December 15, 2011

Senator Kerry Delivers a Speech on the Situation in South Sudan

Washington, DC – This afternoon, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) delivered a speech at the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan.

“The future that President Kiir envisions depends upon the institutions and practices that are being established in Juba; it depends on transparent and inclusive government. That is why so many welcome that he has mandated disclosure standards for all his officials and undertaken other reforms to help establish the foundation for accountability. We all agree—the time to create those institutions is now. This window of opportunity can close. It can become so encumbered by layers of corruption that progress will stall and hope will wither.

“I assure you America stands ready to help. I was very pleased that Secretary Clinton yesterday announced that the United States was eliminating barriers for U.S. companies to help South Sudan develop its oil resources. That’s something that I have urged since independence, both for what it can mean for South Sudan and what it can mean for American companies.

“But I also believe that we should go still further. Congress should add South Sudan to the list of nations that are potentially eligible for the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or “AGOA.” Today, I joined Senator Baucus in cosponsoring legislation that would add South Sudan to this list, making it possible for the country to take advantage of tangible incentives that will open its economy and build free markets. While South Sudan will still need to show progress in areas such as combating corruption and eliminating child labor practices, adding South Sudan to the list is a critical first step to ensuring that the nation has an opportunity to capitalize on the power of trade and on the potential of AGOA.”

The full text of his remarks, as prepared, is below:

Thank you, Princeton, for that introduction and for your tireless efforts on behalf of the people of Sudan and of South Sudan. I am very pleased to be here, with my friend, his Excellency, President Salva Kiir, to help close out this conference. I want to extend my thanks to all of you who have come here from South Sudan to be part of this discussion, and to everyone here from our government, the diplomatic community, and the private sector who has committed their time to this important event.

The Gender Symposium that helped launch this meeting was really a fitting start to discussions. As we know all too well, women often pay the highest price in conflict, and they must certainly be at the core of any lasting peace, between nations or among communities. And in developing nations women are also key drivers of economic development. We are particularly grateful for the women delegates who traveled here to define their priorities, to ensure that their voices are heard, and to provide you with their concrete recommendations for building a state.

I know you have spent the last two days focused primarily on South Sudan and the opportunities for investment and development—and on the benefits and responsibilities of transparency and inclusiveness. But as you conclude this conference and return home, I think it is important we focus on how the future of South Sudan is intertwined with that of Sudan. Peace is quite simply the prerequisite for development and prosperity for both these states. And we here in the United States want to see both prosper.

Last January 9, I shared in an extraordinary moment. I had the rare privilege, together with many of you, of bearing witness to the birth of a new nation. There is no better word to describe that moment than jubilant. Jubilant in Juba! It was an extraordinary day. We started at the John Garang Memorial, where I watched Salva Kiir cast the first ballot. Then, we spent the day going from polling place to polling place, where I talked to people who had cheerfully been waiting in line in the hot sun for hours. I was concerned they might leave, but they reassured me that they could wait a little longer. After all, they said, they had been waiting for more than 50 years. And, finally, we went to the Cathedral for a service to celebrate the moment and to remember all of those who had been lost along the way.

It is a day that I will never forget. What was so compelling was that it came about in the end not through force, but through peaceful and calculated negotiation and great patience. Two sides came together and consciously made the hard choices necessary to move forward. Yes, there have been some steps backward since then—in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and in sometimes lackluster negotiations. But South Sudan still moved forward, and on July 9 it declared its independence—and remarkably, the Republic of Sudan became the first state to recognize the new nation with its President standing there affirming independence.

So, we are here today because we share a commitment to seeing the promise of that moment fulfilled. We all have a stake in this tremendous opportunity. And I want to emphasize again, this is an opportunity for both states—not just for the South. I am glad that in a few months, Turkey and Norway will host an international conference to discuss engagement with the Republic of Sudan and to help find a way forward to a more peaceful tomorrow for Khartoum and the world.

The United States and the international community have invested too much in this process to turn our backs at this critical juncture. We have spent billions in humanitarian aid for the South and for Darfur, and we have dedicated time and energy at the highest levels of our government to helping secure the victory of July 9. And we believe deeply that South Sudan has a special opportunity to set an example for other nations.

It is fair to say that, today, all of our hopes that that great moment would also lead to a new relationship between Washington and Khartoum are in jeopardy because Sudan has reverted to its old and destructive habits of responding to political pressures from its marginalized populations with aerial bombardment and the denial of humanitarian access. There is no way to move forward while bombs are falling on villages in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and civilians are starving in the Nuba Mountains. And let me be crystal clear to the government in Khartoum. We are not moving the goalposts here. I personally carried our position to Khartoum, and I know for a certainty that position always required the fulfillment of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including in the Three Areas.

It is deeply worrying now that this conflict threatens to spill over the borders.

At the same time, I must say most respectfully to my friend, President Kiir, that it is vital South Sudan avoid getting sucked into the trap of continued conflict with the North. You know too well you are playing for a bigger prize here: the economic, social, and political future of a South Sudan at peace with itself and its neighbors. That prize will only come with peace in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei—and also in Jonglei and Unity State.

President Kiir, here and in our previous meetings, you have spoken very eloquently about the long road to freedom. I know that journey came at tremendous sacrifice, in blood and sweat and tears. And I know how many of your comrades you buried along the way, including Dr. Garang. But the long road to freedom was never intended to be a trek to perpetual conflict and poverty. It has always been a journey to hope and prosperity.

