September 29, 2010 (Washington DC) — The Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti was interviewed by Mohammad Ali Salih, correspondent for Asharq Alawsat," London-based an Arabic daily newspaper. Karti, a controversial figure within Sudan’s ruling National Congress party (NCP), has been labeled by some senior Southern officials as somebody with “extreme conservative views”.
In June, day after his appointment as Foreign Minister, Karti, started his first news conference by lashing out at the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), demanding the North-South border demarcation before the referendum vote, and threatening war if the semi-autonomous government refused.
Bellow is the full transcript of the interview:
Debating a Northerner: Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti
By Mohammad Ali Salih
Q: What happened in New York meeting that was attended by President Obama
A: As we expected it, though with a lot of sensational media coverage and statements from some Americans as if the end of the Word was near. They worried about whether the referendum would take place; for about 20 years we have been supporting self-determination. They worried about whether the government would accept the results of the referendum; we told them that once we accepted self-determination, we should accept its results.
Another point: New York meeting with US officials, again, proved to us that there are hidden players who have been, all these years, directing US policy towards Sudan. We have been hearing positive promises from many US officials, but they have mostly been promises; we have to see actions.
Anyway, we welcome the recent positive steps by US officials. Of course, we know the importance and strength of the US on the World stage; if they want to open a new page with us, we have always wanted to open a new page with them. From the beginning, we didn’t know why they put us on their enemy list.
Of course, we are aware that President Obama’s hands are tied as far as domestic US policies are concerned. Not only in the case of Sudan, but, also in cases of US relations with the Arab countries and the Muslim World.
Q: Is the US government with Sudan’s unity or separations?
A: The officials didn’t officially state a position, and we didn’t expect them to, because of their support of the Southerners free will. But, we have always reminded the US officials that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA, of 2005) has an article that prefers unity to separation. This is our strategy with the Americans:
“You signed the CPA, the CPA prefers unity, and you should support the CPA.”
Q: Is it in the US interest to have a united or divided Sudan?
A: Of course, they decide that. But, any rational person must prefer unity to break-up, for Sudan, for Africa and for the US.
Q: Do you tell that to the US officials?
A: As I just told you, we tell the Americans: “You signed the CPA (former Secretary of State Collin Powell, during George W. Bush administration). You are part of the CPA which prefers unity.” We also tell them: “You are a third party in an agreement between two parties; why do you support a party against the other?”
This is what CPA says: Item 2.4.2: “The Parties shall work with the (AEC) Commission during the Interim Period with a view to improving institutions and arrangements created under the Agreement and making the unity of Sudan attractive.”
Q: Tell us about efforts by Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration?
A: He visited Sudan about 20 times; we appreciate his efforts. He listened to us, made promises, returned to Washington, made no actions, returned to us, made promises, and so on. Recently, he returned to us and said he had good news and that Obama was going to declare a new policy.
So far, we haven’t seen written specific points. All what we hear are media sensational news about punishments, ultimatums and slogans: “a carrot and a stick”; “a big carrot and a long stick”: and, recently, “pieces of carrots,” one piece at a time.
I don’t know whether to cry or laugh; this great and important country has found itself in vicious circles, not only in its relation with Sudan, but, also with other Arab and Muslim countries.
Q: You blamed “certain circles” in Washington; what are they?
A: As a foreign minister, I would rather not name names. But, I can say this: throughout the years, conservative Republicans, extreme Christians and extreme Jews have been greatly influencing US policies towards Sudan and other Arab and Muslim countries. Also the Black Causes (Black members of Congress): I believe those are misguided, don’t have enough facts, repeat accusations of past slavery by Arabs, have a grudge against Arabs and Muslims and want to revenge by dividing the Sudan.
Of course, we are aware of the US politics complications and of Washington’s lobbies and pressure groups. But, that should prevent us from insisting that the current US policies are not, in the final analysis, in the interest of Sudan, the Africans, the Arabs, the Muslims – and the Americans themselves.
Q: Do you see differences between Bush’s and Obama’s administration in this regard?
A: Not in matters of promises-without-actions. After 2006 Abuja (Nigeria) agreement on Darfur, and I was a witness, former President Bush called President Al-Bashir, congratulated him on the agreement which was sponsored by the US, and promise to open a new page in the relations between the two countries, to lift the embargo and to provide assistant. Promises, promises. Now, under Obama, there doesn’t seem to be many differences. Those who talk about “sports game overtime,” should notice that the US itself seems to have realized “during the overtime” that Sudan’s break-up is possible.
Q: Sudan’s Vice-President and President of GOSS, Silva Kiir Mayardit, was last week in Washington, and said that all indications pointed towards an overwhelming Southerners’ vote for impendence?
