Independence Day Remarks as delivered by Chargé d’Affaires Steven C. Koutsis, July 4, 2017

Representing the Government of Sudan, Ambassador Mahmoud Hassan Alamin
Director General of Bilateral Affairs
and Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ambassadors, Chiefs of Mission
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Guests
My Fellow Americans

We at the U.S. Embassy would like to thank you all for joining us for the 241st anniversary of the Independence of the United States.

For us Americans, this day represents our country’s achievement based on hard work, and the pursuit of freedom and independent thought.

Our independence, declared on July 4, 1776, was based on the principle that a government should rule from the consent of the governed.

Our founding fathers did not take this decision lightly, and made clear in the declaration that our Revolution became necessary only after all other avenues had been exhausted.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know that all of you are hoping for an announcement this evening.

All I can say is we all continue to await President Trump’s decision on July 12.

So please do not try to read the tea leaves, or the coffee grinds, and do not look for clues in what I say or my body language.

I do not believe there is anyone who wants to turn back the clock.

Progress in our relations is real and we want that positive momentum to continue.

Sudan has shown it is a willing partner in resolving regional issues and has taken credible steps toward peace.

So, while I will not predict what our Sudan policy will look like on July 13, it will certainly build on what we achieved, and take into account the realities on the ground that will frame the challenges ahead.

The past year has been dramatic, with many remarkable changes in Sudan, in the region, and internationally, so it is easy to forget how far we have come.

When I arrived to serve as Chargé d’Affaires for the first time in July of 2016, our Five Track Engagement Plan was a secret and frankly, many in both governments were skeptical it had much of a chance to succeed.

But since then, we have slowly built the foundations of a relationship our two countries have not had in decades.

We at the Embassy and officials from Washington have spent countless hours with our Sudanese counterparts, led by Foreign Minister Ghandour, and many others in the government, to address issues of mutual and regional concerns.

We also thank the UN family and the numerous NGOs we partner with for pressing forward in this new environment in promoting livelihoods in the humanitarian and development space.

Finally, I would like to thank the staff of the U.S. Embassy, including the more than 500 Sudanese who work here, for their support.

I won’t say it has been easy.

Just as I arrived, the troubles began in Juba leading to the present conflict.

Together, we came to agree that the best option for the people of South Sudan is a regional approach coupled with a genuine dialogue among South Sudanese.

Regional interference in South Sudan’s already fractured social fabric has no benefit.

So, my government continues to work with regional groups and international partners to bring peace to the people of South Sudan, and we appreciate that Khartoum has been like-minded in that regard.

Meanwhile, innocent civilians left without sustenance and fleeing the violence are streaming into South and East Darfur, White Nile, and other states.

Now numbering in the hundreds of thousands, it is clear that coping with this overwhelming influx requires a concerted effort by Sudan, the international community, and non-governmental institutions from around the world to address the challenge.

Within Sudan, there is a clear path to peace.

It is facilitated by the African Union, with many international partners, including the United States, ready to support those efforts.

A cessation of hostilities agreement remains stalled since last August.

The government gave its commitment to pursue an agreement once the other side is ready.

Unfortunately, internal issues within the SPLM-N have prevented a coherent response.

I reiterate the call to the SPLM-N to move forward with accepting our offer to help your people receive much needed humanitarian assistance, and to test the Government’s commitment by returning to negotiations for peace.

I also call on the government keep open the possibility of an inclusive political dialogue.

This will require the government to allow activists, students, and journalists to express views that differ from those held by the government without fear of imprisonment.

All voices are needed for Sudan to move towards a more progressive future, creating a government of institutions that respects human rights based on justice and the rule of law, and allows all Sudanese to practice their faith freely and without harassment.

We have never been closer to achieving peace in Darfur.

But, each step is difficult as mistrust and lack of unity must be overcome.

The first order of business would be to create the means for those Darfuri armed groups to return in a safe and coordinated manner so they can join in the Darfur peace process.

Hold-out groups must also accept that a political solution is the only way forward.

Then, the government and the different aggrieved groups must begin in earnest the discussions to fix the root causes of the conflict.

I urge both sides to be forward leaning in reinvigorating this process.

In this regard, the United States welcomes the Government of Sudan’s decision to extend its unilateral cessation of hostilities throughout the conflict areas in order to give more time for the armed groups to enter into the peace process.

I have to speak honestly and directly.

Humanitarian access has been one of our most difficult challenges in the Five Track Engagement Plan process.

We welcome the improvements to date to serve the urgent needs of the more than two million displaced Sudanese in Darfur and hundreds of thousands of others in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

In those areas where access has improved, services to those in need have increased.

But in those areas where access has been hindered, the people have suffered.

Certainly, improved access means more efficient use of American taxpayer dollars.

So it in our shared interest that everyone in Sudan who needs help should have equal access to humanitarian relief, and the organizations providing those services need to be helped, not hindered.

I hope you had an opportunity to visit the stands of some companies who sell American products or services.

This is a small representation of the many American and other international businesses eager to invest and sell their goods and services here.

We look forward to these numbers growing, as the government continues its progress making Sudan a better place to do business.

I am optimistic about the long-term direction of our relations.

The United States and Sudan have a relationship that will continue to grow, mature, and bring tangible, positive results for both of our peoples.

Many have noted the exchange of Defense Attaches in December of 2016, but also in that month we fully reestablished the Fulbright Scholars program that will bring our two peoples together more closely in the long term.

We look forward to university exchanges in fields such as medicine, agriculture, and education.

Our government lifted economic sanctions in January, a day many Sudanese told me they thought would never come.

Yes, another deadline, July 12 is looming, but let us not forget the hope that moment in January created.

It represents the aspirations of nearly 40 million Sudanese who yearn to bring their country fully back into the community of nations.