- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

After two decades of brutal civil war, Sudan is emerging as a reminder that engagement, dialogue and intensive diplomacy can resolve seemingly intractable problems and permit a country to look to the future with optimism. Unfortunately, some observers fail or refuse to see things as they are.

An historical point has been reached in Sudan’s history, one of peace and unity, and, hopefully, prosperity for all Sudanese. The peace and political processes that have taken hold over recent months will not be undercut by the tragic death of John Garang, the former leader of the SPLM/A (the largest opposition group), or various naysayers.

Our new constitution — signed by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, former First Vice President John Garang and Vice President Ali Osman Taha in Khartoum on July 9 — solidified the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and initiated a six-year transition period of peace and political consultations and cooperation. The new presidency embarked immediately on consultations to fully implement a government of national unity. Importantly, this process has been publicly and privately endorsed by the new first vice president and head of the SPLM/A, Salva Kiir Mayardit.

The significance of these positive developments is that the duties and rights of all individuals will be based solely on their Sudanese citizenship regardless of ethnic, religious or regional origin. Power and wealth sharing is embodied in the agreement. The process of democratization has been set in motion, thereby ensuring that the peaceful rotation of power is guaranteed. The pillars for a modern nation-state in Sudan have been erected.

Fortunately, the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan is casting less of a shadow over all other achievements. Today, every reliable report coming out of Darfur indicates that the situation has stabilized and the mortality rate has returned to pre-war levels. This was confirmed by the most recent report by the U.N. special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, but we recognize that more needs to be done.

In an effort to further stabilize and improve the situation, the government has agreed to expand the presence of African Union (AU) forces in the area and to the deployment of NATO logistical personnel to that area. We are moving quickly, in cooperation with the international community, to address the issue of displaced persons and to deliver emergency food and provide other services. The government has grounded its air force in that region and redeployed security forces to December 2003 positions. The AU’s mandate has been expanded to include protection of the civilians in the Internally Displaced People Camps. Peace talks on Darfur should soon be convened, if the various rebel groups finally agree to work with the AU and attend these negotiations that have the unconditional support of the government.

Juxtaposed with the formation of the new government of national unity there is increasing hope that the conflict in Darfur will be resolved in the near future. Further and importantly, we recently agreed to work more closely with the United States and others to take concrete steps to protect and expand women’s rights, specifically in Darfur. We noted these recent positive actions and stressed our commitment to take further steps to address all issues of concern during Rep. Christopher Smith’s visit to Sudan during the week of Aug. 15.

The United States, specifically the Bush administration, was vital in helping us negotiate and sign the Jan. 9 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and begin to form a new government. The continued involvement of the United States will be vital to facilitating continued cooperation in the war on terrorism, fully implementing the peace agreement, resolving the Darfur conflict, fully normalizing bilateral relations and obtaining advice and assistance from the United States that will facilitate the development of Sudan in a manner that benefits all Sudanese.

We hope that critics and skeptics will now see the situation for what it is: the beginning of a new era in Sudan. Further, we hope that people of goodwill will support a policy that removes the existing political and economic barriers to improving bilateral relations as quickly as possible. This goal is most important to demonstrating to all the people of Sudan that peace brings a tangible peace dividend.

Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed is the chief of mission for Sudan in Washington.

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