Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. Abdelbasit Badawi Elsanosi

Pushing Forward Towards Reconciliation and Greater Openness

While deeply scarred by twenty years of civil war, Sudan remains a country with a great wealth of resources. H.E. Abdelbasit Badawi Elsanosi, the Ambassador of Sudan to France, shares his thoughts on the Sudanese conflict, regional challenges, and his country’s drive to integrate the international community.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, the government of Khartoum and the leaders of SPLA/M came together in Machakos, Kenya to sign a framework agreement aimed at putting an end to the civil war that has divided northern and southern Sudan for twenty years. Does the Sudanese government have sufficient maneuvering room to resolve lingering questions over the best way to share power and the nation’s resources?
His Excellency Abdelbasit Badawi Elsanosi: Contrary to a widely held notion disseminated by the international press, there is no conflict between North and South Sudan, so to speak. There is a dispute between the central power in Khartoum and an active minority that does not represent, in any way, the true will or the specific interests of the peoples of southern Sudan.
While we are on this subject, let me note that nearly 75% of southerners currently live in the Khartoum region. This  indicates clearly that the central government – and the central government alone – has responsibility for and administrative power over this vast southern population!
Along these same lines, I would like to underscore that the perception of this dispute as a conflict between the North and the South is completely erroneous. Let me take this opportunity to point out that several key figures from the South currently hold high government office. Take our Second Vice President, Mr. Moses Machar, or Dr. Riak Gai, President of the Council of Southern States, or Angelo Beda, Vice President of our National Assembly, the Sudanese Parliament. The list goes on and on, but I think these few examples already offer convincing proof.
With the opening of the third stage of negotiations in Kenya, on 23 January, what issues remain to be resolved? The negotiations will focus primarily on sharing power and resources. All concerned parties have, of course, accepted the principle of a federal state, which will serve as the  main basis of the discussions. We might even say that a federal state constitutes the basic framework.
Our representatives still have enough maneuvering room to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion, in the  interest of all. They are also drawing lessons from other States that have faced similar problems in recent years. Learning from the experience of others is always extremely helpful. That way, we will not be exploring uncharted territory. By adopting solutions that have already been tried and tested, we will have a fairly good idea of which options are realistic and viable, and which ones are not!

T.D.L.: Looking beyond the domestic front, what steps has President Al-Bashir’s government taken with the aim of turning around the economic situation in Sudan and attracting more foreign investors?

