Interviewed before the recent escalation in Abyei, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, offers wide angle view of the contentious final issues before South Sudan declares its independence.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Welcome to this month’s episode of Voices on Genocide Prevention. I’m very honored to have with me today Ambassador Princeton Lyman who is the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan. Ambassador Lyman, thank you for joining me.
PRINCETON LYMAN: My pleasure. Thanks.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: I wanted to ask you today about the big picture view of what’s going on in Sunday in between the referendum on southern independence held in January of this year, and in July, July 9 in particular, when the Southerners will declare their independence. What have been the biggest challenges during this period between the referendum leading up to the independence?
PRINCETON LYMAN: Well, thanks very much. There are two really big challenges since January 9. One is that the parties hadn’t done much negotiation before the referendum. Now that they’re engaged in negotiating all the post-independence issues, they find that they have to rush to catch up. There’s so much to be done in terms of how you manage an oil sector, that it’s divided this way, how you manage banking relationships, new currency in the south, etcetera. So they’re rushing to catch up in those negotiations, and while they’re underway, time is pressing.
Second, some of the big political issues have yet to be addressed. That’s because the parties are sort of inching toward that point where they have to make the hard political decisions and decide how they relate to each other. There are four big ones in my view. One is of course the solution to Abyei, a contested region. The second are other border disputes. There are about five areas along the border which have not been resolved in setting a new border. The third are the security arrangements in the northern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where a lot of the civil war was fought. There are still two divisions of troops in the south from those states that need to be brought back. How you do that and what security arrangements you make have still to be worked out. And finally, decisions on the oil sector itself, and to what degree one will allow the north a certain degree of transition from losing 75 percent of their oil revenue and foreign exchange earnings. So those are the four, I think, big issues that have to be addressed by the two sides before July 9.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And in addition to the issues between the two sides, each side also has their own internal issues to deal with. I’d like to start by asking you about the south. There are some estimates already-- that’s estimated, again, so we don’t know for certain the exact numbers-- but even up to a thousand people have died in the south during these few months. Focusing on the short-term issues, so over the next one to three years, what do you think the Southerners need to do to address civilian protection in the South, and how can the U.S. be a positive force in this work?
PRINCETON LYMAN: The South faces some very serious problems of the kind you’re mentioning. Up until the point of the referendum, everybody stayed unified around that objective. But now the fissures in southern society are showing up and being exploited by various militia leaders with various motives in mind-- some venal, some ethnic, some other reasons.
We’re seeing fights between the SPLM, the government’s forces, and these various militia, and a lot of people have been killed and displaced. This takes place in an environment in which there has been almost no development for decades and which people are still displaced from the civil war.
The big task for the South is not only to manage this process but to create political institutions through which people can channel differences. Those institutions are, at best, in early, early form. Just state creation, the ability to manage, is going to be the biggest challenge.
The second, of course, is to be able to deliver on economic development once the state is independent. And there again, capacity is limited.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And what concerns do you have-- particularly again, from our perspective-- on civilian protection in the north, and most particularly in the western region of Darfur?
PRINCETON LYMAN: We worried a lot about the protection of southerners in the north in the run-up to the referendum and afterwards, but that seems to have become less of a worry. Many of the southerners have been leaving to the south; more than 350,000 since last October have moved south, created problems there of absorption, but nevertheless moving. And there have been no signs of harassment of the southerners still in the north.
The citizenship rights of those people, however, is still to be worked out and negotiated. So that’s a concern, and probably won’t be resolved until after both sides have established citizenship laws and those rights are determined.
In Darfur, where you have an ongoing insurgency and fighting going on, the rights and protection of civilians is a major problem. Whenever there is fighting, and particularly bombing, by the government, people get killed, civilians get displaced. So that’s one problem.
The other is a general lack of security on roads with criminality, hijacking, etcetera. So you have a situation of a large degree of insecurity, particularly in the center and the south of Darfur, that really impinges on people’s basic rights. And still of course you have more than two million people who are not in their homes. They’re in camps, or they’re in refugee camps across the border.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And in both of these cases-- actually all three, then-- relations between the two sides and then the internal challenges that they each face-- what are the U.S.’s priority goals?
PRINCETON LYMAN: Well, with regard to the South, we’ve already begun to do a lot of work on trying to help build the systems of law and justice, working in creating the court system, the prison system. The U.N. has been doing work and we do some on police. So you have a general law and order structure. We are now beginning to talk to the South government about how they reconfigure their armed forces, which are bigger than necessarily because they’ve been incorporating militias, etcetera. But how do you provide people with skills before they’re let out back into the economy? And how do they treat these instability issues with due regard for protection of civilians? I think a lot of work has to be done with the security forces to help train them in that regard. We hope to do more of this, much more of this, after independence, through collaborative efforts by the State Department, by the defense department, and other donors. The U.N. will play a major role in this regard after July 9.
In the north, where we don’t have such programs, it has to be by persuasion, by diplomacy, by urging the north to recognize that until some of these problems are solved, like in Darfur, they can’t really get the benefits of being part of the international economic community.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And a final question: As you and many of our listeners know, almost everyone in Sudan now has grown up in the context of a conflict between the north and the south. There’s only been a short reprieve from war since 1956.
So if you can imagine, what will Sudan look like, say, 20-30 years from now? This is the most-- hopefully we can get to a really optimistic picture, but assuming that these really difficult and contentious final issues can be resolved, that the CPA process ends with an independent south and a separate north. What will the world look like for this new generation of both southern Sudanese and northerners, and what do you think is in the U.S. interest for this future?
PRINCETON LYMAN: I tell you what I think I would like to see happen over 20-30 years. What you’d want to see between those two entities, a north Sudan and a South Sudan, are two countries that build upon each other’s strengths and feed each other’s strengths-- through trade, through cultural exchange, through political development, through growth and democracy, etcetera.
So that the north becomes more integrated into the economies of all east and southern Africa, and which the south has still its linkages through the north and beyond, through all the trade that comes through North Africa, etcetera. And that can be a very enriching relationship, if it’s allowed to flower that way. What we’ve been saying is we want two viable states. We want a viable north and a viable south, because if you have instability in either one, it’s going to upset the other and the region.
Now, there are a lot of negative possibilities. The two could remain separate, at peace but very contentious. Having one crisis or dispute after another that interrupts that trade, that interrupts the political cooperation, that threatens the peace, that brings in other players to play off one against the other. That’s possible, because as you said, they’ve been at war for so long, there’s just a deep, deep distrust on both sides. Learning to live together after that is not easy.
There has to be a decided effort by the leadership to say it’s a new era. As I said to one of my friends in the south, “You may not kiss each other on the cheek to start, but if you shake hands and build from there, you can go forward.” Now, for people who’ve grown up in war, it means finding a whole new way of living. Many people who have fought in the south have done nothing else. And when you fly over the south, you see very little cultivation. So it’s a whole new thing to live in peace, to build schools and agricultural strengths and health systems, and that’s going to take decades of work. It really does take decades of work.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Ambassador Lyman, this is an extremely busy time for you. I really appreciate you taking the time to spend with us.
PRINCETON LYMAN: It’s my pleasure. I’m very glad to be here.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you.
NARRATOR: You have been listening to Voices on Genocide Prevention, from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. To learn more about responding to and preventing genocide, join us online at www.ushmm.org/genocide.