In an exclusive interview, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit talked with RNW’s Miles Ashdown about issues facing the semi-autonomous region. Southern Sudan will hold an independence referendum in January 2011.
Q: Let's look forward to the independence referendum, which is guaranteed under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 between your government in the south and the government in the north. Do you believe the referendum will go forward?
A: According to the agreement, we have all agreed to facilitate the implementation of the CPA (the comprehensive peace agreement) and that by the end of the interim period the referendum should be conducted. And now it is time that we are approaching. Both parties should be committed to the conduct of the referendum, freely, without any hindrance. So I’m sure and I hope the referendum will be conducted according to the agreement that we have signed.
Q: Mr President, at what point would South Sudan declare unilateral independence?
A: Well, I don’t think that there is any point where southerners will declare unilateral independence. It is not in our agenda and we don’t think that there will be a condition that will force us in the south to declare an independent southern Sudan without the process that we have agreed upon.
Q: The UN reported recently an increase in attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army, the LRA, against civilians in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and the Central African Republic. What are you going to do to maintain southern Sudan’s sovereignty against this militant group?
A: It is not the first time that the LRA has been killing people in southern Sudan. They are getting their logistics from the same people who were maintaining them here and this is something that will live with us. We’ll have to sort it out the way we think we will do it, because LRA are not southern Sudanese dissidents. They are foreigners. Why are they fighting in southern Sudan? It is something that the whole world should ask.
Q: Why do you think President Bashir’s government in the north is still supporting them to do this day?
A: Well, you better ask him.
Q: Malawi convicted two gay men of violating “the order of nature” after they held an illegal same-sex marriage last year. They could face 14 years in jail. Now, in mid May, during a speech, you spoke of a New Sudan where “all citizens” enjoy “equal rights,” a country based on “democracy, equality and justice.” Will you work for equality and justice for homosexual Sudanese men and women?
A: It is not in our character. It is not even something that anybody can talk about here in southern Sudan in particular. It is not there and if anybody wants to import or to export it to Sudan, I will not get the support and it will always be condemned by everybody.