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University continues work for Sudan

Megan Doyle | Thursday, February 3, 2011

A University delegation presented a student petition to policymakers in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., in December to advocate for a sustainable peace in Sudan.

Social Concerns chair Pat McCormick, men’s lacrosse operations coordinator Kevin Dugan, graduate student Emmanuel Gore and junior lacrosse player Jake Brems met with representatives from the government and Catholic Relief Services during their trip.

“The visit to D.C. was the culmination of all the work we had all done as a school, not just student government but also the lacrosse team, the Kroc Institute, the Center for Social Concerns and dorms,” McCormick said. “All of these groups had come together to speak for justice and for a peaceful referendum. What was so exciting was to have the opportunity … to take Notre Dame’s advocacy to Washington and to Baltimore to make sure the voices of Notre Dame students were heard.”

The two-day itinerary included talks with Kalpen Modi, associate director of public engagement at the White House, Samantha Power, special assistant to President Barack Obama for Sudan, and Karen Richardson, international affairs liaison. The group also met with Peter QuAranto, the special envoy to Sudan from the State Department, and Catholic Relief Services.

“The discussion focused on the students’ campus-wide campaign to raise awareness of the Jan. 9 referenda in Sudan, genocide in Darfur and the critical role that young people play in mobilizing communities around key humanitarian issues,” a press release from Modi stated.

The northern and southern parts of Sudan have been in civil war for over 50 years. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) officially ended war in 2005 and called for six years of peace talks between the two regions. The agreement also scheduled a referendum for Jan. 9 in which Southern Sudan would vote on independence from Northern Sudan.

Notre Dame’s involvement with Sudan began on Oct. 5, 2010, when a delegation of Sudanese bishops visited the University to speak about the CPA. The bishops then travelled to Washington, D.C. and New York City to meet with national leaders and discuss the crisis.

As the referendum approached, the bishops said both sides began stockpiling weapons, and the possibility of violence loomed for the nation. The New York Times reported that while the results of the referendum are not official, nearly 99 percent of Southern Sudan voted for secession after 3 million votes were cast.

Voting proceeded with only small local conflicts, but difficult times approach as the country heads to divorce.

“In many ways the time of most concern is coming still,” McCormick said. “The referendum itself was a potential flashpoint … but the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will expire over the summer [and the country could split], so these next few months will be critical ones for Sudan.

The advice we got from those who were closer to the situation was that we need to do whatever we can to sustain attention on the fact that this is still a moment of tremendous promise for the people of Sudan but also a moment of potential risk.”

Gore is a native of Juba, a city in Southern Sudan, and a graduate student at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

“My country, which has known little but war and is one of the least developed countries in the world, is in desperate need of peace and stability in order for development to come about,” Gore said. “My view on the current unrest between Northern and Southern Sudan is that it does not have to be resolved by bullets, but through peaceful means and dialogue.”

An independent state will soon emerge in Southern Sudan, he said.

“Without the tireless and humane efforts of the international community under the leadership of the United States government, this referendum would not have been possible,” Gore said. “And without the active role of Notre Dame and other like-minded international civil society groups … we would have potentially witnessed yet another human catastrophe.”

Gore said the meeting with Power, President Obama’s special assistant on Sudan, was especially encouraging.

“She assured us that the United States is not leaving ‘a stone unturned’ to make sure the referendum is held in a timely and peaceful manner,” he said. “But she also reiterated that efforts such as Notre Dame’s rally provided the legitimacy policymakers need to engage more robustly in Sudan.”

After the appeal from the Sudanese bishops, Notre Dame’s Student Senate unanimously approved a resolution to pledge support for peace in Sudan. The resolution asked the University to stand behind Sudan and to call for full implementation of the CPA.

Student government and other campus organizations hosted the Playing for Peace three-on-three basketball tournament and peace rally on Dec. 4 to raise more awareness for the situation in Sudan. Over 600 students attended the rally.

McCormick said the Notre Dame delegation delivered a petition signed by over 1,000 students and a copy of the resolution from Student Senate.

“We tried to really symbolize the Notre Dame community uniting for peace in Sudan,” he said. “There was a lot of skepticism about whether we could make a difference, and Notre Dame students can confidently say we contributed to peace in Sudan and we will continue to work for peace in Sudan.”