In the coming days I will be in Juba and Khartoum, the capitals of South Sudan and Sudan.
My fellow Elders Martti Ahtisaari, Mary Robinson and I are going there to try to ensure that the terrible lessons of war are not forgotten — and to share our hope that these two beautiful countries can find a path to peace. We will relay the world’s fears of another deadly conflict that would shatter the hopes of both nations and the broader region. And we will tell the leaders that, while it will take time and patience, we believe — as a result of our own experience — that peace can be achieved.
One of our main reasons for going to Sudan and South Sudan now is the humanitarian situation, which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. We are already witnessing an unbearable catastrophe with the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in Sudan, and the ensuing outpouring of refugees into South Sudan and Ethiopia.
As I write I am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the African Union is chairing the vital talks between the two countries. The international community is united in its urgent desire to see these talks succeed, with a deadline of August 2 looming very near. This precious window of opportunity cannot be squandered. We will lend our weight and our voice here in any way that we can.
Both Sudan and South Sudan need peace to prosper
I have had the chance to get to know President Salva Kiir well, but this will be my first visit to his country, nearly a year after it became the newest nation on the planet. South Sudan’s clamour for independence was such a powerful moment. Now I hope many more achievements await its citizens: gleaming schools, sturdy roads, health facilities and families whose children can look forward to a stable and prosperous future.
But this vision is still distant, and hinges on peace with the North — and within. After the pride of independence, an even greater pride awaits the people when they succeed in building an inclusive government across South Sudan’s territory, and across communities and faiths. In Jonglei State, for example, we know of local elders and religious leaders doing much to overcome internal violence. I believe a commitment to dialogue can always overcome unrest, difference and deprivation.
The North faces internal conflicts of its own, as well as with the South. Two other members of The Elders, Lakhdar Brahimi and Jimmy Carter, met President al-Bashir in Khartoum recently, and were pleased to have the opportunity to listen to his perspective. His willingness to discuss the situation with the Elders reinforces our common belief in the vital importance of sustained dialogue.
CNN Editor’s note: Archbishop Desmond Tutu is often described as South Africa’s moral conscience and is a global champion for human rights. A passionate and compelling speaker, he took the anti-apartheid struggle to the world. In his own country, he led thousands of people in demonstrations, always preaching non-violence. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and later chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine apartheid-era crimes. Archbishop Tutu is Chair of The Elders.