About the Author: Major General (Ret) Scott Gration serves as the President's Special Envoy to Sudan.
We've reached a new year, a time for reflection but, most of all, a time for looking forward, for making resolutions we intend to keep. It's clear that 2010 will be a critical year in securing a peaceful future for Sudan. National elections are scheduled for April 2010, and registration for the referenda on self-determination for Southern Sudan and Abyei will begin in July with the vote taking place in January 2011. In between, popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, demarcation of the Abyei and North-South borders, reviews of wealth-sharing arrangements, and negotiations on post-CPA issues must be finalized. Direct talks between the Government of Sudan and Darfur armed movements are scheduled to begin in Doha in late January and a negotiated political settlement is still urgently needed to achieve a lasting and just peace in Darfur.
We will continue to work diligently with all parties throughout Sudan in pursuit of peace and stability in Darfur, for full implementation of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and to prepare for what happens after the CPA expires in July 2011. At the same time, and in accordance with our strategic objectives, we will be monitoring the actions taken by the parties in Sudan and will hold them accountable for their accomplishments and their shortcomings. Make no mistake, failure to make progress and a continuation of the unacceptable status quo by any party will be met by credible pressures from the United States and our partners in the international community.
The road ahead will be tough and beset by numerous and seemingly insurmountable challenges. But in the face of these trials, we will work with steadfast determination with the parties to reach positive agreements followed up by verifiable implementation. The ultimate passage this week of the Southern Sudan Referendum Law is a positive step towards CPA implementation, allowing critical preparations for the referendum to begin in earnest. In this last month of 2009, we have also seen major progress in Chad-Sudan relations, with high-level visits and encouraging steps toward normalization of relations between these two countries. This is a necessary step for advancing the Darfur peace process and achieving lasting changes on the ground for the people of Darfur. I hope that the parties in Sudan will build on these acts of progress and resolve to move forward on the critical issues facing Sudan in the new year. With positive action and political will, the parties in Sudan have an opportunity to work together to bring the Sudanese people the peace, stability, and prosperity they deserve.
Thank you for your continued interest, and have a happy new year, Scott.