Dr. Haruun Runn, executive secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches, provides an update on the situation in south Sudan.
Friday, November 9, 2001
JERRY FOWLER: We’re very honored today to have a special guest, Dr. Haruun Ruun, executive secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches. I just wanted, by way of introduction, to read very briefly from a portion of a nomination that the Committee on Conscience wrote. We nominated Dr. Haruun for the Spirit of Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, which is given by the Swedish American Museum in Philadelphia.
This was last spring. And the museum did not award the award to Dr. Haruun although they did write a specific letter noting how much he did reflect the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg in his work.
The concept of the award is to honor someone who takes personal risks in order to save lives in the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg and we nominated Dr. Haruun. We pointed out that Southern Sudan is a devastated land and amid this devastation Dr. Haruun has taken great risks and made great sacrifices to save lives by promoting peace and reconciliation.
He’s a native of Southern Sudan and a naturalized American citizen. His father was a leader of the Dinka people, an ethnic group that has born the brunt of the government practices described above, and we had described them in the nomination but I know they’re familiar to all of you.
In the mid-sixties Dr. Haruun’s father and many family members were killed in an earlier phase of the Sudanese civil war. Dr. Haruun responded to this great personal loss by devoting himself to serving his people as a pastor and church leader.
In 1984 his church sent him to the United States to study. When he completed his studies friends and family advised him that it was not safe for him to return to Sudan.
In 1994 he decided that he would be willing to return to the rebel-controlled areas of Southern Sudan if by doing so he could be of service to his people. And he was sent by the Presbyterian Church USA and other US churches in response to a request from the New Sudan Council of Churches [NSCC] and served for a year as the deputy executive secretary.
After that he became the NSCC’s executive secretary and has served in that role for the past six years. To do this job he has had to be separated for most of the time from his wife and five children, who continue to live in Columbia, South Carolina.
Under Dr. Haruun’s leadership the NSCC is implementing a grassroots people to people effort to unite and reconcile many of the ethnic groups in Southern Sudan and I hope that’s a lot of what we will hear about today.
In addition to the sacrifice of being separated from his family Dr. Haruun also faces great danger in pursuing his mission of peace. He often risks his life by traveling into the war zone; moreover, he frequently finds himself under intense pressure from those who benefit from war, violent men whose interests are challenged by the people to people peace process. He has courageously accepted the danger of being a peacemaker so that others can live and have a genuine of hope of peace coming someday to Sudan.
We concluded the nomination for this award by saying nobody would blame Dr. Haruun if he took advantage of his American citizenship and lived in comfort and safety in the US with his family. But he has chosen a much more difficult path responding to the suffering of people about whom the rest of the world knows little and cares less without expectation of recognition or reward. He has evidenced that the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg is alive in the world today.
So we were very proud to nominate him for that award. I continue to believe that he does exemplify the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg, which is, of course, very important to this institution. Our address is 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place.
And so we’re very honored today to have Dr. Haruun Ruun with us.
HARUUN RUUN: Thank you very much for those wonderful remarks and I appreciate the invitation. It’s good to know that there are people here who do know Sudan very well and understand what is going on with Sudan.
The former ambassador is here. We are quite happy to have you in this area. As I sit in this hall I feel a great awe because this hall does remind us about man, integrity, and indignity. I feel awe because in my own country the same thing that took place some years back in Europe, is taking place, the violence, and this hall or this building reminds us about that heritage of violence, what a man can do to himself or to herself.
We are capable of doing good. We are capable of doing bad. We are capable of doing good when we want to do it, and we are capable of doing bad when we want to do it. We can do it within a short time but it takes more time to do good.
We have seen it in last September 11th that a big damage can be done within a short time. So many innocent lives were destroyed in a moment. Those who did it, they may say they have a reason. But do they have a reason to take somebody’s life or people’s lives? No.
We witness the same thing in Sudan. We have lost more than two million and if not three maybe four million are displaced inside and outside Sudan. People also are being forced to emigrate, to go to other countries, not because they all want to be but they are being forced to do so.
Personally I feel also the anger that was felt years back and even now by many who have lost their people, their loved ones. When you sit back you try to think of why should this happen. Of course, it’s difficult to get answers to these things but the good part of it is that there are people of good will all over the world, like here, who are able to put things together and are able to say look, we cannot forget the horrible things we do or have done to ourselves. There must be a way of reminding ourselves about these things so that our children, the children of our children, will not repeat the same thing.
