In the Sudan, Annan hears – and echoes – calls for peace
After driving from the capital, Khartoum, for 40 minutes over dusty and bumpy roads, Mr. Annan reached a camp housing some 100,000 people displaced by war and natural disaster, where a group of residents unfurled a banner that read “Stop War, We Need Development. No for War, Yes for Peace.”
The displaced people also chanted, “Salam. Wahda. Sawa Sawa,” – or “No North without the South. No South without the North. We are all equals.”
The Secretary-General said that he had come to the Sudan in the name of peace. “When it comes to peace,” he told the group, “no one needs to convince you who have suffered from the war the need for peace and what peace will bring.” He then returned their chant of “Salam, Wahda, Sawa Sawa,” drawing enthusiastic applause and cheers.
Walking around the camp in the scorching heat, the Secretary-General visited a clinic where four mothers were having their infants vaccinated, talked to girls who were attending school, and stopped at a local church. “I think the leaders owe it to you and you owe it to yourselves and if we all work together and put the enmities of the past behind us we should be able to bring peace to this land,” he said. “I can assure you as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I'm going to do my best to work with your Government and your brothers of the South to bring peace to Sudan.”
Mr. Annan then met with Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail on the peace efforts underway and on humanitarian access, first in a meeting of delegations and then in a one-on-one session between the two.
As he walked to a lunch hosted by the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General stopped to chat with a group of schoolgirls clad in blue tunic uniforms who were waving at him. One of the girls, in response to the Secretary-General’s remarks about their future leadership roles as women, quipped, to his delight, “We are going to be better than men.”
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General said he had been closely following the discussions going on near Nairobi, and added, “Like all concerned, I am hopeful that the parties will come to an agreement before they conclude their meeting on the 20th of July, and then build on it.” Those talks on the Sudan are being held under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Among his other scheduled appointments today were meetings with Brig. Gen. Ian Wilhelmsen, head of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Nuba Mountain Cease-fire Monitoring Commission, and former Prime Minister Sadiq Al Mahdi. He was also set to meet with President Omar al-Bashir at the Presidential Palace.