[Khartoum, Sudan - As delivered by, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders]
We, the Elders, are here because we care deeply for the fate of our planet, and we feel intensely the suffering of millions of people in Darfur who yearn for nothing more than peace and dignity.
We are here in Sudan because we want to listen to the voices of those who have not been heard and want to explore ways that we can lend our own voices to peace.
The Elders are a new group of older people, who have spent their lives seeking ways to improve the human condition. Invited by Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel, we came together on July 18th to discuss how we could contribute our experience to resolving some of the world’s most difficult crises and how we could offer our thoughts for addressing global issues.
I am honored to have been asked to chair The Elders. Other Elders include: Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, Muhammad Yunus, and we have kept a thirteenth chair for Aung San Suu Kyi, whose courage and commitment to democracy inspires us all. We all pray for her liberation and that of her country.
We do not represent our countries or any country or non-governmental or inter-governmental organisations. We consider ourselves Elders of a global village. Due to the urgency of the conflict and immense human suffering in Darfur, we have decided to come here first. This is our first mission.
Our goals are two-fold. First, we have come to listen, learn, and report on the views of the people of Darfur and others concerned with the crisis. Second, we want to find ways to contribute to the peace process. We understand that peace in Darfur depends in part on the success of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South, and so we are visiting Juba first to learn about the state of the CPA and what might be done to accelerate its implementation.
We will be meeting with President Al-Bashir and his government officials, opposition leaders, civil society organisations, diplomats from many interested countries, the Darfur-Darfur Forum, and United Nations and African Union officials in Khartoum. We will visit Vice President Salva Kiir in Juba and then travel to Al-Fasher and Nyala to speak to the people, and particularly the women, of Darfur and to understand better their concerns and their aspirations.
We do not want to raise anyone’s hopes by this visit. Over long lives, we have come to understand that we cannot make all the things happen that we want, but we have also learned that if we work together and if we have moral force at our back, that we can sometimes do more than we think. We hope to lend all our strength to those who are determined to bring an end to this devastating war.
When we return on October 3rd from Darfur, we will offer our preliminary observations, and we will then write up a report for everyone who cares about Darfur. Until our visit concludes, and we reflect on what we have learned and write the report, we will keep our ears open but will also reserve our judgment.
I would like to introduce each of the members of my delegation and ask if they might say a word. Three of us – Graça Machel, Lakhdar Brahimi, and I – are children of Africa, and so we feel the pain of this country very intensely. Graça has fought for the rights of children and women in Africa and the world. Lakhdar has been one of the world’s most skilled diplomats, negotiating peace in Lebanon and seeking reconciliation in Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Our fourth member, Jimmy Carter, probably knows Sudan and much of Africa better than us; he has improved the health of the people of this country.
In conclusion, we are here because we care and while we have no formula for solving the country’s problems, we do hope to lend our support to a solution.