Colin Powell: The Jamaican-American war hero’s role in South Sudan freedom celebrated

Secretary Powell signs the Sudan Peace agreement as a witness, as Sudan's Vice President, Ali Osman Taha, left, and Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, right, wait, at Nyayo Stadium Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2005. Sudan's vice president and the country's main rebel leader signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end Africa's longest-running conflict Sunday, concluding an eight-year process to stop a civil war that has cost more than 2 million lives since 1983. AP/Wide World Photo

People in South Sudan have paid tributes to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who died Monday morning of complications from COVID-19. The four-star general was the first Black Secretary of State in U.S. history, serving from 2001 to 2005 under former President George W. Bush. He was 84.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir sent a condolence message to Powell’s family, U.S. President Joe Biden, and the American people on behalf of his government and his people, BBC reported. He said the efforts of Powell contributed to the signing of the 2005 peace accord that ended the 21-year civil war in Sudan’s south.

The agreement was signed by rival Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by then rebel leader John Garang, and the governing National Congress Party (NCP) of former president Omar al-Bashir. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, as the outcome of the 2005 agreement.

The long-running civil war in Sudan was sparked by a government effort to impose Islamic law on the mostly Christian south in 1983, CNN reported. And thanks to the south’s rich oil reserves and a demand for self-governance, the war continued for 21 years, killing about two million people. Powell called that conflict a genocide.

In 2005, the peace deal was signed in Nairobi, Kenya. Powell was present as well as the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, Kenyan leader Mwai Kibaki and other political leaders. Powell said at the ceremony that peace in Sudan was a priority of the then-Bush administration from its first days and that Bush “stayed personally involved to ensure our efforts in Sudan had the administration’s highest level attention.”

“I want to express my appreciation for the vital contributions of Ambassador Danforth, and for those of our Special Humanitarian Coordinator Andrew Natsios and my entire Africa team.

“Above all, I salute President Bashir, Vice President Taha, and Chairman Garang for their persistence, dedication and statesmanship. They now share an enormous responsibility. The people of Sudan expect a lasting peace – a peace that brings democracy and prosperity to a unified country. The United States pledges our full support as you go about this historic task. And there is much to do,” Powell said.

Powell did not only witness the signing of the agreement in the Kenyan capital but was also present when South Sudan declared independence on July 9, 2011. On that same day, Powell also joined others to inaugurate the first US embassy in the new country.

But South Sudan’s independence did not bring its conflicts to an end. In 2013, civil war broke out following accusations by Salva Kiir, who had become president of the new country, that his Vice President Riek Machar was plotting to overthrow him. He dissolved the cabinet, sacked Machar and another deadly war erupted. The factions targeted oil-mining communities and killed civilians. The conflict displaced some four million people.

After five years of civil war, Kiir signed a power-sharing agreement with rebel leader Machar and other opposition groups as part of efforts to end the brutal conflict. Experts said at the time that even if peace is restored permanently, the country has a long way to go in terms of solving the major problem of child soldiers, lack of media freedom, unstable electricity, food shortages and economic instability.

Powell, who will be remembered in not only South Sudan but in other African countries like Haiti for peacemaking, was a trusted military adviser to several U.S. politicians and helped shape American foreign policy. But he admitted that his legacy was damaged following his defense of an Iraq invasion that was based on faulty information.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 19, 2021


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