weíre not interested in accountability and justice. Those things will come when the time is right.
MODERATOR: Yes, please. Tulin.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you, General Gration. This is Tulin Daloglu with Haberturk, a Turkish daily newspaper. I want to follow up on the EU question, but just from the perspective of Turkey. How do you see the Turkish role in this situation, and can you specifically talk about the differences that you do have with the Turkish position on what is happening in Sudan? As far as I know, the Ankara government do not think what happens in Sudan Ė does not count as a genocide. And how does it play in the bigger picture in this issue? If you can talk about it, Iíll appreciate. Thank you.
MR. GRATION: Yes. Frankly, I have not visited Turkey on this issue, although I lived there for five years, so I would love to find an opportunity to visit. So I really havenít had much to do with Turkey or Turkeyís involvement in Sudan. I am not aware of many initiatives that the Turkish Government has in Sudan, so really difficult for me to speak. But I will take that as a question and I will continue to probe this and Iíll try to find out exactly an answer not only to your question, but how Turkey will play in how we see the international community getting involved in Sudan. So thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Yes. Frederick, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Iím Frederick Nnoma-Addison, AMIP News. Two questions if I may. The first one is that Sudan is bordered by an unusually large number of countries, at least six or seven Ė Egypt, Chad, Libya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia Ė is that helping or hurting the transition process in any way? And then secondly, you described America as playing a leadership and support role. Could you emphasize a little bit on exactly what itís doing? Is it a provision of money, is it oversight, or what? Thank you.
MR. GRATION: Yes, Iíll answer your second part first. Our role so far has been to create an environment where the Sudanese people themselves can come up with agreements. We have not forced any agreement. We have not forced the parties to make any commitments. What weíve tried to do is outline the issues, to facilitate, to help in any way we can, but it has really been to create an environment. And that really lends itself to the second part, because youíve raised an important issue. There are so many countries that border Sudan, and so many issues impinge on Sudan.
Just the fact that we have refugees coming in from Uganda into Equatoria because of the Lordís Resistance Army and some of the things that have happened in there in terms of villages that have been burned down and women being raped and people being killed and many people are coming north, there are other trade angles where itís important for the countries of the south to continue the trade to the north. Libya has been very helpful in Darfur and coming up with solutions in Darfur. Libya has been very useful in helping with rebel unification. Egypt is very concerned, as you know, about the Nile waters and the 1959 agreement that controls the flow of water. And we are continuing to work with all those countries.
Prime Minister Meles has been very useful as heís discussed and shared his concepts and historical background. And Iím going to Kenya and Uganda to talk to the Kenyan leaders and President Museveni this Ė on the 26th to get their perspectives. And then Iím going to the African Union to Ė again, to understand more. Because I donít live in Sudan; America doesnít live in Sudan. But we know itís critically important to Africa and critically important to the whole world that this problem gets resolved, because we canít afford to have a civil divorce thatís messy, and that civil war that results.
Because the ramifications of that, which stretch from Cairo to Capetown and from Dakar to Djibouti, we have to ensure that the outcome of this is peace Ė lasting peace not only for Sudan, whether they divide or whether they stay unified, but peace for the entire region. Thatís our goal, thatís our objective, and thatís what weíre trying to do is create an environment so the Africans themselves can help Africa, so the Sudanese themselves can come up with the right answers for them.
MODERATOR: Last question for Washington. Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, Menelik Zeleke from the PGTV news network. It has been stated that the ICC has issued a arrest warrant for the President al-Bashir. What is the United States or President Obamaís philosophy behind that? And does he also see that the ICC has the authority to issue such a warrant?
MR. GRATION: These issues would be best discussed with the special councils and the people that deal with this on a day-to-day basis. As I said before, we are encouraging the Sudanese to comply with the requests of the ICC for information. We also believe that there cannot be a lasting peace unless these issues are resolved. And right now, my focus is to save lives, to reverse the dire conditions that occur in Darfur, to have a definitive end to the conflict there, to end the gross human rights abuses and the atrocities that have taken place, to end the genocide and the results that people are living in today in terms of over 2.7 million people in IDP camps.
In addition to that, we have a mandate to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And Iíll tell you, frankly, to do that, we have to have a dialogue with Khartoum, with the NCP. We have to have a similar dialogue with the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir and the rest of them. We have to have a dialogue with the tribal leaders, with the IDPs, with the rebels in Darfur. And we have to have a dialogue, as was pointed out, with all the neighbors Ė with Cairo, with Tripoli, with Nídjamena, Kampala, Nairobi and Addis.
All these relationships have to be there. And so we have frank dialogue and engagement Ė not for engagementís sake, but to save lives. And thatís why weíre continuing to talk with the government of Khartoum, the Government of Sudan. Thatís why we continue to negotiate with them to be able to save lives, to be able to bring peace, and then when the time is right, weíll ensure that thereís accountability and justice in accordance with the international systems.
MODERATOR: New York, do we have a question?
QUESTION: Thanks, General, for this briefing. This is Khaled Dawoud, Al Jazeera correspondent here in New York. I just have a quick follow-up, I mean, on your answer about President Bashir. There were reports that the U.S. is trying to convince him not to run in the upcoming elections as a kind of a way out of this, you know, disagreement Ė obvious disagreement between the African Union and the United States and the Europeans over the ICC issue. So I was wondering if this is one option you think that could be useful.
And then my second question by virtue of working here in New York and covering the UN: Is the U.S. Administration speaking in one voice about Sudan? Because some members of the Administration would still insist that we are having a genocide or a continuing genocide in Darfur. So I wanted to clarify the Administrationís position on this issue, because there are many other reports that the situation has relatively calmed down in Darfur and itís mostly tribal violence. Thank you.
MR. GRATION: Let me answer the genocide question first. The President has talked about a genocide that has taken place. And we continue to deal with the effects of the situation. We are speaking with one voice as we try to reverse the devastation and the dire conditions that exist in Darfur. And as we look forward, thereís absolutely no question that weíre all working together, working with one accord on the same objective, which is to save lives and to bring peace in that area.
As for President Bashir running and other people running, the parties will put up their candidates by Ė around the 22nd of January. And as far as I know, we have not been involved in making any recommendations, recognizing that Sudan is a sovereign country and these parties can run themselves as they see fit and put up for contesting these positions anybody who they would like. And so I am not aware of any decisions on our part to try to change the outcome of what the NCP would decide in terms of their candidate for national government.
QUESTION: Sir, Iím Renzo Cianfanelli of the Italian media group Corriere della Sera. I have a question on some reports which come up from time to time about the possible involvement of al-Qaida in Sudan. Could you enlighten us on this point? Thank you.
MR. GRATION: It is the best of my knowledge that Sudan is not supporting al-Qaida in any way. In fact, itís my understanding that theyíve been helpful to the international community to try to stop terrorism. So I donít have any other information beyond that, but it would appear to me that Sudan is participating in the global efforts to stamp out terrorism, especially on the international side.
MODERATOR: New York.
QUESTION: My name is Louise With. Iím from a newspaper in Denmark. Forgive