Sudan’s First Vice President Salva Kiir
Mayardit will meet with US President George W. Bush at the White House
today. Mr. Kiir, who also serves as
president of semi-autonomous southern Sudan, is expected to address concerns
about the US – brokered 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), which ended 22 years of civil war
between Sudan’s northern and southern regions.
The meeting takes place as the International Criminal Court (ICC)
considers whether to issue an impending indictment against Sudan’s President Omar
Hassan al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Mr. Bashir has threatened to accelerate
attacks against civilians in Sudan’s besieged western region of Darfur if the
indictments are carried out.
activist, the Reverend Gloria White-Hammond, is a Boston, Massachusetts inner
city minister and co-founder of My Sister’s Keeper, a women’s group that is
working with Vice President Salva Kiir to open a school for girls in southern
Sudan. She says that the looming indictment has boosted the challenge for Mr.
Kiir and the US administration of reducing heightened tensions in both Darfur
and southern Sudan.
“Everybody knows that the future for Bashir,
in light of the ICC action remains unclear.
So President Kiir has always led with his own concerns about southern
Sudan, which as he understands now has implications, not only for the
southerners, but really for the entire country, particularly in light of the
ICC action,” she said.
White House meeting also comes one day before Mr. Bush holds his final meeting as
president with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Despite both parties’ preoccupation with the
Israel-Palestinian confrontation over Gaza, the Darfur crisis is slated to be a
top issue of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting. Increased violence and Sudanese government-backed
air strikes over Darfur could further hamper the work of a joint UN-African
Union peacekeeping force operating in the western region and block deliveries
of humanitarian aid by international rescue groups, should President Bashir
retaliate against legal action. The
Reverend White-Hammond says Washington needs to formulate a tough stand for Mr.
Kiir to take back to Khartoum to convince officials of strong international
resolve to end the government-backed violence.
is some concern that if in fact the ICC does move forward and indicts President
Bashir that that will mean repercussions for the people in Darfur, and it will
also have implications for the people in south Sudan. And that’s why you’re seeing him (Mr. Kiir)
and the party that he belongs to making greater inroads. There was a recent visit into Darfur. I was able to visit with him just this past
August. You have to remember that this
has tremendous implications for President Kiir’s role in the entire country,”
the past year, disagreements over rights and the allocation of profits from the
oil-rich Sudanese town of Abyei, which straddles the north-south border, have
led to renewed fighting and violations of the three-year-long absence of
hostilities. To ensure that the 2005
agreement for southern Sudan remains in effect, Reverend White-Hammond says that
Washington needs to hold the parties responsible for carrying out their treaty
want to make sure that the Sudanese government really delivers on some of the key
provisions of the comprehensive peace agreement. Elections are supposed to happen, according
to the peace agreement, in July. At this
point, people surmise that if they do happen, it might be late 2009, probably
more into 2010. That offers the
possibility of a democratic transformation for Sudan. Again, we don’t really know whether they will
happen, but if they are going to happen, it really is going to require the
support of the United States,” she said.
she has great praise for the Bush administration’s leadership and determination
in brokering a peace deal for the people of southern Sudan, Reverend
White-Hammond says she is looking forward to later this month, when the Obama
administration takes office, when she predicts the new president will seek a
new multilateral approach that is designed to push the Bashir government toward
making peace. She cautions that new ways
are needed to overcome recent tendencies by Washington to let Sudan avoid
accountability for its actions in Darfur.
“One of the ongoing concerns has been
that this current administration has been trying to play it both ways. We been on the one hand saying, ‘yes, you’re
culpable in terms of genocide, but on the other hand, trying to get their
cooperation in terms of this war on terror. ’
The next administration, if not this one, should make it very clear that
we are no longer going to be doing it both ways, that we have evidence that
suggests that there is in fact culpability on the part of this government, that
we’re going to make that evidence available,” she argued.