The Sudan Forum, a Berlin-based organisation working on Sudanese issues, called for a positive push for peace at its annual conference for Sudan and South Sudan on June 14-16.
More than 100 people participated in the conference in Hermannsburg in northern Germany. Members of political parties and armed movements in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, civil society organisations and youth and women associations, and representatives of EU countries attended the 26th edition of the conference.
Under the title of ‘Be the change you want to see’, the conference aimed for a positive atmosphere between the participants from the two Sudans.
“We came here for peace and we are working for it.”
“We came here for peace and we are working for it,” said Dr. Sulafedeen Saleh Mohamed of the NCP and the Head of the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (SDDRC).
Speaking to The Niles, he added that there are strong forces pushing for war at home: “Unfortunately there are voices in Sudan calling for war and fuelling the conflicts through dedicated platforms and newspapers.”
Attended by representatives of the German government, participants saw the conference as a chance to express their opinions about what is happening in Sudan and to encourage the German government to take a neutral position.
Dr. Zakaria Mohamed Ali, member of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Germany, said the conference was informative: “We heard the views of civil society organisations from Sudan about what is going on there.”
Burning debate ensued on some particular topics, such as the one presented by Dr. Luka Biong, former Minister of the Government of South Sudan and professor at Harvard University, entitled ‘Two countries-no peace: National and Regional Challenges and the Role of Foreigners’.
Biong compared the positions of the two heads of state President Omar al-Bashir and President Salva Kiir on war and peace, blaming the divisions and wars on the Sudanese President.
However, he concluded that good-neighbourly relations are possible between the two countries and left the door open for a new form of unity once again: “I am confident that the Sudanese citizens in both countries have the ability to live in peace and that time might come for unity between the two countries under a new umbrella.”
“I am confident that the Sudanese citizens in both countries have the ability to live in peace [...].”
NCP member Dr. Qutbi Al-Mahdi, attributed the strained relations between the two countries to Israel and its continuous work to destabilise Sudan.
The participants were divided into six working groups and drew up a set of recommendations for Sudan and South Sudan. As well as generalised calls for peace and reconciliation, they urged the Sudanese government to stop aerial bombing in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile and to facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies in those areas.
The conference urged the Sudanese government and armed groups to respect human rights and international humanitarian law and to stop all hostilities against civilians and peacekeepers in war zones.
The Abyei working group expressed concern about Abyei, warning it could escalate again, especially after the death of Ngok Dinka Chief Kuol Deng Kuol last month. The group called on different parties to resume peace negotiations and to support the African Union (AU) proposal, noting that the participation of the community is crucial.
In relation to South Sudan, the conference urged the government to discuss problems in Jonglei State and to respect the rights of all citizens, and called for the withdrawal of SPLA forces from the Murle villages.
The conference also demanded that combatants who have joined the fight recently agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and find another way to resolve their issues with the government.
They expressed concern about religious persecution of Christians and other minorities in Sudan and the difficulties faced by civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations. In addition they condemned the actions causing the censorship of critical voices in Sudan and South Sudan.
“We believe that the real results will show after the conference.”
The participants also urged both countries to develop a democratic and lasting constitution, involving all sectors of society, leading to a democratic transition and preserving the rights of everyone, allowing for ethnic and religious diversity.
Finally the conference participants expressed concern about the lack of a genuine democratic transition.
The conference was considered by many a success. Dr. Sulafedeen Saleh Mohamed saw the conference as an opportunity to contribute to peace processes: “I think the fact that the conference is backed by a Christian institution who calls for peace in Sudan is positive. Islam as well has forbidden killing even of a bird not to mention human beings.”
Marina Peter, Director of the ‘Sudan Forum’, was confident that the words would translate into action: “We believe that the real results will show after the conference.”
The Sudan and South Sudan conference was organised by the Sudan Forum and the Sudan/South Sudan Focal Point, funded by Bread for the World, Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Misereor and Bingo.
The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of the publishers of www.theniles.org