Interview Pagan Armun, January 20, 2007
Pagan Amum
:There was immense attention and controversy after the SPLM opened its diplomatic office in Washington, DC . Does the Movement have a right to do that?

Pagan Amum: Yes, there was controversy and debate after the Government of Southern Sudan opened the office in Washington, and there is no question that GoSS has the right to do so. In fact, clause 2 addressing the duties of the Government of National Unity gives it the right to open diplomatic missions to represent Sudan internationally, while section 19 of the concurrent duties (shared by different levels of the Government of Sudan) gives the Government of Southern Sudan the right to establish relations with foreign governments and organizations. That right includes the ability to strike deals internationally and regionally in the areas of culture, sports, commerce, investment, loans, grants and technical cooperation. Moreover, section (1/21) of the implementation modalities of the CPA, and specifically as related to the funding of the two armies, clearly states that GoSS has the right to pursue military and technical cooperation and to look for funding sources both externally and internally. In other words, these clauses support the right of GoSS to pursue relations abroad and to sign deals in areas such as sports, commerce and trade, loans and grants, and military and technical cooperation.
Therefore, this is the legal foundation upon which the GoSS opened its missions abroad included the United States, Kenya, Uganda and other countries. In my opinion, this is another step in the implementation of the CPA, and the accusations against the SPLM are probably the result of ignorance about the agreement, or the usual arrogant tendency among the elite in the center to want to continue their marginalization of others. They think that the interests of Sudan can only be represented through them, and that neither the South, West, East or the extreme North can adequately represent and protect the benefits of the country as integral parts of it. The system we have chosen is a unique decentralized one, and ends the total domination of the center, and establishes a confederacy between the South and that center. It started with the agreement to establish two armies with a coordination mechanism only between them called the Joint Defense Council. This confederacy is also seen in other facets such as the dual nature of the Banking system with separate operations and united only by the same currency. In the South, we have the conventional banking system with allowable interest, while the North maintains an Islamic banking model. We have also established a civil service in the South that is separate from the North and the National government, and that?s also true in the judiciary and so forth. This is the arrangement that underpins the CPA, and it?s the same system that granted the GoSS the right to form and advance relations with foreign governments and institutions. So this is the agreement and we have not invented anything new. The voices rising in condemnation of these missions are from those who are against the Peace agreement and who accuse the South and anyone demanding their rights as being separatists or discriminators and enemies of the country. These are clearly all wrong, and the fate of Sudan is in the heart of all Sudanese and the fact that Southerners are abroad or establishing relations with others should not be misconstrued as being against Sudan as a whole, because whatever good comes to the South from these endeavors will be in the benefit of the whole country.
Therefore, Can we assume that these missions are parallel to the existing diplomatic missions of the government of Sudan?
Pagan Amum: These missions are missions of the Government of Southern Sudan and are their to advance its objectives and the interests of the people of Southern Sudan per the CPA, and are therefore not parallel missions but can pursue activities that are allowed as mentioned before .
Can this then be understood as an early separation or as a preliminary step to separation of the South from the North in the future? ???..That is what the media in Khartoum is reporting????..?
Pagan Amum: This is talk from corners and groups that have their own agendas. Establishing missions abroad is not a prelude to separation, and there is no one planning for that except those who see separation in everything that the GoSS does. These people want to continue to maintain power in Khartoum, and the only way separation is being prepared is by derailing the equitable distribution of power and that is the root cause that will lead to the separation.
What the GoSS did was an implementation of the CPA and a search for its right to find assistance and support to affect development for its people in Southern Sudan. Our quest for military assistance and training abroad was imposed on us by the NCP?s refusal during the negotiation to fund both armies from the National treasury. We then agreed that the GoSS will retain the right to look for outside sources for the funding. That is the CPA as negotiated and agreed upon, so how can they now turn around and condemn the GoSS for venturing out looking for assistance outside after they imposed that on it.
Given the recent open accusations and counter accusations between the Chairman of the SPLM and the Chairman of the NCP, can this step negatively impact the partnership between the two on the one hand, and between the SPLM and the other political forces on the other?