H.E.A.E.: Sudan’s investment code has been drawn up specifically to facilitate and encourage foreign investment, most notably by offering investors every possible guarantee.
What’s more, just two months ago a cabinet reshuffle led to the creation of a separate Ministry of Investment, which had previously been a sub-department of the Ministry of Industry. With the creation of this new Ministry, the government has confirmed its indisputable desire to encourage an inflow of foreign capital and to create the best conditions possible for investors, in the interest of both financial backers and Sudan.
The new Ministry’s first task will be to simplify current procedures and, most importantly, to regroup or to merge the various services to ensure optimal coordination between the different sectors of the economy. These reforms are particularly important at this time, as we need to take full advantage of a very promising situation: the peace process has taken a decisive turn, helping to build a more confident climate for potential investors.
The economic situation is also very encouraging right now, with a stable exchange rate for the Sudan dinar, an annual growth rate unequaled anywhere in Africa (7.5%), and an inflation rate that has been steadily falling for more than a decade. To think that in 1991, we still had triple-digit inflation. Inflation dropped to 4.9% in 2001, and has now flattened out at around 6%. These results are worthy of note, in my opinion. There can be no question that they have stimulated new economic development projects.
T.D.L.: : Oil has played a key role in your country’s development. There has been criticism lately over the use of resources generated by three oil fields located in  warring zones. How do you respond to these attacks? Is oil a key factor in the Sudanese civil war?
H.E.A.E.: There are indeed some who contend that oil is a key stake in the conflict in southern Sudan. The truth of the matter is, oil is just one factor among a multitude of far more decisive factors. One would be wrong to focus solely on oil.
First, because oil is not at the root of this war. This conflict is, first and foremost, a political rivalry that began during Sudan’s colonization by Britain, in 1955. It wasn’t until much later, in the 1980s, that other aspects came into play, and most of them were linked to religion. The energy aspect didn’t become an issue until the very end.
You must not let oil make you forget that Sudan holds great interest in both the economic and energy arenas, thanks to its vast hydraulic resources. You know as well as I that water will be as greatly coveted as oil in coming years, and that it will spark just as many rivalries. It should also be remembered that we have discovered sizable oil fields in the north, which means that oil cannot be the sole explanation for the civil war that has divided the country for so many, long years. In that light, you need to understand that this is an extremely complicated conflict that cannot be wrongly reduced to a mere fight over oil.
In fact, contrary to what Sudan’s detractors have a habit of saying and writing, oil is indeed a key factor in Sudan’s development, especially in the South. The discovery and sale of oil has gone hand in hand with the construction of infrastructures such as road networks, residential electricity hookups, schools, health clinics, and hospitals. This can be seen throughout the entire Nile belt, especially in the Bentiu region. Sound management – and not only of oil operations – is key to generating wealth. It is also an important short-term development tool. But those who are doing their utmost to fuel these groundless controversies refuse, of course, to consider this.
T.D.L.: Kenya has played a key role in pushing forward the peace process in recent months. What are your thoughts on the recent change of government in Nairobi?

H.E.A.E.: The new team in power in Kenya was quick to reaffirm, in unambiguous terms, its commitment to regional peace and stability and its unconditional support for finding a negotiated solution to the conflict in southern Sudan. In that light, we have no misgivings or concerns at this time about the resumption of negotiations in Kenya. As you know, the talks reopened on 23 January in Karen, Kenya, where we began working together again in a truly calm climate.

T.D.L.: Can COMESA help Sudan achieve greater regional integration? Is the COMESA free-trade zone playing an important role in the development of the Sudanese economy? Has it helped to strengthen ties between the countries in this region?

H.E.A.E.: There is a general trend right now towards creating regional economic groups. Obviously, Sudan has made no effort to steer clear of this trend, which can only benefit the country’s overall development. We have been signing partnership and cooperation agreements to that same end. These efforts, along with many others, have made Sudan a particularly active member of COMESA. What’s more, we are taking great care to further consolidate and strengthen our business and trade ties with our neighbors, starting with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia and Chad.
T.D.L.: The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been sparked primarily by borders disputes, an issue that both the U.N. and the former OAU have been unable to resolve. Could you share your thoughts on this conflict with our readers, and give us your personal solution to the geopolitical problems plaguing Africa?

H.E.A.E.: This problem cannot be resolved – even with help from international mediators – unless both parties display their firm and unambiguous will to find a solution. As for Sudan, we want just one thing: regional peace and stability! We can never say it often enough. But it is also clear that anything that affects our neighbors also affects Sudan, even if the impact of these disturbances is not immediately discernible.
More specifically, the immediate consequence of this border dispute has been an influx of refugees pouring into our country. As you can well imagine, we could do without this added problem. Sudan is now home to the second largest refugee population on the  continent. Such a situation speaks for itself.
Let me just add that several States have been subjected only just recently to intervention or interference on the part of Eritrea. Whether one likes it or not, there can be no doubt that Eritrea remains a disruptive force in the Horn of Africa. Sudan has every hope that the leaders of Eritrea will heed the voice of reason without delay, for reason dictates that we cooperate and work together to build regional stability. For our part, we continue to wait, with great confidence, for Eritrean leaders to return to political reason and wisdom, so they can lead their country towards normalized relations with its neighbors, starting with Sudan and Ethiopia.