A: We have two major problems in negotiating with Silva Kiir and SPLM’s leaders: First, they are not honest negotiators; they say something today and deny it tomorrow and they keep changing their minds. Second, it seems that there are driven by hidden factors. A US official visits Juba, or one of them comes to Washington and we hear from them something different.
Now, when Silva Kiir came to Washington, why didn’t he say that the CPA has an article that prefers unity? Also, why did he say “independence,” not “secession”? This is what CPA says: Item 2.5: "At the end of the six-year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by GOS and SPLM/A for the people of Southern Sudan to: confirm the unity of Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the peace agreement, or to vote for secession".
Q: Silva Kiir also said that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), during five years since CPA, didn’t make unity attractive?
A: Another example of them being disingenuous is our believe that certain circles drive them. The NCP had made unity attractive in three major ways: First, is committed to the CPA which, clearly, prefers unity. Second, is committed to the referendum and its results, unity or secession. Third, the government, since CPA, has spent about three billions dollars in the South, in construction and development projects. Mind you, this is from our share of the oil; not from the South’s share. I wonder what has the Southerners done with their share?
Q: Do the Southerners, factually, want secession or unity?
A: There are huge differences between the elite, the SPLM leaders, and the citizens. That is the reason we insist the referendum should be free and fair, because we are sure the average Southerner is not against the North. How could he be and there are about a million and a half in the North? They said they were bombarded by the North, but, still came to the North. Why? Because the Northerners are good, decent and proud people. They could have never found a similar treatment had they moved to Kenya and Uganda.
Q: What if the referendum will not be fair and free?
A: I would rather not give you an answer that would add to the problems; I would just say we hope the referendum will be free and fair.
Q: How about SPLM leaders that you said we different from the average Southerner?
A: SPLM leaders are using terrorism tactics to prevent the Southerners from voting for unity. They allow secessionists to demonstrate, but not the unionists. They threat, pressure, and fire whoever calls for unity. Look at what happened to Dr. Lual Deng, Minister of Oil, after his statements to “Asharq Alawsat.” (In an interview, Deng called for unity and said that John Garang, SPLM/SPLA founder and leader was his friend and boss, and was a unionist. Few days after the interview Dr. Deng issued a statement denying what he said, with news reports that he was criticized, pressured and almost fired).
We don’t know what more we can do to the SPLM leaders. We send ministers and top officials to Juba to help the South in construction and development projects, and they are told that the South would coordinate and cooperate with Kenya and Uganda.
Another point about SPLM leaders: they cooperate with certain US groups that we believe don’t wish well to the Sudan, North and South. All what these groups want is the break-up Sudan as a part of efforts to weaken the Arab and Muslim countries. These groups keep pressuring us, and sending us a demand after a demand – the only demand we haven’t hear from them is to not to be Muslims.
Q: In interviews with “Asharq Alawsat,” some Southern leaders who prefer secession demanded the following from the Northerners: (1) Apology for past mistakes. (2) Financial Reparations. (3) Secular constitution. (4) Not called “abid” (slave)?
A: (1) Apology for what? For President Al-Bashir as the first Sudanese president who called for self-determination for the South? For our commitment to the CPA? For withdrawal of all our troops from the South, while Southern troops are still in the North?
(2) Reparations? How about all the money the North spent in the South throughout the years? For, since CPA, spending three billion dollars, form our oil revenue shares, in the South?
(3) If they want secession, why do they worry about secular constitution? In the name of the so-called “secular” constitution, Sudan has been invaded, punished and pressured. Is Sudan the only country with an Islamic constitution? Enemies of Sudan, Arabs and Muslims have helped SPLA to use tanks to invade parts of the North; they almost reached Port Sudan (the main port on the Red Sea), and declared that they were planning to take Khartoum, remove the Islamic government and write a “secular” constitution. Thanks to God Almighty, they failed.
(4) It is irresponsible and a travesty that SPLM leaders talk about being insulted as “abids” (slaves). The Sudan is facing a historical chapter and they talk about being insulted? People insult people in all countries and throughout history. SPLM leaders talk about this proves their short-sightedness and need to be more confident in themselves.
Thanks to God, NCP is very confident of itself.
Q: Does the NCP plan to accept the South secession so as to keep the North under the Sharia Islamic law?
A: First, how could that be and we signed the CPA that clearly prefers unity? Second, the recent general elections have shown that the majority of the Northerners voted for President Al-Bashir and NCP.
Q: If the Sudan breaks-up, it will be a historical step. Who will be responsible? NCP?
A: Also the SPLM.
Q: Finally, are you optimistic or pessimistic?
A: With these foreign efforts to poison the situation in the Sudan, and with the SPLM terrorist tactics against Southern unionists, I believe unity would lead to more problems and would hurt the Sudan more. Meantime, if the referendum will be free and fair, we believe the majority of the Southerners will vote for unity.