This is Sabina Carlson, your former Education Coordinator, writing in from Southern Sudan. I am here at the Crops Training Center in Yei, Central Equatoria State, which is one of 6 agricultural training centers established by the Government of Southern Sudan after the war to help its rural citizens build and rebuild. The whole of Southern Sudan is in the process of rebuilding after more than 40 years of civil war with the Government of Sudan in Khartoum – a war in which a million Southern Sudanese were killed and millions more displaced, countless children taken into slavery and countless women subject to rape. A measure of peace came to the struggling South in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The Agreement seems to be the source of hope here, the same way Obama has become synonymous with hope in the United States. Many people I have spoken to here say that, "peace came with the CPA, and hope returned with the CPA". After the CPA was signed, families started to return from exile in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and beyond, farms were started (sometimes from scratch) and lives began to be rebuilt.
And yet – just as many in America say about Obama – while the CPA promises hope, Southern Sudanese will believe it when they see it. The CPA provides for several important milestones: a national census in 2008, a national election in 2009, and a referendum in the South on secession from the North in 2011. These are the landmarks on which many Southern Sudanese are pinning their hopes. Still, they have no illusions about the Government of Sudan in Khartoum, and are prepared that Khartoum may try and sabotage the CPA every step of the way.
The CPA is vital for peace across Sudan, including in Darfur. Again, the problems in Sudan stem from systematic marginalization of periphery populations by the central government in Khartoum; every time a marginalized people has tried to revolt, Khartoum has moved to suppress the revolt by bringing militias and the army to attack the ethnic group connected to the rebellion. Its campaign against civilians in the South was the most intense instance of this, and the fact that this war ended in a negotiated settlement is an example for other marginalized people across Sudan. If the CPA is to succeed, it will be a sign that Khartoum can no longer use ethnic cleansing as a policy of domestic security, nor can it use marginalization as a policy of governance. If the CPA is left to fail, it will be disaster.
The United States was instrumental in bringing the CPA to reality – it must be invested in its implementation. Without the watchful eye and constant support of the United States and the international community, the CPA and the peace it stands for will be undermined.
And to the farmers who I have spoken with who told me that the stability the CPA has brought has allowed them to rebuild their lives, their families, and their farms – that would be an unimaginable tragedy.