T.D.L.: The Arab League’s call to set up a $450 million development fund was boosted by the signing of a cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia on 30 December 2002. Do these initiatives indicate a clarification in the rather complicated relations between Sudan and the rest of the Arab world? Have they opened up new opportunities for closer and wider regional cooperation?

H.E.A.E.: The Arab League has confirmed its renewed interest in Sudan in a very concrete fashion. The clearest sign of this has been the appointment of a special envoy responsible for taking whatever steps are necessary to get the peace process moving forward.
We are also extremely pleased that the Arab League has finally decided to get involved in the peace process, with the aim of doing everything possible to enable Sudan to maintain its political and economic unity within the framework of a federally structured State.
In this light, pro-peace efforts by the Arab League and its member states could prove decisive, helping to speed up the development of the South and to rebuild its economy.While we are on this subject, let me add that we are very pleased to have this opportunity to further reinforce the fraternal bonds that have united Sudan and the Arab League for so many long years, confirming once again their  mutual interest.

T.D.L.: The United States has served as a mediator in Sudan since the appointment of the Danforth mission in January 2002. The Americans have been putting strong pressure on President Al-Bashir’s government, especially since the enactment on 21 October 2002 of a U.S. law on achieving peace in Sudan. How do feel about U.S. policy towards your country? What are Sudanese authorities doing to normalize relations with Washington?

H.E.A.E.: The United States continues to blow hot and cold, following a well established habit. On one hand, it is forcefully pushing the SPLA towards the negotiating table. On the other hand, it has enacted measures that could derail that very same peace process, such as the famous Sudan Peace Act.
There can be no doubt that this law, enacted by the American Congress, was meant to encourage the SPLA and bias the negotiations. I say this because according to the terms of this text, if the talks do eventually break down, the Sudanese government – and it alone – would bear sole responsibility for their failure!
In light of this, how can we help but question the sincerity of U.S. intentions? Let me add that impartial observers concluded long ago that the Sudanese government does not need to be pressured into negotiating on a basis accepted beforehand by all concerned parties, in order to achieve peace. The American administration is behaving exactly like a government playing a double game. This will enable it, if necessary, to go right back to square one. This has led several observers to conclude that America’s actions are motivated by something quite different from a sincere desire to achieve peace.
Sudan, in the meantime, has made peace a sovereign and absolutely unequivocal goal. The forces of reconciliation are hard at work right now, not the forces of division. It was no coincidence that the January 1st ceremonies marking the 47th anniversary of Sudan’s independence were held in Malakal, at the threshold of southern Sudan.
Instead of ending on that note, let me just add that our relations with the United States are improving, despite the great gulf of misunderstanding that currently divides us. Let us hope that this gap will soon be bridged. Not only is Sudan willing to dialogue, it has also continually and steadfastly called for the normalization of relations with the U.S. While on this subject, I am in a position to announce that steps are being taken to that end, and that we have high hopes they will be brought to a successful conclusion.
T.D.L.: The image of several countries in the Horn of Africa has been tarnished by the presence of terrorist organizations within their borders, and the ramifications of extremist Islamic groups. Has the war on terrorism launched after the Sept. 11 attacks affected developments in Sudan? What can your country do to help advance the war on terrorism?

