Last month, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, retiring U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, visited Pittsburgh as guest of the Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition and the Ford Institute for Human Security at the University of Pittsburgh.
He spoke about the ongoing conflicts between and inside the two countries and international diplomatic efforts to resolve them. He stressed the importance of the role of grassroots advocates in reminding diplomats of the needs of the people whose lives are affected by their negotiations. He considered the relatively peaceful separation of South Sudan a remarkable achievement; although the two Sudans have a wary and hostile relationship at present, he thought a return to war is unlikely.
The U.S. has spent billions for peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and development in the two Sudans, more than half of it in Darfur, but the cost of continued instability and the potential for a regionwide conflict would be even higher. President Barack Obama continues to place a high priority on resolving the conflicts in Sudan and will soon appoint a new special envoy.
Since Mr. Lyman's visit some promising developments have been reported. An imminent end to the yearlong shutdown of South Sudanese oil extraction because of alleged exorbitant transit fees and pilferage of oil transported through the pipeline in Sudan was agreed on last week. The two sides have also begun to withdraw troops from the border areas. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has announced that he will not run for reelection in 2015.
Although serious unresolved problems remain, I am encouraged to hope for progress toward peace and security for the Sudanese people.
MARY DAWN EDWARDS