(Asharq al-Awsat) Are you satisfied with your visit to Britain and the results it achieved?
(Mayardit) The visit was in response to an invitation from the British Government that was made a long time ago but I did not come. When we set the 29 th of last month as the date, I honored it and arrived in London that same night. The questions in all my meetings with British officials, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, focused on three issues. The first was the progress of implementing the comprehensive peace signed last year and whether it was proceeding as required and the way we wanted or not. Second, the Darfur problem and the Sudanese Government’s stand on the international forces and the Sudanese People’s (Liberation) Movement’s (SPLM) stand, as a party, on these forces’ entry into Darfur. The third was the problem of the Army of God that is opposed to the Ugandan Government and the ongoing negotiations in Juba between the two sides. The last question was about the aid that Britain can give for development, specifically in south Sudan. I was going to raise this question if they did not ask about it. But in my view, the visit was successful and we are satisfied with it.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Was there agreement about giving aid and a specific amount of money?
(Mayardit) There was no agreement, or a categorical one, on a specific amount of money but they promised to do something in the education, agriculture, and health services fields and build the capabilities of the government in the south. But no specific amount of money was determined for all these things.
(Asharq al-Awsat) British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official spokesman said he sent at his meeting with you a clear warning to the Sudanese Government if it did not agree to the entry of the international forces into Darfur. He said that he understood that you still adhere to your stand on these forces’ entry. Do you have an idea about the sanctions that could happen?
(Mayardit) Not at all. We have no idea about the sanctions that could happen. Our acceptance of the forces’ entry is clear, we declared it very early on, and conveyed it to President Al-Bashir and all the National Congress members. We said very simply that we have UN forces in the south, the Nuba Mountains, and south of the Blue Nile as the comprehensive peace agreement stipulated. But in Darfur, we have no objection if these forces that are deployed in the south go to Darfur for two reasons. The first is to protect the civilians who are killed and the women who are raped, especially as the government has failed to protect the citizens in Darfur, and for this reason, we do not see why we should not ask for backing from outside to deal with what we have failed in and to bring international forces to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid.
I conveyed this view to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and told him that the National Congress under President Omar al-Bashir rejects the entry of the international forces for several reasons. The first is that their entry will be under Resolution 1706 and the government believes there are ambiguous clauses in it that need clarification, especially the one that talks about the presence of police with the international forces. What are their tasks and what will they do. There is no explanation for this and there is no mention of how long will these forces stay or the mandate they are given. This raises suspicions about these international forces. They believe that these forces’ aim is to arrest those accused of human rights violations and war crimes. I told Blair if the people know that these forces will not arrest anyone, then that will be better for defining their task. I said to Blair it is your duty to explain all this to President Al-Bashir. The president himself reiterated several times that the international forces would enter to occupy Sudan and called it a new colonialism. I pointed out to Blair that if this thought is in your mind, then you must explain this to us from now and if you do you not explain to Al-Bashir that you will not stay in Sudan. (sentence as published) There is also the belief that these forces will come to bring down the government, like it happened in Iraq. I conveyed all these things and apprehensions to Blair and he said: There is no desire like the one you conveyed to me. But he said: “If the government does not change its stand within three weeks, then you will not have time to think.” I asked him specifically: What do you want to do? But Blair refused to answer and said: “I will not tell you. Only you have a specific period of time.”
(Asharq al-Awsat) Do you not think that the stands of the two partners in government have tempted the international community to send the international forces to Darfur and open the way before them?
(Mayardit) Not at all. The international forces will definitely come even if the National Congress and the SPLM agree on a unified opinion, and not because we have different opinions. We do not believe that their arrival will harm any person but will help stop the war in Darfur. If you are personally incapable of doing something, can you not ask help from me? We have been unable to bring peace, defeat those carrying arms, or silence them militarily and say we have won militarily and therefore the international community should intervene because of our failure and this is what happened now.
(Asharq al-Awsat) In view of these complications that you are talking about, what is the way out then?
