Khartoum (sudanow.info.sd) British Ambassador in Sudan Dr. Peter Tibber said the success of the National Dialogue between the government and opposition political parties will reflect a positive image of Sudan to the international community pointing out that they, the UK, agree with the government on some issues and disagree on others. The ambassador also tackled some hot political and economic issues such as the situation in Darfur and the effects of conflicts in the state of South Sudan on Sudan’s stability as well as the bilateral relations between the two countries, following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Mr. Ambassador, how do you see the political scene in Sudan within the context of recent political developments in the Arab World?
A: I think at the moment it is extremely interesting because of the National Dialogue and the possibility of going forward, also I think it is very challenging due to the conflict in the Two Regions and Darfur and debates between the political parties over issues of human rights.
Q: How do you assess the bilateral relations between the two countries as Sudan is becoming more open politically?
A: The bilateral relations between the two countries are good. The British Minister for Africa came to Khartoum last January. He had very good discussions with Minister of Foreign Affairs Karti and other senior members in the government. We do not agree on everything but we agree on quite a lot. What we have in common is an interest in seeing Sudan lives in peace and stable and what we didn’t agree on is when and how Sudan will do that. We think that what is better for the government to do is to bring about peace in Darfur. We support Doha process and the negotiations in Addis Ababa between the two sides on the Two Regions, but we do not approve the attacks on civilians and the catastrophes caused to the civilians and the tactics that lead to huge numbers of internal displaced people.
Q: You indicated that National Dialogue will change Sudan’s relations with regional and international community, please explain?
A: I think that if the National Dialogue is as the President Bashir has
described, if it is comprehensive and inclusive and address big issues which
the President had identified, then it could change Sudan image significantly. It would change the nature of Sudan relationship with the UK and wider international community because, for example, it will help to deal with the problem of Darfur and the Two Regions in a political and inclusive manner rather than military manner. I hope that the government is able to deliver on the President commitment for an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue which will include all parties.
Q: How could the UK support the National Dialogue?
A: The National Dialogue is a Sudanese idea and also a Sudanese initiative and it has to be led by the Sudanese, all of them, and the solution comes from the Sudanese people. We have said to the participants we can help, we can provide the experts, we can provide forums, we can encourage them through the diplomatic pressure and meeting with them. This is an opportunity for all Sudanese people and the whole Sudan and it is up to them to develop this opportunity.
Q: If the National Dialogue failed, what kind of pressure would be expected to be put on Khartoum?
A: If the National Dialogue failed there are some questions to be raised: why it failed, how did it fail and does it fail completely or partially.
Q: The UK has historically good relations with some of the opposition parties… what are the efforts the embassy is exerting to bring these parties and the ruling party together?
A: We try to encourage them to enter the dialogue, support them not necessarily from the government part only but also from the experts organizations in peace making and through programs, for example we organized and paid for programs of young people to come to UK and to arrange for political groups. It is not part of the national dialogue but it is a trial to encourage people to speak to each other.
Q: In order to prepare the ground for a successful national dialogue despite the armed conflicts in some areas… what role the UK is expected to play to convince the rebels to join the peace process?
A: We met some rebel groups, not on ministerial level, and we try to encourage them to participate, to make programme and to think about how they engage.
Q: During your recent QBD speech, you have criticized a bit
the freedoms situation in Sudan and you called on the government to lift
restrictions imposed on the media… how would you evaluate that?
A: I encourage the government to respect political rights which are
set up in the constitution , I think free press is very important and very good
for the society because it leads people to discuss and share information , I think it is good for the government because it will enable them to understand what people are thinking. I attended lat week the occasion of Press Freedom Day, it was distinguished day with distinguished journalists, we talked together about the situation in Sudan and we had funded some training programs to the journalists in cooperation with the Press & Publications Council.
Q: The UK has historical relations with South Sudan before and after the secession … now the new nation is witnessing mounting political tension and armed struggle … what role are you playing to bring stability to that country as its stability helps to stabilize Sudan as well?
ِA: I absolutely agree that the stability of South Sudan is important for Sudan. I think like every body we are desperately concerned about what happened in South Sudan. We have special representative in the talks of IGAD in Addis Ababa and he had meetings with them to encourage all parties to stop fighting.
Q: Do the UK and US share identical viewpoints towards Sudan issues?
A: We are very close on many international issues, identical I do not know, we are different countries and different governments but very close.
Q: How do you assess the economic development in Sudan despite the imposed sanctions?
A: Economy is really great concern to everybody, to ordinary people first of all, because of hiking prices and difficulty of getting jobs. I know that many Sudanese people including the professional trained people had left the country and this is not good for the government, the national revenues is a national concern, I think it should be discussed within the context of the National Dialogue.
Q: The economic sanctions imposed on Sudan, there were promises that these sanctions will be lifted after the signing of the CPA, but the sanctions are still there?
A: There are no UK sanctions on Sudan except the arms supplying, and there is no government trade exception on Sudan.
Q: Many Sudanese people believe that the UK’s contributions to the solution of the country’s problems are limited … what is your comment?
A: I think that relationship between Britain and Sudan is special because of our common history, I don’t think that the assistance we offer is limited, Britain supported the CPA negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan and the negotiations that led to agreement on borders and zero lines.
Q: Every year Sudan name renewed in the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism … what is the reason?
A: It is a USA list and not a UK list. This is a US policy you must ask US embassy.
Q: The UK’s contribution to Darfur and the East is criticized by some observers as focusing on aid not development?
A: We would love to spend our money on a long term development, for example in the water sector we are helping to bring clean reliable water to regions of South Darfur and in the three Eastern states, we would like to do more than that but there are people in the conflict areas, in particular, who need food , not have shelters, so instead of spending less money in humanitarian aid and more money in development aid, we have to do the opposite.. that means we have to spend more money in humanitarian aid and less money in development. We have recently announced a further 22 million pound to the World Food Program to help the internally displaced people in conflict areas. We try to help people going out the camps and plant seeds but when the rebels groups and army and tribal groups are fighting among themselves and they are creating more problems rather than solving them.. this is a crisis and a crisis of Sudanese making. We would very much like helping them to solve it but the main responsibility lies with the Sudanese themselves. We have been supporting efforts trying finding solution to Darfur problem for 10 years and there is no more progress.
Q: Many investment companies and businessmen, from different
countries, visited Sudan … what efforts are you making to activate UK investment in Sudan for the benefit of the two countries?
A: Investment comes from private companies and private companies will come to Sudan or any place basically to make profit and this is achieved if the economic situation is good and stable, so it is a question of Sudan creating the right economic environment in which business people and companies want to come for investment. There is a few British companies who do business in Sudan with Sudanese partners. You have an investment law which is quite enough, but there is a big problem about land ownership law in Sudan that should be resolved. I think that issues on transparence, corruption and the ability to move money in and out the country and stability would help to attract more investment.
Q: Don’t you agree that your relation with the local NGOs is based on personal relations?
A: Our relation with NGOs is based on business and professional relationship, we work with NGOs who can deliver for us the programs that we wish to deliver and who can advice us on the kinds of programs.
Q: The relations between the UK and Sudan are official ones
… where is the role of the people’s diplomacy in reinforcing the relations
between the two countries?
A: Yes the relation between UK and Sudan is government’s relation, but also the British Council plays role to build connection between the people through English language, educational programs and Chevening Scholarships where we select high qualified persons to study in British universities.