Andrew Natsios Blogs From Sudan on Elders Meeting

Posted by Andrew Natsios
October 7, 2007
Sudan Elders Meeting

Andrew S. Natsios, President's Special Envoy for Sudan, writes about a meeting between some of the world’s most prominent and respected elder statesmen in Juba, Sudan.

Juba, Sudan – I’ve been working on Sudan issues for decades: first the North-South war that the United States helped end two years ago with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and now, as Special Envoy, the Darfur conflict. But I never imagined one day I’d be sitting in the U.S. Consulate General in Juba – the booming capital of Southern Sudan -- talking with some of the world’s most prominent and respected elder statesmen. That happened last Tuesday (Oct. 2) when former President Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, former UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi and Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, among others, all members of The Elders group, crossed paths with our delegation during my 10-day trip to Sudan.

The Elders’ mission is solely humanitarian. The American Consulate is [its a series of small "houses" -- not a building"] where Foreign Service officers both live and work. We gathered in the living room, getting respite from the hot, steamy weather. It was an animated, low-key discussion, and Carter, who looks younger than his years, did most of the talking. At one point, Graca Machel laughed when someone said a Sudanese rebel leader compared himself to her husband, Mandela. We talked about a lot of things, including the CPA. One of the reasons I went to Sudan this time was to assess how the CPA is being implemented. The CPA calls for national elections in 2009, and Carter volunteered that his center in Atlanta would like to be involved in the monitoring the elections.

The Elders’ meeting came midway through my trip: I spent a weekend in Darfur, but much of my time I was in the South which had been devastated by a 21-year war before it ended with the Naivasha accords in January 2005. More than 2 million people died in the North-South conflict, and 4 million were displaced. Since the war ended, more than 1.2 million internally displaced people have returned to their homes. The enthusiasm that greeted our group in the South was heart-warming. In the Eastern Equatoria state of Torit, more than 400 people lined the airstrip where we landed. There were dancers and singers and tribal elders with lavish headdresses made of ostrich feathers. The people carried a large banner thanking the United States for the Naivasha accords that ended the war. After we landed the townspeople slaughtered a white bull – and I jumped over it, as Sudanese tradition demands. It is said that the spirit of the bull blesses the one who jumps. I also visited the oil fields in the South – 73,000 barrels of oil a day are exported – and talked about wealth-sharing. In Rumbek, we went to the Southern Sudan Center for the Census and Statistical Evaluation to see how the pre-election census is coming along.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in Southern Sudan. After all, the country was devastated by the war. But the progress I saw gave me hope that our work is not in vain -- that if we can achieve peace in Southern Sudan, we can do it in Darfur.



jd q.
North Carolina, USA
October 8, 2007

J in North Carolina writes:
Sir, as informative as your post may be, I can't help but wonder what's NOT in it. You say you "spent a weekend in Darfur"? What was that like? Spins like a movie title, sort of--but what did you SEE? Not fit for an official blog? No doubt.

October 8, 2007

It's encouraging to hear reports of progress, even with more work to be done. Thanks for the report.

Mohamed A.
Texas, USA
October 9, 2007

Mohamed in Texas writes:
I was based in south Sudan as a relief worker from 1994 thru 1999; first with CRS & later with WFP. During this period, I came to appreciate the kindness & the resilience of the people of the south Sudan. The city of Juba was then under the government of Sudan (GOS). If I am not mistaken, you Envoy Natsiosy were then at the USAID Nairobi Office.

The sound of Sudanese Antonov hovering overhead searching for targets to bomb is still fresh in my mind! I know first hand, how many lives & livelihoods that this useless war has destroyed & I am excited to hear your positive report from the region. However, recently I read a New York Times article that claimed that this historic peace deal might be dissipating because the GOS is dragging their feet on holding the promised south Sudan referendum in 2009. Envoy Natsiosy, as you know, the GOS has backtracked before & I am wondering: is this deja vu all over again?

United States
October 9, 2007

Paul in U.S.A. writes:
Was Jimmy Carter asked/invited by the Administration to inject himself into diplomatic negotiations and discussions in Sudan?

I'm all for peace and diplomacy, but if not invited by the Bush Administration who then elected him?

Florida, USA
October 9, 2007

James in Florida writes:
Greetings Envoy Andrew S. Natsios, It's great a group of people like the "Elders" came to help establish the "peace". Inspiring. Hope "Sudan" will also work to achieve and keep the "peace". Thanks for your work!

North Carolina, USA
October 10, 2007

Ronnie in North Carolina writes:
The root of these inhumane atrocities are based on several element(s): Resources such as;Blood Diamonds, Land and the Wealth of other valuable resources in that part of the world.

If the Europeans had never ventured beyond their boundaries,none of these inhumane acts would have probably never happened.

What home did the 1.2 million "displaced" people have to return too, after the war?

These tribal people do not understand the concept of "peace" as it is defined by Westerners.

How is progress being measured? When men,women and children are being slaughter by the thousands annually.

It is commendable concerning the efforts put forth by the diplomats who are involved in the long process to achieve some kind of transformation for the people.

New Mexico, USA
October 16, 2007

Eric in New Mexico writes:
To the Honorable Mr. Natsios

I firmly believe the sucesses of tommorrow depend on the efforts today, and with respect to arible land and water resource, given a newly discovered aquifer and the potential to doing some terra forming as an aspect to nation building...a generational project several decades long awaits.

I also think we have as a global community to take lessons learned from such a project and apply it long term to potential global warming scenarios.

But until the land can be rid of hate, nothing good will grow.

I wish the arms merchants of the world would invent a smart bomb that would wise people up.

Since that's a fat chance, someone should wise the arms merchants up to the inevitable, that when there's no one left to buy the weapons, there will be no place to spend the profits.

All the conflicts excacerbated stand in the way of humanity's ability to adapt to a changing envirionment, and this must end if we are to be where we need to be 100-200 years from now and mitigating the effects rather than be victims of change.

I wonder if the parties to this current dysfunctional human condition have considered the interests of future generations?

Best Regards.

Florida, USA
October 21, 2007

William in Florida writes:

I want to join the peacekeepers in Darfur. If there is a group or a few going over to help, I want to go too!! I am a college student and have a pretty open schedule, but I would rather go than anything else. Please let me know...


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