Story Publication logo June 23, 2007

Optimism and reality


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Gabriel Deng, Koor Garang and Garang Mayuol, Southern Sudanese "Lost Boys" in the U.S., were forced...

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Multiple Authors

Jen Marlowe, for the Pulitzer Center

"Without optimism, I have no right to call myself a freedom fighter," Pagan Amum, the Secretary General of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement told us. "This optimism is not calculated, it's organic. Optimism, coupled with action, is what makes a revolutionary."

We were sitting with Pagan Amum, awaiting a quick and impromptu audience with Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan. We had been scheduled to have an interview with Pagan the previous morning, but it had been cancelled.

"You better make use of the time we have sitting here now," the Secretary General told us, so David got out his digital recorder and I snapped the camera with a fresh tape onto the tripod.

David had interviewed the Secretary General during his previous trip to Juba, in December 2005. He had recalled then that Pagan Amum had seemed frustrated at Khartoum's dragging its feet on some of the key provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that had been signed in January, 2005--for example, on establishing the Boundary Commission, which would ascertain the borders between North and South Sudan. Without determining the borders, it can't be known which oil fields are in which territory--which subsequently affects the South's 50% of oil revenue they are entitled to for oil from the North.

Pagan Amum was, however, this time around, surprisingly positive about the progress that had been made on those sticking points--more so than anyone else we had spoken to during our month here.

The SPLM has, no doubt, accomplished a lot and has much to be proud of. But, as Pagan Amum would be the first to point out, the work has only just begun. There is a vast difference between signing a peace agreement and bringing the development and long-term stability that will actually secure a peace.

As we prepare to leave Sudan for Kakuma camp in Kenya (we were supposed to go today, but our aircraft is stuck somewhere because of rain), I can only hope that next time I return, I will see more evidence on the ground in the form of the most basic health services, education, food security, roads, that matches Pagan Amum's confidence and optimism. The country and her people need it desperately.


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