(Mayardit) The way out is first a solution of the Darfur problem because it is affecting the peace agreement that is not proceeding in the required way because the international community’s whole attention has shifted to Darfur and all the cards have been mixed up. The war will return to the south if peace is not achieved in Darfur and this is really our fear. We do not want the international forces to enter Darfur by force but with the Sudanese Government’s approval and we are part of this government. President Al-Bashir speaks on behalf of the government and we have not agreed to the international forces’ entry. Even when it was reported that the government decided at the cabinet to reject these forces’ entry and a statement to that effect was made, it was not correct.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Is the presidency institution functioning in a harmonious way and as required and do all the issues go before it before other parties?
(Mayardit) The presidency institution is functioning in the way it was formed but we differ on issues like Darfur and also on implementing the clauses of the peace agreement, which have taken a long time. We talk about an issue and leave it as we do not find a solution for it. For example, the Abyei problem needs discussion and even though we agreed on it before signing the peace agreement, the National Congress backed down and we started negotiations on the problem and how the civilian administration should govern the area, which is clear in the agreement. If our partners want us to create something new that does not exist in the agreement, then I refuse. This shows that we did not act to implement the agreement and this undermines it. The presidency has not met for some time and whenever we sit down to talk about issues, we agree on some of them and disagree on others. I believe seriously that the SPLM is not to blame.
(Asharq al-Awsat) There is talk that the SPLM got $1 billion from the oil share in the south but nothing concrete has impacted on the southerners’ lives. Is this true?
(Mayardit) I cannot comment on this question but you have to go to the south and visit the Juba, Malakal, and Waw areas to see personally if there is anything new there or not. The workers are now spending the salaries and you can ask if this did happen or not and whether the $1 billion you are talking about were received or not and when was it received. These issues do not need my comment but to be seen in practice. If it is confirmed that they did not go to their targets, we have a commission for fighting corruption and there is the general auditor department that was formed in the southern government and they can take the necessary measures. If there is embezzlement, then accountability has to be held and I will not protect any person whatever his position if it is proved that he is corrupt.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Some newspapers in Sudan pointed out that you are present in Juba more than in Khartoum and the inference was that you have no desire to participate in the issues that interest all of Sudan. Is this so or is your dedication to the south and you feel marginalized when you are in Khartoum?
(Mayardit) On the contrary, I am eager to participate in everything that concerns Sudan. We are interested in stability and in letting every person have his share. But there are complications in the situation in the south and I stayed there for a long time and found there were security problems which required my presence so as to reach solutions for them. This was the reason for my presence in Juba for long periods of time. Several people were killed in attacks recently and those behind these attacks and who is killing people remain unknown. In the last incident, 38 persons were killed simultaneously in three areas, the Mankala – Juba, Nimuli – Juba, and Torit -Juba roads, with only seconds between them. There were children and women among the victims in civilian cars all of which were burned. They were shot at close range. There was a second attack the second day on villages in Qumba southeast of Juba. The People’s Army moved to the area and a clash ensued with the attackers, four persons were killed from both sides, and 15 attackers were captured. The press in Khartoum covered this issue and I do not want to comment on it because we have ordered an investigation with those seized to know their backgrounds and to which party they belong. We will see whether they are civilians or military, are from the south or from the Army of God, and why are they continuing to kill civilians, especially as their delegation is in Juba for the negotiations. I informed President Omar al-Bashir and Vice President Ali Uthman. The outcome of the investigations has not appeared yet but we are discussing the matter.
(Asharq al-Awsat) You neutralized the Ugandan Army of God and at the same time were able to arrange negotiations between them and the Ugandan Government and persuaded the international community that Western theories cannot function and there were ways to Africa. You succeeded in this. How are these issues proceeding?
(Mayardit) There are of course complications in this matter and when we talk about these incidents they make the feelings of the Juba citizens toward the Army of God not good because we provided them with food in their points of assembly and their delegation is now in Juba. If they are continuing to kill citizens, then the aid to them and the negotiations should stop and we go to war with them. I rejected this thinking. When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited Juba some time ago and addressed the two negotiations delegation he told them you accepted the mediation of the Sudanese Government and that he was happy with this for solving Uganda’s problem. He appealed to both sides to speed up the negotiations and reach a peace agreement in north Uganda.
We presented proposals in the mediation and expected a result to appear. But the Army of God placed obstacles whenever they got close to an agreement and claimed they wanted to refer the matter to their leadership in the Congo. If it becomes certain to us that the Army of God does not want peace, then we will end their presence here in Juba and tell world public opinion and the world that we failed in the negotiations.
