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World Media Association Holds Forum on the Sudan

11/19/2005 9:25am

by Ken Morgan
Baltimore Times
Originally posted 11/18/2005

On November 10, the World Media Association co-sponsored a luncheon forum with the Salam Sudan Foundation and the World Peace Herald, titled Peace, Global Crisis and the Media, at the Washington Times auditorium. More than 130 people attended from various areas of interests.

The luncheon was billed as a means to bring to the attention of the American media and public the importance of the historic recent developments in Sudan and discussion of the constitution of a new National Unity Government that can usher in the birth of a new peace-centered Sudan.

Four panelists discussed the conflict and peace agreements in Sudan. The panelists were: Howard University professor Sulayman Nyang; Ambassador Khidir H. Ahmed, Charge d'Affairs Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan in Washington; Reverend Walter Fauntroy, former congressman and William Reed, syndicated columnist and president of the Black Press Foundation. Dr. Hashim El-Tinay, president and founder of Salam Sudan Foundation, served as moderator.

Sudan, a country of 39 million people about the size of Texas and Alaska, has been involved in civil war for 21 years. The civil war has taken its toll on the masses. The BBC reported that 1.5 million people have died over its course, including persons dying from health issues in large numbers. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.

In 2003, talks began between the Khartoum northern-based government and southern-based rebels. It ended in a signed broad peace accord in January 2005. In July 2005, the former warring factions signed the Compre-hensive Peace Agreement (CPA), a power sharing agreement.

The panelists and moderator all agreed that the Sudanese civil war was complex. They explained that only talking about the conflict in religious terms, i.e., the Muslim North against the Christian and Animist South was not accurate. They hinted at the causes of the conflict. Many experts on Africa agree that the original role of English colonial rulers and now Washington has fostered divisions in Sudan. These divisions are around language, religion, national origin, and geography.

Reverend Fauntroy spoke first. Most of Fauntroy's views reflect his travel to Sudan with the U.S. Interfaith Peace Delegation in June 2005. Rev. Walter Fauntroy identified three problems that generated the conflicts in Sudan. The first problem he mentioned is that western corporate interests dominate the economy. Sudan's primary exports are oil and cotton in this resource rich country. In contrast, because of its needed reliance on industrialized countries along with its history of colonial status (Sudan received its independence from England in 1956), Sudan is one of the most impoverished nations in the world. According to the World Bank Sudan, owes about $26 billion of debt. Fauntroy mentioned the desert's continuing to claim arable land helped by developed nations' neglect. Thirdly, he stated, Getting to the moral center where people (those signing the accord) still distrust one another.

Ambassador Khidir Ahmed spoke mainly of the comprehensive peace agreement now in place. Ambassador Ahmed stated. The new government is leading Sudan. He cautioned that Sudan was still under U.S. sanctions initiated in 1997. The U.S. government since the Clinton administration has claimed that Sudan promoted terror. The Khartoum government has stated that it has not promoted terror. Sudan has insisted that it has been cooperating with the U.S. against terrorism. The Bush administration recently extended the sanctions. In 2004, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell charged the Sudan with genocide against its non-Arabic-speaking African minorities in the Darfur region.

The ambassador cited that the new government has established a commission on Darfur to bring back peace and stability to Darfur. He appealed to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help to bring pressures to lift sanctions.

Two themes ran through William Reed's presentation. One, was that Americans were getting distorted news about Sudan. Second, that many duped blacks bought into the Bush administration's theme of the Sudanese government carrying out genocide and promoting a black African slave trade. He stated, African Americans have bought into the 'punish Sudan concept' hook, line and sinker. He maligned the Congressional Black Caucus for its stance and aligning with conservatives in Congress. Reed defended Africa's plans and suggested that the international community and American blacks should support justice and promote peaceful change and resolution of conflict.

Professor Sulayman warned that the present accords should try to avoid the Numeri monkey wrench. He was referring to former Sudan president Julius Numeri's unethical scheming in regard to negotiating a peaceful end to the civil war. He stressed that the new government had to develop a federal character.

The professor underlined that the Sudanese could learn something from the Americans. He commented, You have to create room for others to come in, referring to the accords and the road ahead.

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