One just wished and hoped that one day the Sudanese people in the North or South will be able to say to themselves we have done a lot of damage to ourselves. What can we do? What can we leave behind that will be a good example for our children, the children of our children?
We have used religion in many ways. A human being is capable of twisting things to suit and to help in executing whatever he or she wants to do. We have seen it in the past. We are seeing it even today, on September 11th. There are people who are trying to use religion for that and we have seen the horror of it.
In Sudan there are people who use religion as a means of staying in power and manipulating others. Religion is not always the bottom line of whatever we do or the horrible thing we do to our own people. We use it and it’s good to have a place like this where we can be reminded that these things are not acceptable and they should be fought.
We use economy, economy to restore our fellow people. That’s what is happening in Sudan, where oil, water, and other minerals have been discovered. So you have a kind of economical incentives which have actually intensified the suffering of the Sudanese people.
People are being pushed out of their own land. Not only are they being pushed out, but they’re also being killed. Their livelihoods are being destroyed, their lives are being destroyed, no compensation, no consideration for them.
Sometimes I feel animals have it better than them when you see what is happening and when we witness it. But it’s good to know there are good people of good will all over the world who are trying to reduce this kind of suffering. This country is also committed to that.
This is a situation where we are trying to help, we as a church organization, which I have not told you about because I just assume that you understand but that’s a wrong assumption. Some of you may not.
We are a Christian organization, ecumenical. We have six different denominations, not churches, including Catholic, Episcopal -- we call them ECS, that is, Episcopal Church of Sudan -- Presbyterian. Those are the three major churches but there are several others which have come out of evangelicals and have formed their own denominations, the KIC, SIC, Pentecostal, and you name it.
Our mission is a mission of love, a mission of unity, a mission of faith, a mission of peoples trying to help where people are being deprived from their rights to life and to many other things.
We don’t have any professional people on the ground to document human rights abuses but our church leaders and our church people are capable of giving us raw materials.
Let’s go back to 1998. The SPLM, a rebel movement in the south of Sudan, and the New Sudan Council of Churches had a dialogue. We had a meeting. This was to thrash out grievances, anger between the two groups, the rebels and the church. The rebels were saying that the church was so critical of what they were doing and because the church was so critical it’s not a desirable body. So there were a lot of problems between the church and the movement.
We feel that the church is people and people are the church and as a church we have the right to speak out for them and with them. Some of our church leaders, people like Bishop Paride and others, did suffer and several others. So there were some legitimate reasons. So we had a meeting and the beginning of the meeting was not good.
I remember before I left for Yei somebody called me at 10:00 and said, and the same thing was repeated later, Haruun, it is not advisable to have this kind of meeting. You are just exposing yourself to a lot of problems. I said what problem, we are already in problems. What kind of problem are you talking about? Are you telling me something new?
Anyway, the meeting took place. The meeting took place and the first day was very tense. We thought they were going to fight. Slowly, as we are sitting at the table, with guns after every one or two people, then we said we want one group to start the meeting by speaking. Then the SPLM people said let the Churches start. I said okay.
One of the priests got up and he spoke out of his own experience, including what happened to the Australian nuns, because he was there himself. He was given almost 40 lashes and some other things that he has witnessed.
Another bishop got up, spoke openly, another priest got up, and one after the other. It was not easy. So we kept telling the movement people just wait for your turn. Wait for your turn.
When their turn came, also, they lashed on the church. You are so divisive. Your leaders are more tribal leaders. When you get relief you try to pay attention to your own people. You don’t treat us as equal. You are not giving us teachings that will help us. If we have been doing wrong, raping and doing whatever you have been talking about, it is because you have not been able to play your role.
So that day was a difficult day and at the end of that day we went to the leadership and I told them look, we came here for reconciliation; therefore, we need to cultivate the spirit of peace and reconciliation. There’s no need for the soldiers to be around with guns. It’s rather intimidating the women, children, and others who are the victims of this situation. So to their benefit they gave orders that the soldiers move away their guns and they did.
