Tough Love by Susan Rice

Tough Love by Susan Rice

Author:Susan Rice
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2019-10-07T16:00:00+00:00

The postelection euphoria was short lived.

In the six months after the vote leading up to official independence, the many issues that remained unresolved between north and south again came to the fore. In May, I led a second UNSC delegation to Sudan and South Sudan to try and defuse tensions and smooth the path to independence now just two months away. The challenge was exacerbated by the fact that Sudan remained a bone of contention between the U.S. and Russia. Most, if not all of the time, Russia vigorously protected the brutal Khartoum regime against economic and other pressures, while it readily dismissed southern Sudanese aspirations for independence and was studiously indifferent to the suffering of its people.

During one private argument on South Sudan, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin taunted me: “You think this new state will become independent, and all will be great. But I tell you, it will be stillborn and a mess for many years to come.” Certain he was wrong, I strenuously objected.

While Vitaly was always reluctant to travel overseas with the Security Council, preferring to send a deputy, he especially hated going to Africa, which I think he felt was uncomfortable and beneath him. Churkin, French ambassador Araud, and other colleagues complained more intensely when I led UNSC trips to the field, because I insisted that we get out of stifling meeting rooms in the capital and visit real people facing real challenges—in rural health clinics, desolate refugee camps, and remote villages that had seen recent conflict.

This time, since I was leading a particularly consequential and timely mission to Sudan, Vitaly made a point of coming along, I believe to try to check me. I knew Africa far better than he, so check me he could not, but bother me he did. One of my most vivid and not-so-cherished memories is of Vitaly walking barefoot past me down a long hotel corridor in Khartoum without speaking. He was wearing only a white hotel bathrobe that didn’t close properly at the belly, exposing too much of his pale chest. Apparently, something had happened to his suit. An image once seen, it is impossible to forget.

In the midst of our visit to Khartoum, fighting broke out along the soon-to-be north-south border, with Sudanese forces seizing the disputed Abyei area and moving troops into the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan regions—southern areas of Sudan that border what would soon be South Sudan and have populations that resist Khartoum’s authority. Khartoum’s aggressive actions enraged me and most other members of our delegation, prompting us to deliver very tough messages to our Sudanese interlocutors. Sudan’s sustained bombing of these areas also led the U.N. to ramp up its efforts to defuse tensions and the U.S. to warn that improved relations were at risk if Sudan persisted. In the weeks just before South Sudan’s independence, we successfully pressed the two countries to pull back their forces and accede to an Ethiopian-led U.N. border force to demilitarize and monitor Abyei.

Tensions subsided sufficiently for South Sudan’s Independence Day, July 9, 2011, to be a raucous celebration.


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