Security and prosperity go hand in hand. Few people on Earth know this better than the South Sudanese. You have borne the costs of war. It is time now for you to experience the benefits of peace. But we have work to do together and responsibilities to exercise to get there.

The CPA saw South Sudan through independence, but critical issues remain unresolved—from shipping oil north to resolving boundaries and the status of Abyei. These are central issues and it is imperative that the parties find a way to resolve them not through conflict but through compromise. Delayed negotiations translate into delayed economic development and escalating tensions. All the talk in the world about enhanced oil recovery won’t help if the oil isn’t flowing through that pipeline.

The truth is, on July 9, two fragile states were born—one struggling with the newness of its nationhood, and one struggling with the longstanding tensions between its center and its periphery. Rather than contributing to each other’s problems, Sudan and South Sudan can and must contribute to each other’s solutions. Their connections should be a source of strength rather than tension. Rather than the site of bombardment and ethnic strife, the borderlands should be a zone for economic development and investment—for mutual benefit.

And for South Sudan, the potential for development is immense. In just a few short years since the CPA was signed in 2005, you have seen child mortality rates fall by almost a quarter; primary school enrollment has quadrupled since 2000; and more roads are being built every day. And even as you witness real accomplishments, expectations are sky-high and the obstacles you face are daunting.

President Kiir and I have talked often about his vision for his country. We have spoken of infrastructure and hospitals to be built, of a generation of children to be educated, of an army to be transformed, of a police force to be grown, and of an economy to be established and diversified.

Human development, particularly regarding health and education, is essential. Despite advances, South Sudan still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and some of the lowest rates of access to education, especially for girls. These grim statistics are a function of decades of war and neglect, and I know they are high priorities of President Kiir and the government of South Sudan.

International assistance can help, and we must be prepared to find and provide it, but foreign investment can do far more to help South Sudan capitalize upon its resources. Foreign investment leverages far more sustainable growth, but foreign investment requires physical security and political stability—the rule of law and sound taxation policies. I look forward to the day that South Sudan joins the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, both for the concrete changes that commitment would bring and for the powerful message it would send. It would show that the world’s newest nation has leapfrogged over the pitfalls that have trapped so many of its neighbors.

And we must remember - In the long march of history, too many liberation movements have turned into one-party states. Too often, oil wealth has turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing. In too many capitals, corruption has become a way of life. Too many times, conflict has stolen away opportunity. One study estimates that in recent decades armed conflict has cost Africa $18 billion a year in medical expenses, in military expenditures, in the destruction of infrastructure, and in civilian displacement. And that toll is even higher if you consider the opportunity cost of war—the cost of roads that were never built, children who never attended school, and trade that was never established.

The future that President Kiir envisions depends upon the institutions and practices that are being established in Juba; it depends on transparent and inclusive government. That is why so many welcome that he has mandated disclosure standards for all his officials and undertaken other reforms to help establish the foundation for accountability. We all agree—the time to create those institutions is now. This window of opportunity can close. It can become so encumbered by layers of corruption that progress will stall and hope will wither.

I assure you America stands ready to help. I was very pleased that Secretary Clinton yesterday announced that the United States was eliminating barriers for U.S. companies to help South Sudan develop its oil resources. That’s something that I have urged since independence, both for what it can mean for South Sudan and what it can mean for American companies.

But I also believe that we should go still further. Congress should add South Sudan to the list of nations that are potentially eligible for the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or “AGOA.” Today, I joined Senator Baucus in cosponsoring legislation that would add South Sudan to this list, making it possible for the country to take advantage of tangible incentives that will open its economy and build free markets. While South Sudan will still need to show progress in areas such as combating corruption and eliminating child labor practices, adding South Sudan to the list is a critical first step to ensuring that the nation has an opportunity to capitalize on the power of trade and on the potential of AGOA.

January 9 was all about hope, optimism, and the triumph of the human spirit. There was an incredible energy that day. I feel some of that same vitality here in this room. This room is alive with the buzz of people who believe they can make a difference. Or maybe it’s just the sound of your iPhones and Blackberries. But however you are connecting here, it is the ties you are forging that will support a better future for South Sudan. The hard work of building your new nation lies before you but so does the precious opportunity to get it right. It is not an everyday occurrence that we celebrate the birth of a new nation on this planet—particularly a nation conceived in war but born through a commitment to peace.

For that reason, and for all the others that we feel so deeply, this moment matters.

In 1630, my great-grandfather many times over led a journey across the ocean, fleeing persecution. And he gave a sermon on the deck of the Arabella that has been invoked by leaders as different as President Kennedy and President Reagan. John Winthrop talked about what it meant to be a “City upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.” He knew that a historic moment had to be met with historic resolve because the world was watching.

Well today, all the eyes of the world are on South Sudan. The world is watching to see if this new nation will fall into the all-too-common sectarian conflict and corruption that some say is inevitable, or whether you can meet the loftier challenge of history and the dictate of your own aspirations—whether you will affirm your long struggle by making an even longer commitment to get to that better place.

Yeats wrote about those hinge points of human events when we can, as he said, “make hope and history rhyme.” This is your nation, but this is the world’s opportunity to match your hopes for all of history—and together we can stand together and make sure that what you do at this moment stands the test of history. Thank you.

###

Press Contact

CONTACTJennifer Berlin or 202-224-3468