H.E.A.E.: You will recall that the sanctions levied against Sudan by the UN Security Council were lifted just weeks after the Sept. 11 tragedy, and that there has been no question whatsoever of rescinding that decision. At the time, Sudan had already agreed to cooperate on security issues and in the fight against terrorism. Well before the autumn of 2001, we welcomed American teams to Sudan to ensure that a number of arrangements designed to enhance international security and assist the war on terrorism were fully operational.
It should also be recalled that the American administration made no attempt whatsoever to block the Security Council from lifting the sanctions against Sudan. The American representative chose to abstain when the Security Council took its vote, wishing to underscore that while the U.S. wished to keep a close watch on Sudan, our country had indeed been cleared of all suspicions concerning international security issues.
Sudan has taken a firm stance on terrorism: Sudan firmly condemns all forms of terrorism. But it has also called on the international community to come up with a scientific and legal definition of terrorist acts that is sufficiently explicit to distinguish legitimate acts of resistance from acts of oppression and the arbitrary occupation of lands.
Because individuals and more or less clandestine networks are not the only ones who commit acts of terrorism. Terrorism can also be carried out as State policy. This form of terrorism must also be rigorously and indisputably condemned, and must be banished from international practice.
T.D.L.: The European Union has pledged, since 1990, to resume development cooperation with Sudan once your country ensures respect for human rights and the rule of law. Could you describe the headway that has been made in these two areas?
H.E.A.E.: We are greatly indebted to France for serving as an intermediary in opening up a dialogue between Sudan and the European Union. France has championed Sudan’s cause with its European partners since the close of the first two stages of the Machakos Peace Talks. Thanks to your country, the European Union has agreed to release some of the aid set aside for Sudan within the scope of the Cononou Agreement.
This shift in relations between Sudan and Europe has been extremely positive, and has been of invaluable aid to the peace process. Need I even reiterate that strengthening Sudan’s ties with Europe is one of our top foreign policy goals at this time.

T.D.L.:  France reconfirmed its desire to get involved in the peace process at several diplomatic get-togethers in 2002. What role would you like to see France play in efforts to find a solution to this conflict? Did Dr. Atabani’s visit to France on 18-20 December 2002 open up a new phase in bilateral relations? Should we see Sudan’s attendance as an observer at the February 2003 France-Africa Summit as confirmation of your country’s desire to reinforce its ties with the French-speaking community?

H.E.A.E.: France has played and continues to play a role that has been nothing but helpful, most notably by sharing its expertise in the area of international guarantees for peace agreements. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to French authorities for their help.
Last December’s visit to France by Dr. Gahzi Salah-ed-Din Atabani, President al-Bashir’s Special Adviser for peace affairs, was a resounding success. This visit was a concrete example of our shared desire to push forward with a well established bilateral dialogue. This mission also helped us prepare President al-Bashir’s trip to Paris to take part in the France-Africa Summit, on 20-21 February 2003.
President al-Bashir’s attendance had a very positive impact, and also gave him an opportunity to update several Heads of State and delegations attending the conference on the latest developments in the peace process. This concerned, most notably, the July 2002 signing of the Machakos Protocol, which settled the points of contention between the Sudanese government and the SPLA. The two parties also signed a cease-fire agreement, making it possible to resume delivery of humanitarian aid to all the regions affected by the war.
The President’s attendance was a very telling reflection of the “strategic” stance Sudan has taken towards the French-speaking world. This choice is well justified, both by the recent course of events in sub-Saharan Africa and by Sudan’s location in a Sahelian region inhabited by the French-speaking States of West Africa.
Finally, this stance is characteristic of Sudan’s political and cultural choices. Sudan is moving resolutely forward towards pluralism, wider exchanges, and diversification. It is doing so with the aim of offsetting the growing trend towards unilateralism and single-handed domination by the Anglo-Saxon pole in the economic, political and cultural arenas.
French-Sudanese relations were reenergized by President al-Bashir’s trip to Paris, especially by the meeting between President Chirac and President al-Bashir at the Elysee Palace on 19 February 2003, on the eve of the France-Africa Summit. I would like to underscore the extremely positive nature of this meeting, and its positive impact on the peace process and on bilateral ties in general. During this meeting, President Chirac reconfirmed France’s great interest in my country. He reiterated France’s strong desire to play an active role in building peace in Sudan, and its wish to reinforce bilateral ties at every level: political, economic, cultural and social.  
As concerns the peace process, President Chirac informed President al-Bashir of the appointment of a special French envoy, Mr. Henri Benoit de Coignac, a seasoned and well-respected diplomat. President al-Bashir welcomed this initiative, and has great hopes that we will soon see significant headway in the campaign to bring peace to Sudan.
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