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What North and South Sudan need now: more women at the negotiating table

Sudan may have split into two new countries, but the violent disagreements continue. New talks must include more women. Their exclusion from these negotiations is a cause of instability, not its cure.

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A little over a week ago, the largest country in Africa split in two. But violence continues between the two new countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rightly called on the new nations to “quickly return to the negotiating table.”

The “redoubling” of American engagement could give new momentum to stalled talks. It also presents an opportunity for the American, Sudanese, and international partners to re-think who should be welcomed back to the negotiating table.

For years, I’ve worked with Sudanese women who cross regional, political, tribal, and other divides to end violence. During the years of war between north and south, they’d gather under the shade of trees to resolve disputes and organize communities to make peace. Now, as these women call for a formal place at the table to determine the two countries’ future, they’re often told progress is simply too tenuous to allow for “new” voices. But a new round of negotiations is an opportunity to acknowledge what these women have been saying for years: Their exclusion is a cause of instability, not its cure.

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