So the second day was a very good day, the third day and so forth. Anyway, to make a long story short, at the end they came up with resolutions and there was a division of labor. The church should be involved in peacemaking, bringing people together, all these ethnic groups who are fighting each other.
You play your role and the movement will try to do its best to establish good governance and the protection of civilians and we will work with them. We want the church also to set up chaplains because we don’t have spiritual people with us who can also give counseling and help them. And so many other things.
So we said very well and good. We took up the challenge and in 1998 we brought the chiefs of the two major tribes, the Dinka and the Nuers, who had been fighting each other for seven years. They came to Loki [Kenya]. They had a week or more. Some of you may remember Bill Lowery, who is among the facilitators we had.
That meeting went very well. At the end of that meeting Bill told me, Haruun, the chiefs have said they want to have a larger conference to bring the two tribal groups together. I said, Bill, we have set ourselves up for this process and it’s a process that has to be done.
If the Southern Sudanese are going to make an impact and if they are going to be able to bring the Northern people to the table they have to be serious about their own lives. So unity among them is a necessity. Otherwise they should not expect the North to listen to them when they cannot listen to themselves and when they are destroying themselves. How can you blame the North? We’ll do it.
So Wunlit was organized and the two tribes came together. We had to get people from Khartoum. Some of them came without invitation and, of course, the SPLM was rather nervous about that. There were some talks about arresting, taking them back to Khartoum, and so forth.
We said no, so far you have done well. There is no need for you to send these people back to Khartoum. This is what all peace is about is when you are able to sit with somebody you don’t like and argue with him or with her so that you can come to some useful, meaningful resolution. Therefore, it will not do any good to send them back to Khartoum or to arrest them and we as NSCC would not welcome that.
Good enough because the deputy was very well committed to this process [indecipherable] very much committed. So he said, Haruun, you have a case. Well and good but be sure that the situation is under control. And I said that’s fine.
I said do you remember when I left Nairobi I was called. He said he didn’t hear that. I said I was called the night before I left Nairobi. I was told by somebody you know very well, Haruun, you are putting your life in danger. Don’t go to Wunlit. You’re either going to lose your life or you’re going to be embarrassed by not having the meeting. I said that’s a very good message to me, sir. He said don’t joke. I’m telling me the truth. I said that’s very good. Go on, talk about it.
Now we have been doing well without those activities, now you are creating a problem for us. I said go on, if you don’t have a problem why should you be fighting? We have a problem and you’ve got to admit the problem and the problem can never be resolved by running away from it. I’m going tomorrow morning.
This is 11:30 and I was ready to get to bed because I’m leaving at 5:00 o’clock in the morning. So I will be there tomorrow and the meeting will start. I will open it, I will listen to the chiefs, I will listen to the people, the women, the children, for two days and I will leave. The meeting will go on.
So I left in the morning and went. That meeting was attended by a number of NGOs and international. Jemera [Rone, of Human Rights Watch] was there and I think you stayed to the end of it. At the end, to make a long story short, they came to some resolutions and they made up their own resolutions and there were several things they called for.
But the main thing is that they said look, from here we must put some of these resolutions into practice. I was told that one of the chiefs got up, went out and brought two children, and brought them into the hall. He didn’t know that the father of these children was there. It was one of the chiefs. So the father burst into tears, cried. He said I’m crying not because I’ve seen my children, but I know some of your children are not alive.
They agreed that the children, the women be returned. If a girl was taken by force and she has produced children she would be asked to choose whether she wants to stay with her so-called husband or whether she wants to go back to the parents. If she decided to stay with her children proper or marriage or whatever legally we’ll call it, marriage should be conducted where people are asked to pay dowry. And indeed that is what happened and those who didn’t want to stay, they went back. Cattle, they said we have lost so many cows it will be difficult to redress everything, but let’s get hold of what we got.
So Wunlit has gone well, but there have been a lot of other things that we have not been able to do. Some of the things they asked for, what they call sustainability of peace, things that could help them to keep the peace going, such as water, health, veterinary services --they are cattle people, fishermen. A school that could put the two tribes’ children together border courts, police, communications, radios, so that if some people want to raid cattle or whatever they can be apprehended or the information can be given ahead of time.
We have not been able to put these things in practice because we are not an implementer organization but a facilitating organization. We have talked with a number of groups and so forth to try to help in this.
