Sudanese discuss leadership challenges

Lark Turner

Two regional Sudanese leaders completing a six-week fellowship program at Northwestern spoke Tuesday on issues facing modern Sudan.

The free public event, held by the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies, drew more than 70 community members to the McCormick Tribune Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We have an opportunity to learn from people from the region, and that’s a rare and important opportunity for people,” said Brian Hanson, associate director for the Buffett Center. “I was pleased that people from the University came out.”

Weinberg senior William Kalema developed the program, Hanson said.

During the fellowship, the five participants will complete coursework at NU and travel to Washington to meet government officials and visit think tanks. The event’s two speakers are political leaders from southern Sudan.

The first speaker, Neroun Phillip Ajo Kuku, discussed challenges facing his country and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, a set of agreements passed in an effort to end civil war in Sudan.

Kuku is the co-chairman for the Assessment and Evaluation Commission of the CPA in South Kordofan for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The AEC helps implement the CPA in the region. Sudan has effectively been at war since 1955, Kuku said.

“In the last 50 years of independence for Sudan, 40 years of it has been spent in war and only 10 years at peace,” he said.

Though today fighting is concentrated in western Sudan in the Darfur region, there are still universal problems plaguing the nation, Kuku said. He spoke for more than an hour on complex issues, including warring factions, the implementation of the CPA and the distribution of oil.

Kuku said he wanted to use the fellowship to improve Sudan.

“I hope by the end of this program I will enhance my leadership capacities so that I can go back to Sudan and contribute to good governance,” Kuku said.

History graduate student Nate Mathews said he attended out of interest in the CPA.

“The problems that Sudan is facing are problems that lots of post-colonial countries are facing,” he said.

Following Kuku’s speech, Mary James Kuku Angelo, spoke on women and leadership in Sudan. Angelo is the former chairwoman for the Health Committee in South Kordofan State and was a Sudan People’s Liberation Movement member of parliament in the outgoing State Legislative Assembly.

Amrita Mattoo, a Weinberg freshman, said she came out of curiosity and enjoyed Angelo’s talk.

“She was really moving,” the Weinberg freshman said.

Women in Sudan need the courage of other women most, Angelo said. They need assistance, education and empowerment because many are illiterate, she said.

“If you educate the women, you educate the whole community,” she said. “If you educate the man, you educate an individual.”

She also said women in Sudan are politically and economically weak. Health remains an issue, with clean water a scarce resource and childbirth a life-threatening endeavor, she said.

“We become a voice for the voiceless,” she said.

Lauren Kelleher contributed reporting.

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