Pagan Amum: The accusations between the Chairman of the SPLM and the Chairman of the NCP came in the context of reviewing the implementation of the CPA for all the people of Sudan, and that was the height of transparency. The Chairman of the SPLM talked and detailed all the clauses that were not implemented due to the leadership of the NCP like the Abyei, the borders, the lack of transparency in the distribution of the oil proceeds and other cases. The response of the Chairman of the NCP was to also detail his own reasons and accusations. In my opinion, despite the fact that it showed the two partners to be in some significant disagreement, it was a true exercise in democracy because it laid out the facts to the people from their points of view and the people will then be the judge. Therefore, the insistence on closed door negotiations is a call to hide the facts and to marginalize the people from what is happening. To the contrary, openly laying out all information and facts is a constitutional and national duty for the whole political leadership in the country.
There are allegations that the SPLM is weak and that the NCP has succeeded to some extent in squeezing it in the South as a prelude to eliminating it in the North. Given that, what do see?
Pagan Amum: These are just wishes, because the Movement is available and influential all over Sudan . The Movement is now the ruling party in Southern Sudan, and is the strongest political organization in the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile without any significant competition. At the same time, the Movement is organizing robustly in the Northern states and might be the biggest party in those areas if we did an objective assessment of its popularity. So, definitely it is one of the strong political parties in Sudan if not the strongest, and hence all this talk about its weakness is nothing but daydreaming among these people.
The reorganization of the SPLM in the North received considerable media attention, so what about the SPLM Southern Sector?.How are your relations with the official media, from newspapers to radio to TV? And what is your position towards them and the level of cooperation between you?
Pagan Amum: The organization of the Movement is going according to a well studied plan, and we started since October of last year to do the organization in the Northern sector. We approved the plan to organize the movement last august and we finished the work in 9 Northern states, and we are only left with the task of completing the work in the states of Darfur. The work of the Northern sector was immensely successful and we can now say that the Movement is the dominant party in no less than 5 Northern states.
Our plan for the Movement in the Southern Sector starts in the summer of 2007 this January, and until the early winter of this year. That is from January to June or July. In fact, on the 27th of January, Juba will see the kickoff of a huge popular celebration to start the campaign in all Southern states, including the states of Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile, and the special administrative area of Abyei.
What is your assessment of the political landscape in Sudan in the face of the slow implementation of the peace agreements in the South, Darfur and the East?
Pagan Amum: Before I answer this question, let me go back to the second half of the previous question, about our relationship with the Sudanese media. It is clear and true that the media in the Sudan is the media of the center, and when we talk about the media it occurs to us that it is the media of the center which is dominated by the Northern elite. The official media (both radio and TV) is dominated by the NCP, and only they determine who features or is heard in these media outlets and what messages they convey to their audiences. There is no partnership or a stable platform to reflect opposite views. This partisan media belongs to the NCP and serves its views or that of the Islamic movement in power, and seeks to marginalize opposing views and especially those of the SPLM. It is thus a controlled partisan media.
The other media outlets such as the newspapers are mostly bought and their editorial policies are influenced by the NCP either directly or indirectly, and this is an open secret. There are a few independent newspapers but they are working in great difficulty and are targeted by government agencies through draconian laws and pressure from security agencies. So in other words, they may be independent but controlled nonetheless. This is the reality of the press in Sudan nowadays, and all political parties are laboring through this reality. Our objective is to build an independent free press within the Publishing and Press Law to accord total freedom to journalists and press organizations, and this has not been achieved yet. There is a long journey in this struggle, and it is primarily also the struggle of journalists and all news organs that are striving for their independence.
With regards to your question about the political landscape; It is well known that our brothers in the NCP signed the CPA with the SPLM at a junction when they felt that they need to stop the war and reach an agreement with the Movement, and maybe some of the leaders in the NCP thought that the agreement was signed not to be implemented but in order to stop the war without achieving the political and constitutional reforms in Sudan. These changes are needed in order to lift the burdens on people and transform the political arena that perpetuates the marginalization and suffering that are the root causes of the war to begin with. In this situation, we see some powers in the NCP working against the implementation of the agreement, and working to use it only to stop the opposition and wars that are targeted against them until they rejuvenate themselves enough to dismantle the other forces. The history of the INGAS regime is known very well, as you know they signed an agreement with the Nasir faction or the South Sudan Liberation Movement under Dr. Riek Machar, and then worked to dismantle his movement from the first day. They then refused to implement the Khartoum Peace Agreement until Dr. Riek Machar was forced to resign and to return to the Movement and resume the struggle against the government. On the same vein, Dr. Lam Akol signed an agreement with the NCP and was absorbed into the NCP, but his forces were not absorbed not were his commanders, and despite the fact that Dr. Lam abandoned the SPLM and abandoned his own movement, SPLM-United, the Islamic Movement and the Ingaz government refused to implement the Fashoda agreement it signed with him. In the end, he was dropped from the government which led to his return to the SPLM in the last days before the signing of the CPA.
