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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Southern Sudan: Carter’s Gaffe a Subtle Reminder

Last week former US President Jimmy Carter provided a sad, but perhaps darkly amusing, wrinkle in the swathe of commentary surrounding the Sudanese referendum.

In a field report for CNN Carter was discussing the issues surrounding the possible split of Africa’s largest nation, one of which is the question of how its debt load will be split between North and South. He stated that President Omar al-Bashir "said the entire debt should be assigned to north Sudan and not to the southern part of Sudan. So, in effect, Southern Sudan is starting with a clean sheet on debt. They'll have to make some arrangements for other sources of income, of course."

All of which would be great news for the South. Except that it is, unfortunately, categorically false. The Sudan News Agency released a refutation of Carter’s statements immediately.

Carter’s contributions to the world notwithstanding, the venerable statesmen looked like the very picture of baffled grandstanding. Perhaps after we and the Sudan foreign affairs folks forgive him for his tenuous interpretations of al-Bashir’s intentions, we can also use his example as a reminder of just how complex the issues are that the Sudanese people must face. They most certainly defy soundbite-making.

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