Sudan: Miraya FM talks to Ashraf Qazi

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Late December, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) in Sudan, Ashraf Qazi paid a one-day-visit to Southern Sudan where he held talks with Salva Kirr, President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). When the SRSG stopped by at the UNMIS Headquarters in Southern Sudan, Juba, Miraya FM journalists Oweis El Faky and Maal Maker had an interview with him in our studios.

Miraya FM: Firstly, we would like to know the purpose of your visit to Juba

SRSG: Well, I have come here because 2009 is coming to an end and 2010 will be the last full year of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) implementation; as you know in January 2011 the referenda are due to take place in Southern Sudan and Abyei and so the Secretary General himself has decided that for the United Nations and for his own priorities, 2010 will be the year of Africa and particularly Sudan and so I came here before proceeding to my country on a bit of leave towards the end of the year to meet with His Excellency President Salva Kirr in order to discuss the current status of CPA implementation and the challenges that will need to be addressed next year and the role he expects of the United Nations and the international community in order to ensure that those challenges are met and that the CPA is implemented peacefully and successfully so that whatever the outcome of the referendum or referenda are in 2011, they will underpin and strengthen and build upon and provide a platform for peace in the future. So that will be a challenging task, most important task, not only for Sudan but also for the surrounding region which is a major part of the entire continent of Africa.

Miraya FM: Considering the disagreement between the CPA partners (SPLM and NCP) over the National Security Law, the terms of the referendum for Abyei and South Sudan, the popular consultation for Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, do you think they have done enough to conduct elections in 2010?

SRSG: It is very important to have a secure and politically conducive environment to hold the elections and the referenda in 2011. Between the elections and the referenda, there will be the Popular Consultations in those two states (South Kordofan and Blue Nile). So you need the appropriate atmosphere. We've noticed that in Parliament, these bills have been presented and these two parties have had agreements and after the agreements there have been differences. But we also take encouragement from the fact that Parliament will be meeting again and the two parties have decided once again to revisit the bills so that we can hope that there will be an agreement and that agreement on the bills had been approved by the Council of Ministers so we hope that on that basis and on the basis of the latest discussions between the parties that indeed they will be able to quickly pass all the outstanding bills that are in accordance with the agreements that have been reached by the two parties. Obviously, as the international community is concerned, we are also concerned that these agreements and bills should also conform to international norms and standards so that human rights and the peoples' rights are always protected.

Miraya FM: The elections are just around the corner and there are still issues of insecurity in many parts of Southern Sudan. How fair would the elections be and what role would the UN play in ensuring free and fair polls in every part of the country?

SRSG: We are working closely with the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the technical and logistical aspects and we are working with the donor community to ensure that the electoral process is adequately funded and we are also hoping and expecting that the Government of National Unity will provide all the necessary finances to the NEC and that the NEC will be able to develop a very sound working relationship with the electoral offices at the regional level throughout Sudan. We hope that the bills we were talking about will provide the legal framework within which the free and fair elections will take place. Concerns have been expressed in this regard and I have met with the leaders of the main parties as well as the other parties and I am assured by the Governments of National Unity and Southern Sudan that they will do everything that needs to be done that free and fair election are held in their respective areas and the NEC as an independent body is also expected to ensure that the elections proceed in accordance with Electoral Act and the norms of international practice. You mentioned the security situation in Southern Sudan. Yes, it is challenging and after all Southern Sudan has been through a very difficult period for several decades and it does take time to develop institutions and practices and we are particularly concerned about some of the clashes that have taken place among tribes. UNMIS is very active through its Civil Affairs Department in bringing tribes together to work out and address issues on which they differ to preempt any conflict-like situations. We have reconciliation conference and conference between different tribes, prior to migration and all the issues that are connected to them so that they can be addressed and implemented in a manner that peace can be preserved and we will be stepping up our efforts; it's not just Civil Affairs but all our other components of the UNMIS will be cooperating to have a multi-led and broad range approach to ensure that civilians are protected and security is ensured and the environment is brought about in which the CPA can be peacefully and securely implemented.

Miraya FM: Western Equatoria has been under several attacks by the Ugandan rebel group, LRA. These attacks have led to an alarming food shortage in the state. What can the UN do to help GoSS to address the declining humanitarian situation in Western Equatoria?

SRSG: We are in contact with the GoSS, we have a mission present to help the displaced people there and we are providing training to the police and we are trying to mitigate the consequences of this horrible sort of situation so that their (LRA) activities are curbed. We know that the GoSS is also cooperating with other countries in the region (Congo and Uganda) in order to put an end to this menace and we coordinate our efforts with our missions in Congo and elsewhere to ensure that our efforts are coordinated as such. UNMIS has its own mandate which involves the protection of civilian elements but we don't have a military mandate with regard to the LRA except within the framework of protection of civilians and our mandate there is to address the humanitarian consequences and to provide as much capacity to the Rule of Law and security (Police) forces and to the government so that they can take all the necessary measures to address this situation because it is a gross violation of human rights. The Human Rights Commission has described these crimes as crimes against humanity. The UN system is working in close cooperation in order to try and bring an end to this menace and this is part of the effort.

Miraya FM: Food security seems to be a major challenge in South Sudan. Jonglei and Western Equatoria have been mostly hit. What role is the UN playing to help in this?

SRSG: I am aware of the food security problem there and we are working closely with the UN agencies so that the situation can be addressed as much as possible. The humanitarian affairs pillar of UNMIS is actively involved, trying to bring relief to these people who are seriously in need. We know there is a major food gap which has developed as a result of the security situation and also failure of the rains, displacement of people has impacted on the agricultural situation. So ultimately, this situation has to be addressed by peace building and implementation because it's the fact that there hasn't been peace and there have been disruption and displacement of people that has led to the shortfalls of agricultural production. So we have to address each one of these and provide assistance with regard to agriculture to our agencies, humanitarian relief and also address the security situation so that all these factors of which a resultant has been the food shortage.

Miraya FM: Recently, the National Assembly passed the 2011 referendum bill and yet the border demarcation has not been done. What is UNMIS doing to make sure that the demarcation is done?

SRSG: We are assisting the ad-hoc Border Commission which says that it is about to complete and submit its report to the Presidency and that will be for the Presidency to discuss any differences that may still exist with regard to border demarcation on the 1156 line) and hopefully that will be completed before the elections and certainly before the referendum. So we are very much involved in assisting the Border Commission with its work, technically and logistically.

Miraya FM: So what is your New Year message to the people of Sudan?

SRSG: I will like to say to all Sudanese brothers and sisters that this is the season of peace and goodwill and we need every bit of that especially in the run up to the elections and the referendum and the preparations that have to be made this year. The United Nations family, especially UNMIS which is responsible to assist in the CPA implementation will be there to assist the people of Sudan at every level. So I do wish for a peace building and a peaceful 2010 for all Sudanese so that they can look forward to all the years afterwards being years of peace, prosperity and development. These are my heartfelt wishes for all the people of Sudan.