Accessibility links

Southern Sudanese Leader Works to End Regional Strife


The vice president of Sudan's post-war unity government, Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is also president of southern Sudan's regional government, has taken on a new role, using his position to help put an end to seemingly intractable regional conflicts.

Salva Kiir says the reason he has taken on the challenge of leading efforts to resolve conflicts in and around Sudan is that they are hurting the already slow implementation of last year's peace accord that ended 21 years of war with Khartoum.

During a recent seminar in Washington, the first vice president said there are compelling reasons to become engaged in, and in some cases, lead - efforts towards peace in his turbulent region.

"Southern Sudan is bordering five countries; Central African Republic, [the] Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia," he said. "These are five countries that have their own problems and if the government of Southern Sudan, then there will be a crisis in the whole region."

But it is the conflict in Uganda that most concerns Kiir.

Aside from his duties to ensure Sudan's North-South peace process stays intact and lead the regional government in the South, the Sudanese leader is currently deeply involved in getting Uganda and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army to engage in serious peace talks.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, who faces war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court, has waged a bloody 19-year war against the Ugandan government that has created a massive humanitarian disaster in the North.

Kiir says there are practical and moral reasons for his Southern People's Liberation Movement to take on the job of mediating the Ugandan conflict. One is that it is clear that while the Ugandan army has hurt the Lord's Resistance Army militarily, it has not been able to defeat the rebels entirely.

Kiir says another is that the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court are not realistic. He says that is because there exists no mechanism to find Kony and his top associates, who are believed to be hiding in Congo, and bring them to court. He says no country - Sudan, Uganda or the Democratic Republic of Congo - can implement such an order.

The other reason to push for the peace option is based on the fact that Kony's fighters are operating from bases in southern Sudan - and, as such, inflicting terrible abuses on Kiir's own people.

"The women and girls that were being raped every day and abducted were southern Sudanese," he added. "And the same thing with looting, torturing and so forth - these were all southern Sudanese."

Kiir adds that when deciding to lead mediation efforts, he wanted first and foremost to send the message to Kony and his rebel fighters that they have options.

"The first option was for them [the Ugandan rebels] to take the initiative to negotiate with the government of Uganda so that they find a peaceful solution to the conflict," he said. "And we can assist them to reach that agreement. The second option in case they do not want to negotiate; then, they have to leave southern Sudan. The third option would be if they do not negotiate and they do not leave southern Sudan, SPLA will be left with no choice but will have to fight them."

But that option is the least desirable, Kiir says, because defeating a guerilla movement such as the Lord's Resistance Army will merely result in more suffering for ordinary people.

International Crisis Group Senior Analyst John Prendergast says the efforts of the regional government of southern Sudan to end Uganda's civil war are noble. But he adds that Kiir and his team cannot achieve this alone.

"International partners have to be involved in this very directly if it is going to work," he explained. "But it has to be countries that have leverage and that means, first and foremost, the United States, which is missing in action on this one. The U.S. needs an envoy. And the confusion about who is going to bring the kind of leverage the United States has, but is not exercising. It really demands action very quickly on the part of President Bush to name somebody."

Nonetheless, Sudan's Salva Kiir says he will continue to play his newly adopted role as regional mediator, saying if attention is needed to keep the peace in his own country, his government can and will take on the cause.

XS
SM
MD
LG