In fact today we just come from the USAID department and I was encouraged. They do have a lot of programs that they want to put into implementation. Some of these programs, of course, were being tossed around way back so I was encouraged to know that they want to pursue them and implement them.
We’ve had other people to people processes. We had Liliir, Waat, Wulu. I’ll say something about Wulu because Wulu was a little bit different and we’ll come to that soon.
Wulu was set up for the purpose of evaluating the process. So it brought the leaders and we sat with them for four to five days and they evaluated the situation. They all agreed that the process was working but, of course, they blame us for not following up the process by supplying them with what they have asked for, water and so forth.
But it was out of that meeting they also asked the NSCC, they said, we want NSCC to bring our sons and daughters, those who are here, not those who are out but those who are here. We know those are causing problems for us, but those are the ones doing more damage to us. We want them to sit with us and we want NSCC to help us with that. So we said fine. What do you want us to do? What is your concept? What is the objective of this?
So they came up with [indecipherable] and we said we’ll do it. Our partners came in, in support. The USAID came in, in support. Other governments came in, in support. So we organized what we call Linkages 1 and Linkages 2. We named Wulu Linkages 1 and the idea for them was to bring people from different southern groups, those who are fighting themself inside, those who are in diaspora, those who are in Khartoum, and they said we want to have this meeting in a neutral place. We talk about Uganda, we talk about Kenya, we talk about Ethiopia. Everybody said Kenya is the best place to go for several reasons.
So we said fine. We informed different groups. We were in touch with SPLM from the very beginning. We were even given a go-ahead. But suddenly the leadership of SPLM decided not to participate. So he left instructions that people should not participate. In spite of the fact that I had more than six hours with him to try to encourage him and not less than six ambassadors or embassies had spoken to him, Garang boycotted.
This may help the Southern people to organize themselves, and to come to some consensus. I’m jumping here because we may be able to pick it up later on through questions. When the meeting took place the people were physically prevented from coming to the meeting.
The meeting took place. It went on well. There were people from the movement who came on their own. I remember one of them came to me in the evening and said we just called Nairobi. I said for what? He said I called Nairobi to talk to one of my colleagues and I told him look, we made a mistake. We should not have boycotted.
I said good for you. You came on your own and there are others who have come on their own and they’ve seen it so you can speak for yourself.
Then they had their own meeting and we were told they had their leadership meeting after we finished. We had told the top of the agenda was that the NSCC must be condemned. Haruun and another fellow, a colleague of mine, would have to be arrested wherever they are found. This is what we heard from reliable sources.
The commander said yes, we heard about the meeting. We were instructed not to send people. We obeyed the instruction but we were never told as to why we were prevented. We were told that some of the reasons were that the NSCC never involved the SPLA movement with the conception and they were not told about the meeting and that the meeting as also inviting people who are anti-the movement. We told some of the commanders that Haruun has been in contact with us since Wunlit up to now, and it was you who directed him to ask to deal with us and we have kept people informed. We gave him the go-ahead and so we were surprised to get this letter. The question of concept, Haruun made it clear to us that the NSCC cannot and could not write down objectives. This is the people’s process and the people came up with their own objectives and the objectives were shared with us from the very beginning. About the people who are against the movement, how long are we going to be running away from them? The church has provided a platform for us to face our own enemies and our own enemies also to face us. We should have used this opportunity.
We are in dialogue with them and we shall continue to dialogue because the process has to go on. People have suffered so much so long. Somehow we should find a way of resolving this suffering.
To conclude, no one will argue or even think about the fact that September 11th was a tragedy, a horrible thing to do, and should be fought. But at the same time, and I say this with pain, it is an opportunity to address some of these horrors that are taking place in another part of the world, like in Southern Sudan and other marginalized areas.
So let me hope that somehow human beings will face the reality and the fact that we have been created to live in this world to share whatever is in this world for us in the rightful way, in the peaceful way, dignified way, for the good of mankind.
May God bless you and keep you.
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you, Haruun. Now, I think if you’re willing we can open it up for questions, discussion.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
QUESTION: Haruun, could you say a little bit more about efforts to reconcile Nuer and Dinka what was the most -- the largest obstacle you faced in bringing the two groups together?
And the second question, have you done any writing of your efforts to [indecipherable]?
