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A forum for peace

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Thursday, 16 May, 2013

“You face many challenges, as citizens and as civil society leaders of Sudan and South Sudan, but we have witnessed the yearning for peace and stability that exists in both countries.” Reflecting on their efforts over the past six years to promote peace in Sudan and South Sudan, The Elders send a message of support to a major meeting of civil society from both countries.

Statement from The Elders to the Second Session of the Civil Society Forum on Sudan and South Sudan

Distinguished civil society leaders from Sudan and South Sudan,

We very much welcome the establishment of the Civil Society Forum on Sudan and South Sudan. We wish you every success as you discuss, over the next three days, how your activities can best contribute to achieving lasting peace within and between your countries.

Peace in Sudan became a top priority for The Elders as soon as the group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. Indeed, our very first trip as Elders was to Sudan that same year, to draw attention to the conflict and humanitarian tragedy in Darfur.

Over the last five and a half years, we have supported the AU High-level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP) in its efforts to facilitate the resolution of outstanding issues between the two countries since the end of the civil war. Most recently, in May 2012, Lakhdar Brahimi and Jimmy Carter returned to Sudan to meet President Omar Al-Bashir. A second delegation of Elders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Martti Ahtisaari, travelled to Addis Ababa and Juba in July to meet political leaders, African Union officials, senior UN officials and civil society representatives. They also visited Yusuf Batil refugee camp in South Sudan, calling attention to the humanitarian crisis resulting from fighting across the border in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

During their visits to Khartoum and Juba, The Elders called on President Al-Bashir, of Sudan, and President Salva Kiir, of South Sudan, to put the well-being of their people first. In this regard, we welcome the steps the AUHIP has taken to facilitate negotiations between the two countries, which led to the September 2012 Cooperation Agreement between Sudan and South Sudan.

We also welcome the resumption of direct talks in Addis Ababa in April, between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), under the auspices of the AUHIP, to try to end the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan – now affecting Northern Kordofan too. We urge the parties to agree on an immediate ceasefire, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the Nuba mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur.

Desmond Tutu and Lakhdar Brahimi meet young Darfuris in the Otash IDP camp in Nyala, Darfur, October 2007

Desmond Tutu and Lakhdar Brahimi meet young Darfuris in the Otash IDP camp in Nyala, Darfur, October 2007

This Forum can play a powerful role in conveying the concerns and aspirations of the people of Sudan and South Sudan to the African Union (AU). We trust that the AU, the AU Commission and its various bodies, particularly the Peace and Security Council, can be receptive to your ideas and recommendations, recognising the richness and diversity of your unparalleled expertise.

As an example: The Elders’ team worked with the Institute for Inclusive Security (IIS) to support its gathering of women leaders from Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa, on the eve of the AU Summit in January 2013. Accompanied by Mary Robinson, the group proposed the creation of a consultative task force of women leaders to participate in the peace and implementation processes to President Thabo Mbeki, Chair of the AUHIP. He agreed it was an excellent idea that needed to be taken forward.

Mary Robinson meets women peace-builders from Sudan and South Sudan, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2013

Mary Robinson meets women peace-builders from Sudan and South Sudan, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2013

We can all achieve much more working together than alone. You face many challenges, as citizens and as civil society leaders of Sudan and South Sudan, but we have witnessed the yearning for peace and stability that exists in both countries. Your tireless efforts, in this Forum and beyond, constitute invaluable steps towards achieving peace and prosperity.

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