Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] Pagan Amum, who is currently on a visit to the United States, said that US officials and ambassadors of big powers at the UN Security Council promised him that they will immediately recognize the state of south Sudan if the southerners vote for independence in the referendum on self-determination, which is due to be held early next year.
In a brief interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Washington, Amum said that the southerners hold the view that the ruling National Congress Party, led by President Omar al-Bashir, failed to make unity attractive to them and that this means the southerners will choose independence.
While in New York, Amum attended a UN Security Council meeting on Monday that was held to discuss the issue of peace and implementation of the peace agreement. Also, he met with the ambassadors of big powers and UN Security Council members. On Thursday, he addressed the US Congress and met with US officials.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What was the purpose of your New York visit?
[Amum] We attended a UN Security Council meeting on the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement that was signed in 2005. In addition, we held intensive contacts and secured assurances from the UN Security Council regarding two points. The first, eagerness to hold a free and fair referendum in January to enable the southerners to determine their future. The second, respect for the southerners’ decision.
The ambassadors of key states in the UN Security Council told us that, if the southerners vote for independence, they will recognize it and support the new state.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are you doing in Washington?
[Amum] I testified before a Congress committee that discussed the situation in the Horn of Africa. Also, I will meet other US officials and figures.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What did [US Envoy to Sudan] General Gretion say?
[Amum] He said that the United States is ready to give aid to make sure that the referendum will be held on schedule and will be free and fair. He also said the United States will respect the result of the referendum and that, if the southerners choose independence, it will recognize it and assist the new state.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What did you say to him?
[Amum] We said we too are eager to hold a free and fair referendum on the set date.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you tell them that you want unity or separation?
[Amum] We said that the National Congress Party failed to make unity attractive and that this means the southerners will choose independence.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion now?
[Amum] We will go along with what the southerners choose.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] As members of the SPLM leadership, why do you not declare your opinion? Why do you not tell your fellow southerners that separation is better for this and that reason and that unity is better for this and that?
[Amum] I said to you that we will go along with what the southerners will decide. I also said to you the southerners hold the view that the National Congress Party failed to make unity attractive and that this means the southerners will choose independence.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Addressing the Congress two months ago, Gen Gretion said that the south needs effective government and transparency.
[Amum] We told him that we made many great achievements in the south in the past five years, in spite of the scant resources and capabilities and weak infrastructure, in spite of the fact that the southerners are new to the construction of a state, and in spite of a long drawn-out civil war and obstacles created by the National Congress Party.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] A report issued by the US Agency for International Development last week referred to problems of corruption and bribery in south Sudan.
[Amum] In spit e of the impediments to which I referred, we exert great efforts to put an end to corruption and bribery. In addition, we recently set up the South Sudan Anticorruption Committee. Also, President Salva Kiir issued orders for the dismissal of the finance and economic planning ministers in the south. I mentioned this in my testimony before the Congress’s African Affairs Committee yesterday.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] US newspapers published reports on tribal clashes in south Sudan and said they might suggest that the southerners are unable to govern themselves.
[Amum] First, south Sudan is not the only place where clashes take place. Tribal and ethnic problems and clashes also happen in the north and in Darfur. Second, we have many evidences that the National Congress Party helps the armed opposition movements in the south. President Salva Kiir recently dispatched a delegate to Khartoum for a meeting with President Omar al-Bashir on this issue.
[Salih] Before visiting the United States, you were in Kenya where you attended a meeting between Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir and US Vice President Joseph Biden. What did you say to him and what did he say to you?
[Amum] We briefed him on the post-election phase and the situation before the referendum. We said to him that the National Congress Party impedes the implementation of the peace agreement. For his part, he told us that the United States wants the National Congress Party and SPLM to cooperate to achieve peace and stability and hold a free and fair referendum.
He also said that the US Government will recognize the referendum result and will extend aid after the referendum, especially if the southerners vote for independence. He added that the US Government will immediately recognize this independence.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] New reports by the US Agency for International Development indicated that the agency will give $60 million in aid to ensure a free and fair referendum.
[Amum] This confirms Vice President Biden’s pledge to us when we met with him. During my meetings with officials here, I expressed the SPLM’s gratitude for the US aid whether for or after the aid. For our part, we are interested in seeing the aid continue and increase after the referendum, especially if the southerners choose independence.