Following the formation of the national unity government in Sudan the portfolio of Sudanese diplomacy has moved to Dr Lam Akol as the first foreign minister. He says that as foreign minister he does not represent the Sudanese People”s Liberation Movement (SPLM) but he exercises his responsibilities in the name of all of Sudan. He is an academic and a former lecturer at the faculty of engineering at Khartoum University. He participated with the lecturers union at Khartoum University in the popular uprising that removed the May regime (of Ja”far Numayri who came to power in May 1969) in April 1985. Akol joined SPLM in the early 1990s and reached agreement with the salvation government (of Omar al-Bashir”s National Salvation Revolution Command Council) in 1997. He became a prominent minister of transport. He then disagreed with the government and returned to the SPLM. After the signing of the peace agreement in early 2005 and the formation of the national unity government, the SPLM chose him as foreign minister in the national unity government.
In an interview with, he revealed that during its visit to the United States, the delegation led by First Vice President Salva Kiir informed the US Administration that the Sudanese national unity government is cohesive and harmonious and works with a team spirit to achieve the provisions of the peace agreement. He said the delegation”s visit achieved positive results.
Akol said relations with Eritrea are proceeding in the correct direction, and an official Sudanese delegation will visit Asmara soon to discuss outstanding issues in order to achieve rapprochement and restore bilateral relations to normal.
Lam Akol said: There are only two options for dialogue with the Ugandan Lord”s (Resistance) Army: Either they leave (southern Sudan) voluntarily or the Sudanese Government will be compelled to exercise its sovereignty over its territory.
He said Sudan has not yet received any of the funds which the donor states had pledged to give as assistance when the peace agreement was concluded and the national unity government and the southern government were formed. He said: "We will knock on the doors to remind them of the pledges regarding peace in Sudan." He said "the presence of international forces and African forces does not threaten Sudan”s sovereignty. If they did represent a threat we would not have agreed to their entry and presence."
Following is the text of the interview:
(Q) What are the priorities of Sudanese diplomacy in the coming stage?
(A) There are many priorities, and they are all important. First the guidelines of the peace agreement must be implemented, especially with regard to strengthening and improving relations with neighboring states, maintaining contacts with friends, and cooperating with the international and regional communities so as to serve issues such as the establishment of peace, human rights, democracy, guaranteeing freedoms, development, and working toward achieving the development and prosperity of peoples and safeguarding their safety.
(Q) What is the truth about the US stand on dealing with Sudan following the visit of First Deputy Vice President Salva Kiir to Washington?
(A) The United States carries out a great vital role with regard to the process of establishing peace in Sudan. That is why, as a national unity government we attach great importance to resolving and settling relations with it on the bilateral level. That is because we are well aware of the importance of the United States as a superpower and its influence in the international community and international activity. That calls for an effort to maintain good relations with it. The official visit of First Deputy Vice President Salva Kiir is the first visit by a high level delegation after the signing of the peace agreement in Nairobi in 9 January 2005.
Many people had expected that the visit of the first deputy vice president to the United States will produce immediate results, such as lifting the sanctions imposed on Sudan. However, those who know how the US Administration handles such issues will realize that making a decision takes time. During the visit we explained to the US Administration the new situation in Sudan, based on the peace agreement and peace documents. We asked for a review of the old policies toward Sudan. We informed them that the national unity government – the National Congress, the SPLM, and the other political forces – is a cohesive and harmonious government and works with the spirit of one team to implement the provisions of the peace agreement. I can say that we have achieved positive results with regard to the sanctions imposed on Sudan. US Administration officials promised to continue the dialogue in that direction. In fact a decision was made to lift the embargo on spare parts for railway lines which have been greatly affected by the sanctions. A request has been submitted to the US Congress to lift the embargo on spare parts for Sudanese railway lines, and that is a good start.
(Q) What is the stand with regard to tackling the situation in Darfur?
(A) The two sides had identical views on the need for the factions that carry arms in Darfur to be untied. Such an important step will help to bring about a quick solution to the crisis.
(Q) How do you view the warning of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that there will be complete anarchy in Darfur if the fighting between the militias continues?
(A) I have not read the interview and I have no comment on it.
(Q) How far have the efforts to overcome tension with Asmara and improve relations with it gone?