(Asharq al-Awsat) There is talk about disagreements between the SPLM’s historic leadership and there are leaders like Nhial Deng who resigned from the government in the south and went to London and Abdulaziz Adam al-Hilu who immigrated to the United States while Edward Linu stayed away. How true is this and has the movement changed its vision in the new Sudan?
(Mayardit) I do not understand what you mean by saying the movement has changed its vision. Those you are talking about were not expelled and no one expelled them. I appointed Nhial Denge in the national unity government but he refused to work with it and asked to work with the government in the south. I did not force him by specifying a certain ministry and he personally chose the regional cooperation ministry. We gave it to him but he resigned a short time later and before he established his ministry. I remember he asked for permission when we gave him the task of signing a memorandum of cooperation with Kenya and he wrote his resignation before signing it, went to Britain, and did not give us a chance to persuade or even talk to him. I only approved the resignation a short time ago even though it was submitted in May because we were trying to persuade and bring him back. He did not explain to us the reasons for his resignation and we do not know whether he was angry of anything specific. As to Abdulaziz al-Hilu, he had permission for treatment in the United States and did not return from it. I met him three times when I went to the United States and we bought him a ticket to return to Sudan but he asked for another week and has not returned to Sudan so far. As to Edward Linu, he has not left the movement and is now in Juba. From where did you get this information?
(Asharq al-Awsat) The Sudanese Embassy in Washington did not know you were visiting the United States, particularly as there was the idea that Sudanese-American relations were tense and this explains that the embassy did not have a role. Also your visit to Britain, the foreign ministry and the embassy do not have a role even though the foreign minister was appointed through you and he did not come with you to the United States and Britain. This gives rise to the belief that there are stands either by the central government or your minister?
(Mayardit) This is not true. If I want to go to Juba I talk to the president and I talked to President Al-Bashir when I went to the United States and explained to him the program. My visit was known. I am not the one to inform the foreign minister so as to inform the embassy to receive me. The ministry was supposed to tell the embassy as soon as I talked to the president and he approved. This is not my job. I arrived at the airport and did not see the ambassador there to receive me. I do not ask but I can question the ambassador and have the right to do so. The Americans received me at the airport when I went to the United States and they took me directly. I did not go to the VIP lounge but the delegation did. I learned that the ambassador was there but I do not know the reason why he did not come to the hotel during the days I spent in Washington. Did he come to any meetings and I expelled or excluded him? When I arrived in Britain, I found the charge d’affaires at the airport. He came and met with us. I even opted to have this interview with you before the dinner he is hosting for me. When I go to Uganda, the ambassador there attends the meetings with us except when I meet directly with the Ugandan president. It is the same with our ambassador in Kenya. So what is the difference between these countries, the United States, and Britain? In reply to your question, the embassy’s work is not my concern.
(Asharq al-Awsat) There is talk about the White Nile Oil Company and its conflict with Total Company and that SPLM leaders have shares in this company. There is now a case against the Nile Company in Britain. What is the truth about this conflict and if it is proved that some leaders have shares, will you dismiss them?
(Mayardit) I do not know who has shares in the White Nile Company. You can give me this information because I am searching for it. If there was an agreement with this company before the signing of the peace agreement, then this is unacceptable. What reason did they have to conclude an agreement with the movement before the agreement, even if they had the resources to drill. This was not right and the one who signed with this company violated the agreement. It was not in the southern government’s powers or authority. The agreement with Total was done in 1980 under former President Jafar Numayri and it was for 20 years. The contract was not renewed with it. But when the company saw that a peace agreement would be signed, it renewed the contract eight days before that agreement was signed. This renewal with the Sudanese Government before the agreement is unacceptable because the government knew that an oil commission would be established and that oil operations would be a joint action between the southern government and the national unity one. I cannot make a judgment now because the southern government is discussing this issue at present and we have not made a decision on it. If the Total Company files a suit against the White Nile Company or the southern government, then that is something which concerns it. If we find that there are persons behind this, we will then take our measures. I do not want to anticipate events because we have a constitution and laws.
