By Julius N. Uma
July 5, 2012 (JUBA) - South African Nobel Laureate, Desmond Tutu is due to lead a three-member delegation to Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia as part of a six-day visit to drum up support for peace in the region as well as bolster the ongoing post-independence talks being facilitated by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP).
Also on the team, according to a statement from The Elders, a group of senior world figures, are Nobel Laureate, Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland and Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and ex-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“The Elders’ aim is to encourage leaders of South Sudan and Sudan to take the path of peace for the benefit of their people and to draw attention to the human suffering caused by conflicts, particularly the growing refugee crisis in the border regions,” the group announced on 5 July.
The delegation, the statement says, will hold high-level political meetings in the three countries’ capitals, and meet people directly affected by the deterioration of relations between the two Sudans.
“The Elders wish to support local peace-building efforts, reinforce the unprecedented united international position on South Sudan and Sudan, and lend their weight to the implementation of the AU roadmap of 24 April and UN Security Council Resolution 2046 (2012),” The Elders said in a statement.
In Juba, the South Sudan capital, Archbishop Tutu and fellow members of The Elders will participate in an ecumenical church service organised by the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) on Sunday.
Founded in October 2007 by former South African President, Nelson Mandela, The Elders have for long regarded peace in Sudan and South Sudan as a priority since the group’s formation.
Over the past years, the team has visited the two Sudans and met political leaders, tribal heads, women groups and civil society members, prominently highlighting the human impact of conflict and fundamental human rights.
Last year, members of The Elders visited Sudan as part of the Carter Center’s observation mission for South Sudan’s self-determination plebiscite, necessitated by the 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan.
Meanwhile, The Elders have expressed concerns about the deteriorating security and economic situation in the two Sudans, with particular focus on the human impact of the conflicts in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, pledging to step up their engagement in the region in pursuit for remedies to these challenges.
The United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday warned of the dire conditions of Sudanese refugees fleeing the fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan, saying humanitarian efforts to save them was close to “breaking point”.
More than 200,000 people, according to the agency, have been displaced into neighboring South Sudan and Ethiopia since fighting broke out in these two states, with the numbers anticipated to increase.