HARUUN RUUN: Thank you very much. That’s a good question. The first question is I think the most difficult thing when we first tried to bring the chiefs together. It was not difficult to bring them to Loki because that was out of their own area.
But when we decided to have the chiefs to meet together before the meeting and so we said the Nuer would have to come to the Dinka land, and then the Dinka will have to go to the Nuer land exchanging the visit. That was one of the difficult things, and Bill can tell you more about that, because the trust had been destroyed and so they were afraid of their own lives.
The Nuer came to the Dinka land. They were welcome. But when it came to the Dinkas to go to the Nuer land it was tough. It was tough because the meeting went on till about 12:00 or 1:00 o’clock at night and it started in the morning because they were saying look, on this side we know [indecipherable] is here. The SPLM for us is the only government we can call in this area.
But if we go to the Nuer area we know [indecipherable] is there, the Sudanese government is there. There are other commanders. Who’s going to be responsible for us or for our lives because there’s no one leadership that can be made accountable?
But the Nuer chiefs were very courageous. They really talked them out and said, okay, if we are serious about bringing peace among our own people we are not going back. We will stay here. All of us, the Nuer chiefs, are going to stay in the Dinka land. You go to our land. If you are killed we will ask your people here to kill us.
That was the solution. So the Dinkas went. But before they went they all agreed and said look, if this is the situation let’s all go. After all, leadership has to suffer for the benefit of others.
So they jumped on the plane and went. But that was a difficult time. We thought the whole thing was going to collapse.
The second part, we have not been able to do much writing. We have done a little bit of here and there. We have the documents. In fact you are probably one of the hundreds of people who have asked me the same question.
No, the NSCC has not been able to put these things in the proper documentation and make them available for other people. We have a number of people who have come to do research and so forth but we haven’t done it ourself. In fact, at the beginning of this year the executive committee specifically asked me if I could devote some times to writing and I said to them okay, if you can let me go for a couple of months I’ll do that and that’s where they had a problem.
But they have specifically asked for that but they’re having a difficulty.
QUESTION: My name is [indecipherable] with the National Endowment for Democracy. My question is how do you [indecipherable] today in Southern Sudan? And can you elaborate a little bit more on how [indecipherable]?
HARUUN RUUN: A good man is sitting here. Where is he? Mr. Pendergast.
JOHN PENDERGAST: I’m hiding back here.
HARUUN RUUN: Let me just give a simple answer not directly to your question. For us in the Churches we feel that if the southerners are not united the northerners will continue to support the division. But if the southerners were to be united there’s a good number of northerners [break in tape].
I mean, I’m not directly addressing but that’s how we see it. The southerners have to put their acts together.
HARUUN RUUN: It’s a process. [break in tape] do something and they will say let’s get together. And they come together and they will begin to sort out where is my interest? I mean, how do I fit my interest into this? So what we are trying to do, we are trying to work with influential governments, individuals, to try to work with our politicians, both South and North, and especially in the South.
The US is active in that and we hope they will be able to push our politicians together and my theory is that the Sudanese, the Northern [indecipherable] have failed to bring peace to the whole people because of greed and power. My conviction is that we need a third party to come in and it must be a credible, strong party.
The US is moving to that direction but the US will have to work with other colleagues, I mean, with other partners, other friends, the British, Egypt. These are very important allies and you cannot leave them out.
So I can’t really answer your question, how long is it going to take. It could take months. It could take a year or years. I don’t know. But we’re encouraged now and I’ll tell you and the citizens of this country that push with our governments. The public can do more. South Africa’s situation was changed because of public opinion here in the States and in Europe. Can we do the same thing?
QUESTION: Yesterday I had a visitor in my office who was from the office of the SPLM. And he told me that an organization has been formed in Southern Sudan called the United States of Southern Sudan.
I wanted to know are you familiar with this group? They have a constitution and have designed a flag. They’re here looking for support. And I was wondering whether you had any conversations or they approached you in any way?
HARUUN RUUN: Well, first of all if there is that organization we will welcome it. The United States of America is working very well. They have democracy and everything and if this is the objective we will take it and we will support it.
QUESTION: But you’re not familiar with --
HARUUN RUUN: I don’t know. I mean, I’m not saying it’s not there but I have not heard of it. And if it’s there we will be the first people to root for it and I can assure you of that.