(A) I can say that relations with our neighbor Eritrea are proceeding in the right direction, that is toward understanding and rapprochement. The visit of the Eritrean delegation led by the foreign minister to Kharotum was successful, for we have reached agreement to form a joint political committee headed by the foreign ministers of the two countries. We also agreed on ending media attacks. I expect that soon a Sudanese delegation will move to hold meetings with the Eritrean side in Asmara to discuss outstanding issues and eliminate obstacles in the way of good neighborly relations between the two countries. We are full of hope that the coming round of talks will lead to positive results that will push ties and relations between the two neighboring and fraternal countries to normal.
(Q) Has the special initiative that was proposed to Uganda and the Lord”s (Resistance) Army to southern Sudan to sit down around the table and engage in dialogue and negotiations instead of war and fighting succeeded?
(A) Many proposals have been put forward to resolve the problem of the Ugandan Lord”s Army inside Sudanese territory, and to activate the solution that is reached through dialogue. However, a warrant order issued by the International Criminal Court for the arrest of Joseph Kony (leader of the Lord”s Army) to put him on trial has prevented the continuation of efforts in that direction. Consequently, dialogue with it has become out of the question.
(Q) How then will the situation be resolved?
(A) The Ugandan Lord”s Army has two options now: Either to leave Sudanese territory voluntarily or the Sudanese Government will be compelled to exercise its sovereignty over its territory.
(Q) Within the framework of attaching importance to neighboring states in this stage, what about the Egyptian role?
(A) One does not need to mention that Sudanese-Egyptian relations are bound by historical ties in view of their geographical, historical, and cultural proximity and the interconnections and continued contacts between the two countries. Perhaps the importance of those relations is greatly reflected by the visit of President Umar al-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir to Egypt following the signing of the peace agreement. We do not hide our appreciation for Egypt or the fact that we look to Egypt to support the process to establish comprehensive peace in Sudan, and also to contribute — in view of its influence in the Arab world — toward bringing assistance from the Arab and friendly states in order to strengthen stability and peace in Sudan, for that in turn will constitute a factor of stability in the region. With regard to southern Sudan, we greatly appreciate Egypt”s support for the peace agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa in 1972. Egypt provided 300 annual scholarships for boys and girls from southern Sudan to study at Egyptian universities and higher institutes, for education goes hand-in-hand with the development of human sources, and is a priority in the stage of peace. Man is the objective and the instrument of development. We hope such vital support for the sons of southern Sudanese will continue.
(Q) Have the EU states and other states begun to fulfill their pledges to provide financial support and assistance for the reconstruction of the war-damaged areas?
(A) Those states took the initiative of meeting in Warsaw in April 2005. They pledged to provide financial assistance to achieve development and services in the war-damaged areas and to provide a total of 4.5 billion euros. However, so far we have not received any of those funds which they pledged to pay toward development, services, and peace.
(Q) Should not international aid be provided once the peace agreement becomes a reality?
(A) The pledge was linked with the establishment of a national unity government, the southern government, and the governments of the other provinces in Sudan. Those governments have been established. That is why we are looking forward for those states to fulfill their commitments and pledges so that it will be possible to eliminate the distortions caused by the war and implement development projects and services in the interest of the citizens who have suffered from the woes of war. On our part, we will continue to knock on their doors so that they fulfill their pledges and commitments.
(Q) Who supervises the presence of UN forces in southern Sudan and the presence of African Union forces in western Sudan?
(A) There is an agreement between the Sudanese Government and the UN forces on one hand, and there is an agreement between the Sudanese Government and the African Union forces on the other, with regard to their tasks, movements, and dealings with the Sudanese Government.
(Q) However, does not the presence of this number of forces pose a threat to Sudan”s sovereignty?
(A) Those forces exist to carry out specific tasks and have a specific mission, and their presence is governed by agreements. If they had posed a threat we would not have accepted their presence.
(Q) What is your comment on the warning by the prominent politician and diplomat Francis Dainik on the fear of the outbreak of civil war over (Ebeyi) and the existence of mobilization that portends a possible flare-up?
(A) I have not seen the report, and I have no comment.
(Q) What is the effect of the recent developments on the Sudanese-Chadian border?
(A) Sudan is very anxious to maintain good neighborly relations especially with the countries with which we have interconnections and ties, such as our neighbor Chad. On our part we do all what is necessary to eliminate any kind of tension between the two countries, because such tension harms the two countries and peoples. The Government insists on its stand in refusing to host the Chadian opposition within its territory, and is seeking very seriously to create stability along the common border. Our interest lies in Chad”s stability and not in inflaming the conflict or provoking tension.