(Asharq al-Awsat) There is investment in the south and it is said it tends to be toward Kenya and Uganda and there is not the required contact with the north though we are still a single state. Is this a sign of certain things?
(Mayardit) In the first place, we did not have an investment commission in the southern government, which is the party that grants the right to companies in the south. This did not exist. If there are Kenyan or Ugandan companies that were approved, we are going to review that after the formation of the investment commission. We have not heard that there are companies from north Sudan whose application for investment was turned down.
(Asharq al-Awsat) The idea is that investment in the south’s infrastructure is directed toward neighboring countries and not given to capital in the north?
(Mayardit) This is not true. I remember that Khartoum Governor Abdul-Halim al-Muta’afi visited Juba recently and agreed with the roads and transport minister to let one of the companies operate in Juba. So it is not true that the government in south Sudan rejects the companies from the north. Companies from neighboring countries came during the war and did the Rumbek- Kaya road and from Lokoshikio in Kenya to Kapoeta in the south. The same companies are now operating in the south and this is not something new.
(Asharq al-Awsat) The Abyei and oil issues and the security arrangements agreement are facing complications. Are you happy with the partnership with the National Congress?
(Mayardit) There are committees working on these issues and we are happy with the partnership. I am still in the palace with President Al-Bashir and his deputy Ali Uthman. Have you heard we quarreled?
(Asharq al-Awsat) But there is talk by Professor Ibrahim Ahmad Omar, the National Congress’s vice chairman, in which he threatened to cancel the peace agreement if the movement agreed to the international forces’ entry in Darfur. What is your comment?
(Mayardit) I did not make a personal stand or prefer to do so. If the National Congress wants to cancel the peace agreement, then it must declare this to the Sudanese people and announce that the war would return to Sudan. The Sudanese people can voice their opinion and I do not want to comment on this.
(Asharq al-Awsat) There are expectations that the SPLM will play at the opening of the National Assembly (parliament) sessions a role in amending the laws that are inconsistent with the constitution. Should we expect such a role?
(Mayardit) I do not want to comment on this because work is still going on.
(Asharq al-Awsat) There is talk that the movement is now turning to the south and has no role in the north. Is this the prelude to secession?
(Mayardit) The movement has a strong presence in the north and is active. In Halfa, the furthest north, we have an active presence as testified by Vice President Ali Uthman who visited the north and witnessed the SPLA’s signs and said his National Congress party was marginalized. Concerning the issue of secession, I say that it is the northerners who will force us to secede while we want unity. If they do not want unity, then they are welcome and the secession will happen if the northerners want it.
(Asharq al-Awsat) We remember that one of Garang’s favorite sayings was that if the northerners wanted secession they had to fight for it?
(Mayardit) Yes. There is a newspaper in Khartoum which writes about secession constantly, the secession of the north from the south. We will fight them if they take up arms against the southerners, like they fought us in the past in order for the unity to be effected by force.
(Asharq al-Awsat) The elections are getting close. Do you have contacts with the political forces in the north?
(Mayardit) We have contacts with all the political forces in the north and south. The date for the elections has not been set or whether they will be held in 2008 or 2009. We cannot however talk about what might happen in the elections and who will contest them. The time for this has not come yet.
(Asharq al-Awsat) But you have not met the political parties’ leaders in the north?
(Mayardit) This is not true. I met Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and Hasan al-Turabi only. I did not meet the communists’ leader Muhammad Ibrahim Naqd. We have joint action constantly with Muhammad Othman Mirghani.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Regarding the movement’s relationship with the Arab world, are there signs of aid from the Arab League? You already visited Egypt and Jordan and are there promises of aid?
(Mayardit) A promise is a promise. We welcome the one who promises us so as to fulfill his promise. For example the donors’ conference that was held in Oslo last year, they have not fulfilled their promises so far or paid their money, except for very few. These funds are to be spent in the south and the areas affected by the war in the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile, Abyei, Darfur, and even the north. But we have not received anything even though we have debts to them. We cannot file a suit against them. As to the Arab countries, I went to Egypt and Jordan and met the Arab League secretary general in Cairo. I am supposed to return to Egypt. They asked me to visit it and this was last year but there were the September incidents with the refugees and I postponed the visit. But I will visit Egypt, the Libyan Jamahiriyah, and Algeria immediately after my return from London.