Solid Foundation Being Laid Towards Ensuring Equitable Development For Generations: President Isaias (PART V)
Mr. President, I will raise another question based on your detailed analysis. Our region has seen an event unravel this year: the secession of South Sudan which will be official in June. Suspended issues however still prevail like the allocation of resources, delimitation of the border and the Abye issue… What influences, including from the obstructers’ perspective, will this change in the structure and politics have on our region? And how will be the relation between Eritrea and the two Sudans in the future? And what possible advents, if any, do you think the new state should be cautious about?
Peace and stability of your ‘neighborhood’ is the basic thing when you are thinking about development and economic growth. If we take ourselves as an example, there is no reason why we should crave for others’ land or even resources for that matter. It’s not our custom. But if we are to register truly competitive economic growth and progress, our region necessarily needs to be stable and cooperative because we can’t do it all alone by ourselves. This has been our fundamental and unchangeable objective. Our relation with Sudan, particularly in the 90s, has been through many ups and downs; nevertheless, we never failed to uphold this fundamental objective. Our stance has always supported the unity and stability of Sudan. We believe that this new development in the Sudan is merely an accident that resulted from individual mistakes. If we are to objectively analyze the situation, South and North Sudan should not have been separated, and that has always been our permanent policy. But then that is only what we want and we don’t have any right to enforce our wish upon others.
Consequently, we have supported the independence of the people of South Sudan since the very beginning. Independence is the right of every people and can never be bartered. But this doesn’t mean that it is equally implemented everywhere. It’s true that the people of South Sudan have been betrayed in different ways in history; it wasn’t seen as a first-class citizen. This is indubitable. It therefore had to fight for its independence and did for a long time. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)’s fight for independence has been within the concept of a united Sudan, a country where all Sudanese would live united without any segment of society being marginalized. The core objective of SPLM’s long fight for independence, and after 1983 in particular, has in fact been to create a state where the people of the South could ascertain their rights and equality as citizens.
We have maintained our support and contributed our best towards this cause because we believe that the people of South and North Sudan can live in harmony if all their domestic problems are solved. Those who are now rushing after the South saying “we like you, we support you” were not there when we stood along the people of South Sudan’s call for independence and unity. The formation of the National Democratic Alliance in Asmara was not a coincidence. It was accepted by all Sudanese forces (sides). But it later went out of its way due to foreign interferences, interferences that didn’t look after the interests of the people of South Sudan but rather aimed at its crumbling. And as the situation in the Horn of Africa began deteriorating and the cooperation and harmony among nations in the region weakened, cracks for infiltrators were created. These infiltrators came under different disguises, at times partners or friends of IGAD, and through the help of domestic operatives, they distorted the issue off its right path. But this doesn’t mean that it was solely an external fault; the Sudanese were also culpable.
In the end this distortion brought about these recent developments. The secession of South Sudan is now an accomplished fact. The independence of South Sudan will be proclaimed tomorrow. Like I mentioned earlier, when we supported their independence, we did so with a plain standpoint: a new and stronger Sudan where the people of South Sudan would have better benefits and its right as first class citizen respected. The choice, however, is after all theirs and we can’t interfere in their matters. What happened has happened, the question now is what is next? There are several unresolved issues. There are the issues of Abye, border delimitation, allocation of resources on top of those of Darfur, Nubba, Nile and other numerous issues. And these issues stir up concerns. We could never say that the people of South Sudan have fully realized the desired objectives simply because a referendum has been held or independence proclaimed. We have yet to see where things will go from here. If tribal conflicts arise in South Sudan then we can hardly say the objective has been realized. Many experiences have taught us. Therefore, owing to the fact that they are our partners and we have fought together for the same aim or objective, we will still work together with them despite their final choices are not what we really wanted.
The other issue that causes concern is the allocation of resources. One of the manifestations of freedom and sovereignty is the equal distribution of resources among citizens. South Sudan is rich in oil and many other yet unexplored resources. Where will all this go? Can the people of South Sudan effectively use it to improve their way of life? Or will it be limited to just few individuals? We can hardly say the people of South Sudan have their independence if equitable distribution of resources is not ensured. Just like we see in other countries, it is dangerous if it creates a corrupted administration making the country of only a few individuals rather than the whole people.