JERRY FOWLER: There seem to be two interesting questions in there if I can just pull them out. One was is the United States supporting the division of the South in the things that it’s doing? And what’s the role of Egypt? What has it been historically? Is it the background of the problem? What can be the role of Egypt going forward? Is there a way it can be constructive?
HARUUN RUUN: Thank you. I think, my friend, you are misinterpreting my speech and I’m sorry that we haven’t gotten the problem clear to you and many people here know what the problem is.
The solution is not as simple as some of us think. It’s so complicated and that’s why it’s taken more than 100 years. We talk about 40 years of war but if you go back to the history it’s something that’s been going on for more than centuries, not just one century, but centuries.
I come from the northern area. We have been on that border for centuries so the solution is not as simple as some of us in the Southern Sudan have been thinking. If the solution was simple it would have been done long ago; therefore, we have to look for a more sophisticated way of addressing the issue.
It’s not the question of self-determination, which the chiefs talked about before independence, and was shelved and is still being shelved. It is not a question of brushing Egypt aside, which we have tried for centuries and not working and it’s not going to work.
It’s not a question of accusing the United States or Britain or whoever that they are supporting the North. We have been doing that for centuries and it’s not working and it will never work.
It’s a question of facing the realities of the situation. How do we handle the situation? We are even living in a different age. Thirty years ago, forty years ago, before independence it was a different thing for the whole Africa, anyway. We thought heaven was going to come to Africa but it hasn’t come. We are going to hell.
We need a more sophisticated way of thinking and working with our people and those who are sympathetic to what is happening. How do we help them to understand the situation better so that they can equip themselves to help us better?
To say we don’t want Egypt you’re actually putting the knife on your throat. Somebody told me yesterday and he was right that the Arab will say, especially Egypt, we know what to do with the Southerners, leave them alone.
And he’s right. He’s right. Let’s calm down. Let’s be realistic with the situation, let’s approach the situation realistically and honestly with open heart, open mind, helping our people, people of good will. There are a lot of people of good will to see a situation very clearly and to be able to help.
As to whether America is helping with the division is your own opinion but I don’t see it that way. I don’t see it that way. I see that Khartoum has done it and they’re still doing it, but I think we are misjudging the United States and others. We misjudge them. We’ve got to be very careful. That would be my suggestion. Yes?
HARUUN RUUN: Which group are you talking about? There are several groups.
HARUUN RUUN: The first question, about the groups you’re talking about, they did invite me to attend one of their meetings in March and Dr. Frances [Deng] was there and we had about I think it was three days or four days together. Of course, I meet them every time they come to Nairobi.
But March process has been discontinued because the SPLA doesn’t welcome that and you know that. So a lot of these people have come to a point where they’re frustrated.
Where do we go from here and how do we handle the situation? We don’t want to be seen as if we are another faction. But we are being accused of being another faction.
But of course, I went there with Enock [Rev. Enock Tombe Stephen, Secretary General, Sudan Council of Churches]. I met them before Enock then I had suggested that if we as a church are going to be involved in anything at all we have to be together, Khartoum and Nairobi, because we are not two churches, actually. We are not two councils. We are one council but we are divided by the circumstances.
So whenever we sent out our statement it’s signed by both councils. There’s no statement that has gone out without the two councils’ agreement.
We also have another very important group and that is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference secretariat and Father Damian [Rev. Damian Adugu]. We are working hand in hand and the Catholics have been doing and excellent job. They were the ones who invited me to South Africa and they expose us to several other places.
So we are working hand in hand with the SCC. For your information we also meet not less than three or four times a year, Enock and myself, either in Europe or in Africa because I cannot go to Khartoum.
But we will be defeating ourself if we don’t work together and it’s easy for us, for me and for Damian to work together because we’re in Nairobi. Have I answered your question? Thank you.
HARUUN RUUN: Two things for that. One is that, first, the United States, are you aware of the fact that you Southerners or Sudanese up to now, up to today, is the only government that has consistently continued to speak out for Southern Sudan’s situation?
The bombardment in Northern Bahr Al Ghazal -- no other country spoke out but the United States spoke out. The Nuba Mountain -- some relief is now going to the Nuba Mountains because the United States have taken it. And other areas that are suffering they are now being considered, and the United States will do its best to make sure some of these areas are also helped.
