Bringing hope, forging peace - The Elders' mission to Sudan
Convened on July 18, 2007, in South Africa by Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Elders include 10 other world leaders who have joined together to confront seemingly intractable crises and to share their wisdom on global challenges.
For its first mission, four of The Elders traveled to Sudan to assess the situation in Darfur and affirm the group's support of the fragile peace negotiated between North and South Sudan in the two-year-old Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). We began our trip in Khartoum, where we met with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, other government officials, and representatives of opposition political parties, the United Nations, the African Union, the diplomatic community and international organizations, including humanitarian agencies. We then went on to Juba, where we met with the leadership of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS). Finally, we flew to Darfur to meet with tribal leaders, women's groups, civil society leaders, and internally displaced persons (IDPs). We sought the opinions of all we met and shared our own frank assessments with both the powerful and the powerless.
We learned that Sudan is at a turning point in its history. It could sink into a new spiral of violence if the CPA breaks down and if the conflict in Darfur worsens. Or it could follow the promise of the CPA and the bold statement of the United Nations in its Security Council Resolution 1769 and find its path to democracy and peace.
We join with all those who have moved the world community to pay attention to Darfur and Sudan. As Elders with long and diverse experiences, we know the world has within its power the ability to help protect the people of Darfur from further violence, bring peace to communities torn apart, and contribute to guiding the country toward democracy and human security. We believe that this power must be applied, collectively and swiftly, to end the untold suffering of millions of innocent Sudanese.
- Immediate Ceasefire. Lawlessness and insecurity has bred a culture of violence throughout the camps and the rest of Darfur. The conflict is escalating-with aerial bombardments, the increased flow of arms, and the growing incidence of looting and theft further threatening the camps. Women and young girls are often subjected to rape and gender-based violence. Because these violations often go unreported, the perpetrators act with impunity. The Government of Sudan, Darfur rebel groups and Janjaweed militias must commit and adhere to an immediate ceasefire, disarmament and return to the rule of law.
- Inclusive Peace Must be the Priority. Achieving a viable and long term peace in Sudan-in Darfur, the South and elsewhere-requires a sustained commitment to inclusive dialogue and mediation, backed by the international community. The Darfur negotiations must include all parties to the conflict, both armed and unarmed. Additionally, the CPA must be honored by both parties and implemented according to schedule for all of Sudan, including Darfur.
- Democracy is Key. Democracy has to be the centerpiece of a sustainable peace. Full civic participation and free elections provide the best means of ensuring that human rights are respected, that disputes are solved peacefully, and that human security is assured to all. We are pleased that the Carter Center has been invited to monitor the electoral process. To fulfill the promise of democracy and good governance, the government should fully fund the national census and consult with all parties to develop a new electoral law and institutions prior to the 2009 elections.
- Rapid Deployment of Peacekeeping Force. UNAMID, the hybrid United Nations/African Union peacekeeping mission for Darfur authorized by the UN Security Council, must be fully equipped and deployed according to schedule. To date, the international community has not provided the civilian and military equipment and other support necessary to ensure UNAMID's success. Existing pledges must be honored and specialized support provided on an urgent basis. At the same time, the Government of Sudan must live up to its commitments and accept that UNAMID will be a predominantly African force with non-African support.
- Humanitarian Agencies Must be Free to Operate. At present neither Darfur's citizens nor the international and Sudanese humanitarian workers dedicated to assisting them are safe from direct attacks by bandits, rebels, militia and government forces. Raids on civilians and attacks on the camps continue. For any party claiming to champion the human rights, dignity and security of Darfur's people, the reality on the ground is a stark reminder that their actions do not match their words. All parties must take immediate steps to protect civilians and humanitarian operations. The Government of Sudan must honor its responsibilities and enforce the rule of law by adhering to the Joint Humanitarian Communiqué so that humanitarian operations can continue without interference or disruption.