In the North, the Ingaz government signed the ?Nidaa al Watan? with the UMMA party and what did they do? They worked to saw discord among the UMMA party members and squeezed Sadiq ElMahdi into the narrow confines of the so-called ?margin of freedom.? As a result, the party disintegrated into several parts, the National, Federal, Reform and other wings. And there are many other agreements. Look at the so-called SPLM-Nuba Mountain sector. Where is it now? Where is their agreement with the government? This mentality, the mentality of signing agreements and working from day one to betray and abrogate them is a dangerous mentality and will only lead to the continued instability and civil wars in the country, and will eventually lead to the collapse of the whole Sudan, including the Center.
They are now trying to repeat the same scenario?Trying to divide the SPLM into what they call (sons of Garang) and (sons of Salva Kiir) and it is an attempt to break down the movement into small weak groupings before they hit them and put the final nail on the coffin of the CPA. But I want to point out that the SPLM is different from these other parties because it is anchored on a clear vision and a practical strategy, and I must remind all the people of Sudan that the Chairman of the SPLM pointed out the strategy of the SPLM is to make the cost of the non-implementation of the CPA much more expensive than the cost of its implementation, and we say that not implementing the CPA is not in the benefit of the NCP or that of the Sudan, and that any attempts otherwise will fail and only make everything worse.
We note that despite the track record of abrogation of agreements, we are convinced that peace is attainable and the NCP is capable of implementing the agreement. I believe that the agreement serves the interests of the NCP also, and forming an honest relationship with the SPLM serves the interests of the NCP before any other party, and even before the Sudanese people as a whole. We are ready on our part to consolidate this relationship on the basis of the full implementation of the CPA, the building of a just peace in all corners of the country, and the building of a democratic system that guarantees diversity and complete freedoms. A system that grants all the power to the people to elect their government in fair elections, and at the same time ends the struggle between Southern Sudan and the ruling elite in Khartoum that marginalized it and pushed it to resort to the right of separation as a better alternative to oppression within the context of unity.
President Bashir brought up the issue of the transfer of the $60 Million to the leadership of the SPLM after the signing of the agreement, and that led General Kiir to form an investigative committee to ascertain the true because the Movement did not receive the funds. Where is the truth?
Pagan Amum: Yes, this is a very important issue, and especially after the President?s vague statement created an air of confusion due to the lack of details. First, it is true that the Government of National Unity transferred funds but only after considerable delay and foot dragging. On the 21st of May, 2005, the Government transferred 2,494,100,000 (Two billion, four hundred and ninety four million and one hundred thousand Sudanese dinars), and on the 30th of May 2005, they transferred to the SPLM account 2,468,000,000 (Two billion, four hundred and sixty eight million Sudanese dinars), the equivalent of $20 million dollars. On the 16th of June 2005, they transferred $20 million dollars to the Movement account opened by Mr. Arthur Akuen, the current Minister of Finance in GoSS and the then SPLM Secretary for Financial and Economical Affairs, and Mr. Akuen managed the account from that time until today and did not turn over any funds to the SPLM then. It was not until the end of 2006 that the Movement received $18 million dollars, and he is therefore responsible for that and needs to give a clear accounting of these funds. I met Mr. Akuen yesterday, and discussed the issue with him and he promised to transfer the funds to the Movement.
This issue therefore has two tracks that are important. First, the President said that they transferred the funds before the beginning of the pre-interim period of the CPA, and that is not true. The delegations of the Movement were delayed until the end of March and they arrived in the first week of April to Khartoum and I was a part of those delegations. The Movement, due to the delay, was forced to fund its movement and activities in Khartoum and other states on its own because the NCP government delayed the transfer until the end of May and the middle of June. In other words, the funds were transferred after the end of the pre-interim period, while the delegations of the SPLM arrived as early as the beginning of April. Therefore, all talk about the SPLM not arriving with its people on time is wrong, and the Chairman of the SPLM arrived in Khartoum after having had his delegations arrive early and working on political arrangements with the NCP or on the GAM beforehand. Objectively, we can fairly say that the delay was the result of the very short time allocated and the lack of capacity in both the Movement and the NCP.
