Juba, South Sudan — Here in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, the need for ‘fierce urgency‘ in implementing the Obama administration’s new policy couldn’t be more clear. Tensions are running high and political rumors are flying in this town, which is ground zero for implementation of the peace agreement that is emphasized prominently in the Obama administration’s Sudan policy. In southern Sudan, President Obama’s new policy will be put to the test in the coming months, as elections loom and the threat of continued violence casts a shadow over North-South relations. It is a good sign that the administration is focusing on offering incentives and pressures based on ‘verifiable changes in conditions on the ground’ instead of more signed pieces of paper. For the people of southern Sudan, actions and real changes will certainly speak louder than words and pieces of paper.
Even today, the day after the Obama administration’s Sudan policy was unveiled in Washington, people all over Juba were talking about the new policy. A local women’s civil society organizer I met with this morning told me, “The message of the policy is good because the CPA really needs to be worked on. We know that dates have been changed and the politicians are now playing around with the referendum.” And at other meetings I had today with officials from the Government of Southern Sudan and United Nations, the new U.S. policy seemed to be on everyone’s minds. At a briefing for the international diplomatic corps in Juba this afternoon, the Minister of Regional Cooperation said, “The Sudanese people welcome this policy and stand in support of it.” The positive reaction from the Government of Southern Sudan was not matched by their counterparts in Khartoum; today, one of President Bashir’s key advisors critiqued the policy for its lack of practical steps.
I arrived in Juba late last week, where I’m setting up shop as Enough’s new southern Sudan field researcher. You’ll be hearing much more from me once I get my bearings over here. I’ll strive to bring you up-to-date coverage and analysis on southern Sudan in this critical period.
As the clock ticks toward 2011, when the people of southern Sudan will vote in a historic self-determination referendum, I am glad to be here in Juba. Through my work, I hope to be a resource for people outside of the region looking to learn more about the issues at stake here; stay tuned and feel free to give me feedback at mfick [at] enoughproject.org.
Photo: Men gather under a tree in Rumbek, southern Sudan. Enough/Maggie Fick