Student roundtable on politics in Sudan, developments in Darfur with Timothy Shortley, U.S. State Department-Center for International Policy & Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Student roundtable on politics in Sudan, developments in Darfur with Timothy Shortley, U.S. State Department

Photo by Angel Gonzalez
Photo by Angel Gonzalez

Last Wednesday, Carnegie Mellon students participated in a roundtable discussion with Timothy Shortley, the deputy to the United States special envoy on Sudan. Shortley spoke about the political situation in Sudan, developments in Darfur, and prospects for a peaceful referendum process. View the event flyer

Prior to the round table, Shortley also spoke to students in 88-362, Frazer’s Diplomacy and Statecraft course. Frazer, a distinguished service professor at the Heinz College, had previously worked with Shortley during her tenure as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Like the class, much of the roundtable was kept off the record to allow Shortley and Frazer to speak freely and share their first-hand experiences and impressions.

“We’re less than 90 days away from the independence referendum,” began Shortley. The referendum was called for by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the Second Sudanese Civil War between the northern and southern regions, although many predict that the vote will be delayed due to a number of logistical, political, and security issues. If the referendum passes, southern Sudan will be officially recognized as an independent nation. “While the parties agreed to a January referendum as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, they’re not as far along as we would like them to be,” Shortley said. “Much more work needs to be done, and the parties need to focus now to ensure that the referenda will be on time.”

“The proposed referendum on independence in southern Sudan could not only result in the birth of a new state, but also provide both a symbolic and a concrete advance in a generation-old conflict and battle,” said Pavelka.

The discussion continued on to the issue of Darfur, and Shortley shared his current appraisal of the situation. “We have an ongoing peace process in Doha that’s bringing together the armed rebel groups. There’s also another developing issue: fighting amongst some of the indigenous Darfuris,” he said. “We’re moving to a two track process: one that focuses on the government and the rebels, and one that focuses on civil society and bringing the Darfuris together to find a way to build a future, rather than fight.”

Frazer also jumped in and talked about some of the difficulties she experienced in forming the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement. “You can make all the right deals and decisions to bring people together, but the failure of just one part or individual can divide everyone up again,” said Frazer, lamenting on some of the political realities at the time. “When you have a spoiler, someone who won’t accept any type of agreement, you have to eliminate them as a factor.”

Following the discussion, Shortley took questions from students and stressed how, despite all the challenges, he enjoys his job. “Dealing with conflict and acute food shortages are always very difficult, but the rewards of working your little piece, your section of making it better, are tremendous.”

Both Shortley and Frazer urged students to look into positions at the United States Department of State after completing their studies. “It really is quite special … to see the West Wing, the Oval Office, and the Cabinet Room,” Frazer said. “This is a part of history that you lived.” Shortley ended the discussion on an encouraging note, saying, “Hope to see you all soon in State Department.”

This article originally appeared in The Tartan, the Carnegie Mellon University student newspaper.