The Elders


Encouraging the path of peace for Sudan and South Sudan

Following the May 2012 visit to Sudan by Jimmy Carter and Lakhdar Brahimi, in July 2012 Desmond Tutu, Martti Ahtisaari and Mary Robinson travelled to the region to further encourage peace efforts between Sudan and South Sudan.

As the people of South Sudan prepared to celebrate the first anniversary of their independence, Desmond Tutu, Martti Ahtisaari and Mary Robinson travelled to Ethiopia and South Sudan on 5-10 July 2012.

During their discussions in Addis Ababa and Juba, the Elders urged the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan to pursue the path of peace and make decisive progress in the new round of African Union-chaired talks.

The Elders began their visit on 5 July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the African Union-chaired talks between Sudan and South Sudan had just resumed.

At their meeting with Thabo Mbeki, former South African president and Chairperson of the AU’s High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and Pierre Buyoya, former President of Burundi and member of the AUHIP, they praised the Panel’s efforts in bringing the parties back to the negotiating table.

The Elders met President Salva Kiir in Juba to discuss the challenges facing the people of South Sudan one year on from their independence.

During their discussion, the Elders emphasised the importance of dialogue to resolving disagreement and conflict.

Following their meeting with President Kiir, the Elders held a press conference where they welcomed the resumption of talks between Sudan and South Sudan.

Desmond Tutu said: “Dialogue is the only way to resolve their differences and to build two viable states; military force is a dead-end, promising nothing but suffering and misery to their people.”

Mary Robinson highlighted the humanitarian impact, noting that the conflicts in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have led to massive population displacement, including a flow of over 180,000 refugees into South Sudan. See the photo story of the Elders’ visit to Yusuf Batil refugee camp.

Martti Ahtisaari emphasised the potential of South Sudan, stating: “Its situation would be transformed by peace. Sustained dialogue with Sudan – and sound, inclusive government within – is the only way for South Sudan’s citizens to reap the benefits of their hard-earned sovereignty.”

During their discussions with Muslim and Christian faith leaders, the Elders were encouraged by their commitment to working for peace within South Sudan as well as between the North and South.

In this photo Desmond Tutu meets Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop and Primate of Episcopal Church of the Sudan, in Juba.

The Elders discussed the health, education and rights of women and girls in South Sudan during a roundtable discussion with representatives from women’s groups in Juba.

The Elders also called for greater representation of women in the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan.

On the eve of the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, Desmond Tutu, Martti Ahtisaari and Mary Robinson attended an ecumenical church service organised by the Sudan Council of Churches. President Salva Kiir also attended.

Desmond Tutu addressed the audience, expressing the Elders’ hope that the people of the young nation will be able to enjoy the fruits of both peace and independence:

“It must be something wonderful to be a citizen of the newest nation in the world. You are brand new out of the box! Now, the Elders want to come back to South Sudan and celebrate the fact that it is peaceful and prosperous.”

Photos: Adriane Ohanesian | The Elders


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The Elders are independent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

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