Sudanese ambassador hopes for future peace

Jenny Vankekerix

Jenny Vankekerix

Walking to class in the rain was the biggest hardship facing most SDSU students on Oct. 15, a far stretch from the adversity plaguing the citizens of Sudan as described by its General Ambassador to the United States, John Ukec, in his presentation at the Performing Arts Center.

Ukec’s presentation came just four days after the ex-rebel movement founded in Southern Sudan abruptly pulled out of the two-year -old Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Sudanese leaders and citizens, in addition to members of the global community, are concerned that Sudan will plummet back into the civil war that has devastated the country in western Africa since it achieved independence more than fifty years ago.

The impending return to civil war is only one of the problems facing Sudan today in what Ukec calls a “complexity of issues.”

He began his presentation with a brief history of his native country. Sudan was colonized by Britain and Egypt and was liberated in 1956. Border disputes and struggles over the country’s oil supply fueled the civil war in Sudan for more than 50 years. Northern Sudan holds close ties to their Arab neighbors while southern Sudan ascribes to a western Judeo-Christian outlook, causing more friction between the two parties.

In the countryside, the importance of tribes and clans also accounts for conflict. Grudges carried over from generation to generation are difficult to overcome.

Jan. 9, 2005, marked a new beginning for the warring nation as both sides agreed upon the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA is a three-pronged plan that installs power sharing, wealth-sharing and security arrangements between the North and South as well as mandating the establishment of the Government of National Unity. It will also allow free elections in the nation by 2009 and a referendum to grant the Southern region of Sudan their independence by 2011.

According to Ukec, Sudan experienced a “hiccup” on the road to peace in the conflict currently raging in the Sudanese region of Darfur. Farmers and herders are pinned against each other fighting for the extremely limited land to use for grazing and cultivation. Millions of people have been killed and displaced by the conflict. It is considered one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world.

Western countries who have been assisting Sudan in the transition to democracy have cut off their support of the CPA until the conflict in Darfur is resolved.

Ukec stressed that the advancement of the CPA must be given higher priority because once its wealth sharing protocol is enacted the conflict in Darfur will reach its resolution.

“The CPA is the mother of all peace,” Ukec said. “It will resolve the problem in Sudan as well as in neighboring countries Somalia and Chad. There will be no reason for war.”

Ukec also warned that if all western resources are focused only on Darfur, tensions will rise in other parts of Sudan and the aggression will spill over into the rest of Africa.

He offered Sudanese aspirations for roads, bridges and universities and the hope for a simpler Sudan.

Ukec has spent several years in the United States as an assistant professor of business and economics at Langston University in Oklahoma. He also taught at Des Moines Area Community College and held a financial aid administration position at Iowa State University. Ukec became ambassador to the United States for the Government of National Unity in Sudan last year.

The Office for Diversity Enhancement and the South Dakota Council on World Affairs sponsored his visit to SDSU.