As the first Ambassador of the nascent South Sudan to Khartoum, Mayen Dut Wol finds himself in the centre of frosty relations between the two countries.
The former teacher and lecturer is originally from Warrap State, specifically from Awan Shan area in Eastern Gogrial County, the birthplace of the South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
He spoke to The Niles about his priorities, the Southerners still living in Sudan, his mediation attempts between the SPLM-N and the government in Khartoum among others:
Q: As the first South Sudanese Ambassador to Khartoum, what are your plans?
A: We want to build good relations between the two peoples through official and also civil bodies. We believe this will create good relations, support peaceful coexistence and exchange benefits.
On the other hand, we have duties related to Southerners in the North. There is a large number of displaced people, and a large part of these are in Khartoum. They were supposed to be transferred but recent tensions disrupted that plan. We have talked with authorities about opening crossings to transport these people and President Omar al-Bashir has approved. Competent authorities should start implementing this.
There are also issues of Southern Sudanese students and the general security of Southerners in Khartoum and some states. These are our priorities for the present.
Q: How many Southerners are there in Sudan?
A: We don’t have information on all the Southerners, but some preliminary statistics suggest that the number of displaced in squares of Khartoum State amounts to 91,000 and may reach 200,000 all over Sudan. There are also around 800,000 students.
Q: The North accuses you of supporting the SPLM-Northern Sector. What’s your comment? And how accurate is the information on the Sector’s affiliation with you?
A: We always say that we don’t support the Northern Sector and stress, once again, that there was secession after the South became independent. Daniel Cody, who is currently here in Khartoum, confirmed this. President Salva Kiir commissioned three members of the SPLM political office – Yasir Arman, Malik Aqar and Abdul Aziz Hilo -- with completing that in all the military, political and organisational aspects and they have done it.
Daniel Cody is from the Nuba Mountains and was a leader of the SPLM-North. He currently has many differences with the SPLM-North leadership, led by Malik Aqar, Abdul Aziz Hilo and Yasir Arman.Q: Has it really happened?
A: Yes, it has. Cody said so -- and his words were published in newspapers.
Q: Observers and analysts say you are the best mediator between the Sudan’s government and the Northern Sector. Have you presented any new initiatives to them?
A: Yes, we have. But our brothers in Khartoum were of another opinion and rejected them.
Q: Will you present any other initiative in the future?
A: We always put forward initiatives to solve the issue of the Northern Sector.
Q: The Southerners in the North talk about Southerner militias kidnapping young people and students and demanding a ransom from their parents. What is your information on this issue?
A: Yes, there are militias that target and kidnap young people. Part of the kidnapped youth is recruited to join these militias to implement their agenda. The militias demand ransoms, then release the young people. We have notified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this. A week or more ago, eight students were kidnapped but the security agencies got involved and released them from Fetihab area.
Q: Recruitment requires camps, do they have camps?
A: We don’t know, but this is what they tell people when those ask about their children.
Q: Who are they? Have you discussed this situation with the Sudanese government?
A: They are part of the rebels in the South and most of them were in the Sudanese army. We have discussed their situation with President al-Bashir and demanded an end to this.
The African National Front (ANF) is a political organisation founded in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It comprised a large number of Southern intellectuals. For long periods, it was a leading force among Southern political organisations. In recent years, it attracted large numbers of Northerners, however, it was dissolved in favour of the SPLM-North after the latter came to Khartoum in 2005.Q: Mayen Dut, as a leader of the African National Front (ANF), you were calling for unity. Where is all that now?
A: At the end of the day, the Southerners voted for secession. Now I only think about development and the prosperity of my country -- and I am working for new relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
Q: Don’t you think a confederation could be formed in the future?
A: It won’t happen during our generation because many generations are needed to leave the pains behind. The current generation has experienced 50 years of war during which time the South was a battlefield and its people were displaced. A large number of severe tragedies happened. The resulting injustice made 98 percent of people vote for secession. Furthermore, there is a lack of confidence. The coming generations might leave these pains behind and there might be new concepts. All Europe is united now and has one currency; no one expected that.
Q: Will that depend on the nature of the North in the future, whether it adopts Islamic Sharia or secularism?
A: 80-90 percent of people in the North are Muslims and not one of them says he/she doesn’t want Sharia or rejects it in public. During university, we were the only ones who publicly called for a secular state; even the leftist organisations didn’t call for secularism in public.
Q: On a personal level, have your social relations with Sudan been affected after the secession.
A: No they haven’t and won’t be affected. Singapore and Malaysia were seceded in 1965; yet, their social and blood relations haven’t been affected so far.
Q: Will these relations positivity affect your mission?
A: Of course. There are many things that can’t be officially resolved and need discussion at social levels. I could visit anyone here to discuss such issues.
Q: Anyone? Even the leaders of the ruling National Congress Party, your bitterest enemy?