In-depth: Living with the LRA: The Juba Peace Initiative
SUDAN-UGANDA: Interview with David Gressly, UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator
David Gressly, UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, covering southern Sudan
JUBA, 31 May 2007 (IRIN) - Interview with David Gressly, United Nations Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, covering southern Sudan
QUESTION: Are the peace talks making progress?
ANSWER: They are going very well now that there has been agreement to resume the talks. We went through a period of about three months when the talks were suspended and people were very anxious that they might not resume. But they are resuming, and in an atmosphere of great optimism. I think we are on the right track and have the possibility of making progress. Q: Why do you think there is motivation to reach a deal at this stage?
A: Both sides truly are motivated to come to an agreement at this point. I think there is fatigue for the number of years that this particular crisis has been going on, particularly in northern Uganda. The two sides have both just come to the conclusion that it’s time to bring it to closure in the best possible way.
Q: What are the humanitarian implications of this crisis in northern Uganda?
A: In northern Uganda there have been large numbers of people displaced, over a million, as a result of this. This [process] offers the opportunity - if an agreement is reached - for all these people to go home, resume normal lives and start a process of reconciliation within Uganda, similar to what we are actually seeing here in Sudan. Q: What impact has the conflict had regionally?
A: It is much more of a regional issue than most people realise. The greatest impact is indeed in northern Uganda, but Southern Sudan has seen the impact of this crisis as well for many years. It was limited initially to the eastern Equatoria region, bordering Uganda, but as recently as 2006, it actually covered all the southern parts of Southern Sudan – blocking humanitarian access, blocking the return of refugees, returnees and IDPs, and in some cases blocking major roads, like those coming into Juba. So it has had an economic as well as humanitarian impact on Southern Sudan.
The impact on DRC has been less, but the threat is there. The CAR is also a potential area that could suffer if this conflict is not resolved. So it’s truly a regional problem and we have to take this opportunity to support and help the two parties come to a conclusion. Q: It’s been described as one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters - why?
A: Well I think because of the number of IDPs – we talk of more than a million people displaced, which alone defines a major humanitarian situation. And also because it has had an impact on other countries. I think the description is correct.
Has the issue of child soldiers and abductees been discussed in the peace talks?
Certainly the whole issue of demobilisation will be on the agenda. The talks have not reached a level at this point where those issues have come forward. The objective of getting the peace talks started again is so that we can get to these issues. The whole issue of demobilisation will include any children and will be addressed particularly at that time. And there may be ongoing issues of humanitarian assistance to women and children who may be accompanying the LRA as well. Q: What is the significance of child soldiers in the LRA?
A: It seems to be the primary source of recruitment ... and there have been large numbers of abductions that have been recorded. So this is a concern. It’s central to the LRA issue; more central than most other groups of this nature. It’s fundamental to discussions and negotiations that will be going ahead.