However, what is dangerous is negatively impacting the implementation of the CPA because of the lack of political will, and that is the basic and central issue here. Why isn?t the Abyei protocol implemented? Why are the clauses addressing the status of the Militias not implemented, and why are they still being sponsored by the NCP up to now? These are the critical and basis issues.
The second track on this issue is that Mr. Arthur Akuen decided to take along the portfolio of the $60 Million dollars when he was appointed the Minister of Finance in the South. It is true that he transferred some funds to the advance teams, but he did not transfer any more funds until the middle of 2006 and after an immense struggle with him, and the bulk of the funds remain with him. Why does he keep the funds still? And where are the funds being kept? These are the questions Mr. Akuen has to answer. I also want to rebut here some of the allegations and mistaken sentiments out there about the transfer of the funds to the SPLM, and to also rebut the rumors that impugned our late leader, Dr. John Garang De Mabior. The truth is that he did not receive nor move one cent of those funds and the attempt to accuse him while he is not here is wrong and a big crime in front of God. Moreover, I must also confirm that the Chairman of the SPLM, General Salva Kiir Mayardit did not receive nor managed even one cent from the funds that were in the possession of Mr. Akuen. We have asked Mr. Akuen to transfer these funds so that we can pay the debts we incurred in the process of transforming the Movement, from the formation of the organs of the GoSS or in the North. We have spent tens of millions of dollars in funding the activities of the Movement and covered work in New Site and Rumbek and other areas, and all the studies that were organized at that time. These are the facts about this issue.
Since we are talking about the facts, what is the truth about the financial accounts in Kenyan Banks of those of Dr. Riek Machar, VP of GoSS, Madame Rebeka, the Minister of Transport, Roads and Bridges, and the Chief of Staff of the SPLA, Oyai Den?
Pagan Amum: This talk is not true and it is an attempt to impugn the character of the leadership of the SPLM, and comes from elements known to us and who use suspect media outlets like ?Al Intibaha? and others which are full of hate and bigotry. It is talk that neither we nor the public pays great attention to. Even the accusations use wrong information such as transactions carried out on the 31st of November, and there isn?t such a date on any calendar to start with. They also note transactions on Sundays and those are official holidays in all official agencies in Kenya, and that includes all the banks in Kenya. These are cheap accusations without any foundation.
In the midst of all these contradictions and misunderstandings between you and the NCP, can the SPLM manage this crisis in the benefit of Sudan and maintaining its role in the International arena?
Pagan Amum: Yes, the SPLM has the ability to manage these contradictions and differences with the NCP, and establish strong relations with the other political parties. The SPLM is capable of continuing the struggle for a New Sudan, the Sudan of justice, equality and diversity, that New Sudanese state that is built on a wide de-centralization that grants all its people the right to govern themselves in their regions; that New Sudan that will see the elimination of the domination of the Center and its marginalization of all corners of Sudan. The SPLM is capable of continuing the struggle for a society that is accepting of diversity and acknowledges our linguistic and political differences, and in which the attempts to eliminate and marginalize others disappear totally, and a society in which cultural superiority and bigotry disappear for good. This Sudan never existed and will require immense struggle to achieve. I acknowledge that the forces of the Old Sudan are entrenched and reject any progressive democratic transformation in Sudan. They refuse any change that will usher in the New Sudan, and are settled in to fight to maintain the old Sudan.
Now, the struggle has intensified, and what will be the final outcome? I am not a psychic to know what the future will bring. The forces of New Sudan could fully prevail, or the struggle could lead to the collapse of the Old Sudan and the emergence into victory of forces of New Sudan in wide areas of Sudan like the South and other areas, while the elements of the Old Sudan maintain their positions in other areas. Alternatively, both forces could collapse, and then the people of Southern Sudan might get tired of the whole thing and choose to separate outright, because even within the context of a united New Sudan, the people of Southern Sudan might still vote to separate and that is their right. All these scenarios and positions are possible.
(Al Sahafa )
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