You’re right. We helped with the Addis-Ababa agreement but whenever I go to Geneva, and my colleague will tell you, I keep telling them we failed. We helped but we never followed up. If we had followed up the 1972 agreement maybe we would have saved the situation.
JERRY FOWLER: We’re going to have to wrap up so we’ll end with what I know will be a bang, John Pendergast.
JOHN PENDERGAST: Well, at least I think all of us will share the last sentiment that -- with gratitude and hope that -- have gratitude and [indecipherable] and continue working in Southern Sudan unifying people.
But the issue of unity, of course, is not only a matter of humanitarian emergency but also the political process and as communities calculate their choices as to whether they want to go back to the larger framework of a unified south or remain in this hazy middle ground or even aligned with the government they’re facing some very serious, frightening choices.
I mean, each time commanders [indecipherable] draw back in the last couple of years we’ve seen an intensification of aerial bombardment against those areas. And you have a very long history of mistrust and lack of confidence that if there is a return of unification that they won’t be stabbed in the back again, a tremendous lack of confidence.
But on the other hand the benefits of cooperation are there. When communities do come together again there are all the benefits of trade and cross-line cooperation that allows for survival, which is what people are struggling for at this juncture in southern Sudan, to have a better life.
So I wanted to ask you, given these choices that people have to make, particularly in the oil field where when commanders do go back to the SPLM there is a tremendous backlash against those areas, and the humanitarian emergency is intensified by forced displacement.
What is your sense at this juncture? The popular sentiment about taking those last few steps, particularly within the Upper Nile context of unity, the choice of accepting the short-term cost of increased response from the government not outweighing the long-term benefit of southern unity?
HARUUN RUUN: I will try but I don’t know whether I understand your question. Are you talking about the groups that have already or want to join SPLM?
JOHN PENDERGAST: Mostly looking at it from the SPDF coming back [indecipherable] as the group representing most of the people remaining outside of the unified southern context.
HARUUN RUUN: There are two or three problems in that. One is that Khartoum is able, as you know very well, to arm those who are on their side to do more damage. That’s true.
But I’m trying to say something here that I have heard from some individuals who have joined the SPLM or are intending to come in. They are also struggling. This is what they say. They’re not getting the necessary military support they’re looking for and because of that they are finding it so difficult to convince their people to totally pull out from the government and join them.
Because they can go to the government, they can go to the barrack, and they can buy some of these things even from the government people apart from those who are being armed by the government. So there is a problem there. I mean, how do you really deal with that situation? If you’re going to reduce the numbers of people going back to Khartoum or getting support from the government you need to do something that will make them feel that they can now protect themselves and can protect their own people.
This was brought up very clearly by the chiefs, the problems that exist with the commanders, with the people. And they were very open and very frank with something that you probably know well, the chiefs themself.
So the situation is so complicated there. We are talking with [indecipherable], with Michael, and with others. We were even asked by the SPLM to try to work with Gatdet. This was before [indecipherable]. So we wrote back and said, okay, we would be willing to do it but this is more of army things. We will need you to help us but how to go about it, how to get security and all these things. They never wrote back to us.
So I’m not answering but I think you understand the complications.
JOHN PENDERGAST: [indecipherable]?
HARUUN RUUN: If this is what they are trying to do then we’ll reduce that problem. I think, if you don’t mind, I want to come back.
You said something about NSCC being an offshoot of SPLM.
JOHN PENDERGAST: An outpost.
HARUUN RUUN: Outpost, sorry, of SPLM. If I were to bring Bishop Paride here he would be very clear, like day and night because this has always been repeated, always, and even in spite of the fact that we say no, we are a church. We are independent. We work with people, we work with you, we work with other people who are interested in bringing peace to the Southern Sudan.
And, of course, the leadership of SPLM has said this several times, the same thing, with other leaders. And my argument has been this. There are two ways. One, the church was there and is going to be there in spite of whatever going on now. It has been there, and it’s going to be there. The Sudan Council was there before the movement. We are part of the Sudan Council of Churches. We are a church and will remain a church. The fact that we work with our people in the area they control does not mean that we should just close our eyes to a thing that has to be exposed.