Peace activist discusses Sudan

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October 7, 2008

12:25 AM

Paul Nantulya, the Peace and Governance Manager of the Catholic Relief Services, came to the College of William and Mary Sunday to talk about his work in Sudan.

The event, which was sponsored by Catholic Campus Ministry, featured Nantulya, a South African native who
has advocated for peacebuilding and reconciliation measures in the war-torn African nations of Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

CRS, a non-profit group, is active in more than 100 countries around the world and employs more than 5,000 workers, including 200 in Sudan.

Nantulya addressed the diversity of Africa, citing the continent’s mix of different races as a positive but also as a potential cause for the conflict that the region has faced.

“Nations are born when people move for whatever reasons,” he said. “Sometimes they move because of conflict, sometimes out of curiosity. Africa was born from a mix of people … who have now become citizens of Africa. It has become a microcosm of races and ethnicities.”

Nantulya’s talk centered on Sudan, where civil war began in 1955 as the result of attacks from the Southern Nationalists, a predominantly black African group also referred to as the Rebels, against the Northern Sudanese, who are mostly Arab.

Nantulya credited CRS by bringing the two groups together with a common goal to end the conflict and set up a democratic country.

Nantulya does not see reconciliation as a current possibility, but he remains committed to the belief that, with the help of the government and the CRS, the Sudanese could find peace in the future.

Sudan’s Khartoum government and the insurgent Sudan People’s Liberation Movement signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005, and the two governments are now working together under the new titles: Government of National Unity and Government of Southern Sudan. The two governments drafted a constitution, and plans for the future include oil- and profit-sharing and political elections.
Unfortunately, wars still continue in Darfur and eastern Sudan.

“For now the biggest challenge has been that working in southern Sudan is difficult logistically — rain, travel. Also, you can’t live and work in Sudan with your family, and that is a challenge personally,” he said. “Sometimes you have to ask yourself ‘Am I really making change?’ and it gets discouraging, but you have to keep assuring yourself that your contribution matters.”

CRS programs include Water for Peace — which targets communities in dry areas of Africa where there is competitive violence over water and builds resources such as wells for each community, and Roads for Peace — funded by the United Nations, in which CRS employees build roads to increase communication and trade between communities.

Nantulya said Americans can help by staying informed on the situation and working with the international community to find solutions.

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