The third issue is freedom. Flying a flag and securing sovereignty is not enough. If the new government is only going to be a tool of foreign agendas, which has already begun, then it’s dangerous. Similar problems are common in the Horn of Africa and other parts. It’s worth concern whether the people of South Sudan are really free or will be manipulated by foreign forces (international and regional forces). Provided they make good use of their resources, the people of South Sudan can preserve their independence and seek no foreign aid or help. And only then can we say that the independence a people has fought and died for, has achieved its aim. All these can serve as a standard for future development. While this is related to the South, it is also highly influenced by the relations with the North.
The Abye issue, the border issue and others need to be settled as they also cause concern. In such a situation we should not be limited to being observers only. As part of the stability that we need to bring in our region, we also need to commit ourselves in a constructive engagement. Our desire is for stability to prevail in both the South and North Sudan. Therefore, just like before, we need to practically and actively engage ourselves with the concerned bodies.
This is pertaining to the South, but what about in the North? Will the situation settle after July 09? There is still the Darfur issue where external interferences are thriving. There are also those problems with the South that we have previously mentioned. The Darfur issue should have been solved a long time ago but there were many mistakes. Most of these mistakes were results of miscalculation and were “man-made accidents.”
The problem could have been easily avoided but its illicit handling sent it in an unwanted direction, just like what we saw in the South. Although it’s not entirely like that of the North, it was mostly a problem of “making the right decision.” In similar situations, if domestic forces don’t have the right attitude or viewpoint of things, problems can be more complicated and further worsened if there are external interferences.
We didn’t support the Abuja conference on Darfur. While we strongly voiced our opposition, those representing the government took it as a major diplomatic victory. You can’t solve anything by pressuring opposition forces and giving them 24-hr ultimatums to make a deal. The foreign forces don’t look after the interests of the people in question but their own. The case back then was overseen by the present chief of the World Bank. The agreement was signed through intimidation. But where is the Abuja Agreement today? Where are the signatories? It was obvious right from the beginning that it could never hold water. But it was all very tactical. They did as they pleased instead of mapping out a clear strategy. And in the end, as the problems proliferated, the solution also became more difficult.
Following the Abuja conference, division between the opposition forces became prominent. Today, we can hardly know how many organizations there are in Darfur. It’s always problematic when your kitchen is invaded by foreign cooks. The Doha (Qatar) initiative is perhaps expected to remove the complicating factors and bring together the main actors. Nevertheless, the Darfur issue still remains suspended.
There is also what they call the “Internal Solution”. But how? Through which strategy? The biggest problem in Darfur is “Internationalization”, which is a grave danger. Many resort to internationalization because they think it’s one way of solving problems, but no domestic issue has ever been solved through internationalization. To the contrary, foreign interference worsens the problems and causes their postponement instead of their solution, making them unsolvable. Darfur is an example. Even those who set out with good intentions and tried their best haven’t been able to bring a solution to this date.
Similarly, we have been on a constructive engagement on the issue. But we don’t work for our own interests like the other external forces do; instead we push for them to bring their own solutions. Although there are similar constructive engagements, their lack of motivation has resulted in the Darfur issue spiraling out of control just like the case in South Sudan. Even today, we cannot foresee where will it go but the concerns are still in place.
When looking at it objectively, the National Congress should have taken the responsibility to solve these problems in first place. But it couldn’t due to internal and external problems. But now that South Sudan has seceded, the main concern that remains is the stability in the North. To think that the North should split is only destructive. Anyone who lives in this region and cares about it is interested in the stability and unity of North Sudan. The National Congress should therefore strive for the perfect solution and work actively to prevent a second blunder from happening. We are only external supporters and not internal forces; hence we will not insist that our choices be implemented as replacement. But taking into consideration the severity of the concerns, we understand that we should collaborate and for the coming 6-7 months or the end of this year we will be boosting our constructive engagement to that end. There is no other way.