Democracy for Sudan

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Ingram, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Sudan on behalf of the International Republican Institute and the U.S. State Department in order to help train leaders of the emerging democracy with their party governance and communications.

The people of Sudan have endured decades of civil war between various regimes in the North and those seeking liberty both in the South and in the western and eastern peripheries. Today, peace between the two main warring factions is closer than ever with a peace deal all but certain.

Signing a peace deal between North and South isn't the end of the process - it's merely the beginning. Indeed, this is where the hard work begins - building a democratic state and a functional government.

This means the terms "democratic" and "functional" will not just be for the government that is to emerge from the South, it will cover all of Sudan, as the opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is expected to participate in Sudan's national government.

Thanks to the foreign policy established by President Bush, America is committed to helping expand democracy in Sudan.

America's greatest export is democracy. Around the world, people who have lived under repressive regimes are being freed because of the foreign policy of the United States. "Thank you America" was frequently heard in Sudan. In East Africa, U.S. involvement is not only needed - it is wanted and appreciated.

For the Sudanese, the tasks ahead are tremendous and overwhelming. Unlike other areas where the U.S. is involved in democracy building such as former Soviet Republics, Iraq and Afghanistan, southern Sudan has been ravaged by its internal wars for so long it would be an understatement to say they are starting from the ground up.

Simply put, in South Sudan, there is no pre-existing government.

Services are provided by humanitarian aid groups and other nongovernment organizations. Infrastructure is below typical Third World levels. Experience in government is nearly nonexistent.

Educated leaders are few and far between. Disease runs rampant. Tribal differences must be sorted out. The challenges are immense.

It is "New Site," the temporary capital of South Sudan, from where democracy will emerge. A misnomer, New Site is nothing more than a small village of perhaps three dozen tents, and even fewer permanent structures for housing, a dining hall, and a school. …