Southern Sudan?s First Presidential Portrait Unveiled; a Sign of Permanence
This morning in Juba, the British Ambassador to Sudan unveiled a new portrait in oils, which depicts His Excellency General Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Government of Southern Sudan and Vice President of the Republic of Sudan.
The portrait was painted and donated to the Government of Southern Sudan by celebrated British artist Talbot Rice. Mr Talbot Rice, who received a seven-year classical training in portraiture in Florence and St. Pertersburg, has painted a number of portraits of celebrated individuals, including HRH Queen Elizabeth II of England, and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. The original initiative for the portrait came from Brigadier James Ellery, who was formerly head of the UN Mission in Sudan and the project was supported by Mr. Sam Mattock
During the ceremony held to unveil the portrait, HE Dr Luka Biong, Minister for Presidential Affairs, pointed out that this was the first such portrait of a Southern Sudanese President, and that our future leaders would be similarly depicted.
The British Ambassador to Sudan, HE Ian Cliff, spoke of his contact with HE President Kiir in the past, including a visit to 10 Downing Street to see Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. As a result, he was aware of the challenge the President and First Vice President had taken up at this crucial time for the Sudan. The portrait, he said, captured precisely the ?combination of courage, fortitude and quiet wisdom? which he had observed in President Kiir.
HE Ambassador Cliff continued that,In a media-driven age full of photographs and other fast images, a portrait in oils was for posterity; the earliest such English Royal portrait, of Richard II, was over six hundred years old. He expressed his hope that the portrait would become the official image of President Kiir throughout the Sudan.
The artist and donor, Alexander Talbot Rice, spoke of the Southern Sudanese; ?you are in a position to make history every day? and expressed his pride in being able to be a part of that history.
HE Dr Riek Machar, GOSS Vice President, then spoke, pointing out that this gesture was a unique honour in Sudanese history. He referred to the quality of the painting, saying that as with all good depictions, the eyes appeared to follow one around the room.
HE the Vice President then raised the important issue of where, in future, such national treasures could be safely kept. Finally, he thanked the British Ambassador, the artist and the sponsors of the portrait for their gesture, which was part of a process of reintroducing the people of Southern Sudan to a culture of peace, reminding us of the importance of such work as honouring our Presidents and teaching art in our schools.
In a statement to the press immediately after the ceremony, HE Ambassador Cliff said that he was a regular visitor to Juba, as it was very important as Ambassador to Sudan for him to keep in tough with the Southern capital. On this occasion, he had come specifically to unveil the ?very important? portrait of HE Salva Kiir Mayardit. He reiterated the fact that this portrait in oils was ?something of quality, something for the long term? which would remind future generations of the qualities of President Kiir.
The Ambassador noted that he had met yesterday (13th March 2007) with HE the GOSS Vice President. During the meeting, the Vice President had briefed him on the political situation generally, and on the political development of the Sudan People?s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in both the North and South of Sudan.
Also mentioned had been the very recent protests in Juba by demobilized former members of Sudan Army Forces (SAF), who wished to remain in the South and were demanding payment of their pensions. This last issue had been of particular interest to HE the Ambassador, who is a member of the Security Group of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, which oversees such issues.
In addition, HE the Ambassador would be attending a workshop on Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR), which is closing in Juba today. As a result, he was very aware of the need in Southern Sudan for skilled labour-builders, plumbers and electricians, and of the requirement to provide former soldiers with such skills for civilian life, so that Sudanese would be able themselves to undertake the rebuilding of their land.
While in Juba, HE Ambassador Cliff had discussed progress with the Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), particularly with regard to vocational training, and was aware of the fraustration felt over the slowness of the peace dividend. He felt that the CPA was like a train, which was now on the tracks and just needed a push to build up momentum. In comparison the situation in Darfur suffered greatly from the lack of a similarly comprehensive and widely-supported document. He also expressed his keenness to prevent the Darfur issue from diverting attention from the CPA and its implementation.
Finally, HE the Ambassador expressed his support for the Sudanese initiative to help resolve the Lords Resistance Army-Ugandan Government conflict, and expressed the hope that the LRA would return, as promised, to the Juba Peace Talks.
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