WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–The government of Sudan and the rebel group that has fought a 20-year-old civil war are set to sign a peace treaty by the end of this month, which could possibly end Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil war.
With help from an unlikely source–the Bush administration–the long-hoped-for end of hostilities could be the gateway for an unprecedented period of prosperity for the continent’s largest country and for the entire North-Eastern-Central African region, according to Sudan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail.
“Thanks to former Senator (John) Danforth, the special envoy of President Bush, who, due to his involvement and the involvement of the administration, we succeeded in November to have full peace in the Nuba Mountains,” Dr. Ismail told guests at a Washington reception for potential trade and investment partners in late May.
Since 1983, the war–fought by Animist, Christian, and a few Muslim rebels in the mountainous southern regions of the country against the predominantly Islamic government in Khartoum–has claimed more than two million lives on both sides.
Mr. Danforth (R-Mo.), who did not seek re-election in 1994, has become so popular in Sudan for his peace efforts there, that newborns are even being named after him. “I told Senator Danforth that many women when they have the boys, they call these boys, ‘Danforths,’” said Dr. Ismail.
During his Washington visit, the Sudanese official held unprecedented high-level meetings with administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, who told his counterpart what Sudan must do to be removed from the U.S. list of seven countries that sponsor terrorism.
“I think it’s safe to say that Sudan is not the kind of haven for terrorists that it used to be and has been quite cooperative,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters following the first face-to-face, U.S.-Sudanese high-level meeting in several years. Cuba, Libya, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Iraq are the other countries the U.S. describes as states that harbor terrorists.
In April, the White House announced that President George W. Bush had decided not to re-impose sanctions on Sudan, because Sudan has cooperated in both the U.S. war on terrorism, and in finding an end to the conflict with rebels in the South.
Even Amnesty International (AI) acknowledged some human rights progress in Sudan in its 2003 annual report. “War-related human rights abuses were committed on a large scale until a ceasefire (was) signed in October,” the international human rights advocacy organization reported last month.
“Moves towards peace continued,” said AI, including some “relaxation of restrictions on political activities and a government announcement in December 2001 that censorship of the media was lifted.”
The result of these incremental steps means that Sudan may be able to finally develop its enormous natural and human resources, in ways that could profoundly affect culture, civilization, and the standard of living in both Africa and the Middle East, according to Dr. Ismail.
In addition to gum arabic, sorghum and other export products, Sudan has “enormous water resources,” 200 million acres of fertile land, 140,000 head of sheep and cows, and gold and oil were recently discovered there.
Sudan shares borders with nine other countries, from Ethiopia and Kenya in the East, to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in the South, and Egypt and Libya in the North. The country’s mostly Islamic population–even among the very dark-skinned Dinka and Neur people in the Nuba Mountains and other southern areas–and its location on the Red Sea, make Sudan literally a physical and cultural bridge between Arab-Islamic North Africa and the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan “Black Africa.”
“This country, I think, is a great place to start a greater civilizing of that region, and America can be part of that for sure,” Kenneth Goldman, an entrepreneur and self-described “Peace Ambassador,” told attendees at the reception for American business leaders attended by Dr. Ismail. “I was blown away. I had one enlightening moment after another when I was in Sudan. I could not even sleep at night, it was so enlightening, to see what I saw.
“I think Sudan is very strategically placed to help civilize this planet and make the planet a safer place,” Mr. Goldman continued. “Sudan should be contributed to. Businesses should open there. The climate is a loving climate, a caring climate. This is a place that can affect all the Middle East and all of Africa.”
People in the U.S. should therefore hasten, rather than delay their investments in the Sudanese economy, Dr. Ismail warned. “The reality is this. Every week, we are receiving at least 10 investors who are investing in Sudan.
“I think the (U.S.) business community has to check with the (Bush) administration. Because I know that at the end, Sudan’s ban is going to be lifted. But the sooner the better, because investors are not going to say: ‘Let us wait for businessmen from the United States, then we will compete.’ They are going to compete. When (American investors) come in, you might get something, but you are not going to get the best” investments, he said.
Peace in Sudan means the country will be able to normalize its relationship with all regional and international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and with oil-rich Arab financial institutions.
“We have huge amounts of gold, where South African companies, French companies, and others are investing at the moment,” said Dr. Ismail. “Even in the field of oil, we have companies from China, from France, from Sweden, from India, from Malaysia, who are working now in the oil fields.
“We are using oil revenue to build infrastructure, to have the technology, to build universities, hospitals, schools, to construct roads, airports,” the foreign minister pointed out.
In anticipation of the peace treaty, expected to be signed by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Dr. John Garang, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the government has already started to prepare the country for the “post-peace era,” where the country will try to establish programs for reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure, for rehabilitation of the population, and for the development of both human and material resources.