In Sudan and Kenya, Grassroots Diplomacy

About the Author: Major General (Ret) Scott Gration serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan.

August 28, 2010 -- Greetings, and Ramadan Kareem. I'm writing this from the road to update you on my recent travels to Sudan and Kenya.

The holy month of Ramadan serves as a valuable opportunity to reflect on our shared objectives of peace, stability, and prosperity for Sudan and its neighbors. Whatever one's religious beliefs, the teachings of patience, sacrifice, and humility emphasized during Ramadan are helpful lessons for all of us working in the fields of international diplomacy and development.

As the countdown to the referendum accelerates, the United States is redoubling its efforts to engage our Sudanese and international partners. I arrived in Sudan last week, with the goals of addressing the humanitarian situation in Darfur; discussing preparations for the January 2011 Referenda for Southern Sudan and Abyei; and furthering the negotiations on North/South post-referendum arrangements.

After completing meetings with high-level officials in Khartoum and Juba, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Southern Sudan, where I visited the towns of Aweil, Wau, Mapel, and Rumbek. The visits provided an opportunity to connect with our local partners in the Southern states, to hear their challenges and objectives firsthand. By offering an opportunity to reflect on priorities and build consensus on how to solve anticipated challenges in the months ahead, the weekend trip reinforced my belief that lasting peace will be built at the grassroots level just as much as at senior-level negotiations.

One of the major objectives of my trip to Sudan is to ensure that preparations are on track for the January 2011 referenda on self-determination for Southern Sudan and Abyei, and this was the key topic of discussion during my trip to Aweil, the first stop on my journey. I met with the Acting Governor of Northern Bahr Al-Ghazal state (a key border state with the North), where we discussed the state's preparations and security planning for the January 2011 referendum on Southern Sudan. I was impressed by Governor's commitment to ensuring that the conditions required to conduct a credible referendum in his province will be in place for the January vote.

In Wau I visited the province's Deputy Governor, and we discussed the security preparations for the referendum, and the state of agricultural development in the state. As a retired military officer, I was impressed to see the work of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) training center in Mapel. I'm confident that the training provided to help professionalize the SPLA's 5th Division will have a positive and long-lasting impact on security and stability in the region. In Rumbek, the Governor very graciously hosted a dinner for me with 11 state ministers, and we met with the Governor and visited the Rumbek Secondary School. The students invited me to plant a tree at the school, a symbol of our shared commitment to building a more prosperous future for the people of Sudan.

From Sudan I flew to Nairobi, where I co-sponsored a very successful Southern Sudan Agriculture Conference with the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and USAID. The conference brought together over 180 attendees, including officials from the GoSS, the U.S. Government, agricultural research organizations, financial institutions, and multinational agribusinesses, as well as key figures in the private donor community. The conference was held in honor of the late GoSS Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, His Excellency Dr. Samson Kwaje, who passed away earlier this month. Continuing his legacy, during the two-day conference, we examined the short- and long-term objectives to significantly increase production, to move Southern Sudan from subsistence farming to income-generating agribusiness. I'm extremely pleased that the conference was such a success, as agricultural development will be a critical component of the economic development of Southern Sudan in the years ahead.

On Wednesday evening, I returned to Khartoum for additional meetings, and I'm now in Cairo, where I attended the AU Envoys for Peace Summit. I promise to keep you posted on major developments as we work for peace and prosperity at this critical juncture.



Edrie I.
Maryland, USA
September 2, 2010

Edrie I. in Maryland writes:

Although press reports and your own introduction indicates that one goal of this trip was to address the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, your write-up provides zero, zip, zilch to indicate your addressed it at all. For me, your silence on Darfur speaks volumes - and not in a good way at all. People are being destroyed physically and emotionally by the hour in Darfur, and you say nothing. You should accept any offer the President or the Secretary offer you to serve in Kenya; you do not appear to grasp the gravity and immediacy of the death, rape and devastation of the people of Darfur.

Enock O.
September 25, 2010

Enock O. in Kenya writes:

As a senior student of diplomacy and member of this region, I first of all thank you for the effort you have made to update us. The meetings you held both in Kenya and Sudan appear to be of major importance. However, my concern is with the approach that you have given this article.

The conflict in Southern Sudan is a tower that most global citizens can describe by looking at it from outside but can not tell its pillars. Your role was to point out weak and strong pillars in the Sudan conflict, especially now that their will be a national referendum next year. Therefore, by avoiding to address this issues, most people who have no privilege to bisect and look closely into the conflict will demand more from your article than you have provided.

Assuming you are back to your country, I seek to request for two things. One, in the face of cut edge media communication and diplomacy, remember that most global citizens have access to information faster than you can update your blog. For this, I request if you can provide critical but conscious information of your duties that main stream media does not have access to.

Second, a visit to Sudan is incomplete until you indulge domestic constituents in decision making. The conference on Agriculture would in this case be incomplete and unsuccessful if you did not engage domestic constituents; after all they are the ones who will aid to implement any project.

Enock K. O.
Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies,
University of Nairobi

Sudanese Market Vendor Prepares for Ramadan
Posted by Scott Gration
September 2, 2010


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