Democracy's Hero: Dr. Anne Itto
June 22, 2010
Like most people in Southern Sudan, Dr. Anne Itto had no political experience prior to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005, which brought peace to the Republic of Sudan. She had no knowledge of running a political party or experience in working in government. However, her advantage was her opportunity to witness democracy in action in Kenya, Uganda, and the United States as well as work for humanitarian organizations.
These advantages and Dr. Anne’s determination to help her people provided her with the opportunity to become the Minister of State for Agriculture and Forestry for the Government of National Unity in 2005. In 2006, she became the Presidential Advisor for the President of Southern Sudan. In 2008, Dr. Anne was elected by her peers to become the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Deputy Secretary General for the Southern Sector, a high ranking position that was not expected to be given to a woman. She had to learn the role quickly in order to prove herself to her party.
IRI first worked with Dr. Anne at an SPLM Strategic Planning meeting in 2006. Realizing the long road head for her party, she took the initiative to build strong relations with IRI. She attended all relevant trainings, held individual meetings to establish her own office, and requested trainings and workshops for other SPLM offices. Recognizing the hard work that this woman had accomplished for her party, IRI gave Dr. Anne opportunities to learn from people around the world.
In 2007, Dr. Anne took part in IRI’s Kenya Election Observation. She saw how political parties campaigned, as well as learn the voting and observation process. The following year, an opportunity arose to attend the 2008 Republican National Convention, where she met influential party members who offered her insights on how to run a successful party.
In 2009, the political focus of Sudan shifted from governance to elections, which became an important issue as the SPLM had never participated in multi-party elections before. To assist Dr. Anne’s party, IRI brought in expert trainers who discussed budgeting and finance, messaging and public speaking. Former Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico also came to speak about how to run a campaign and what an important role women play in the politic process. Additionally, IRI sent Dr. Anne to attend the Women’s Democracy Network event in Uganda and to the Yale Women’s Campaign School in the United States to meet other women from around the world who were also new to politics.
In 2010, Dr. Anne has applied her IRI training to mobilize the people of Southern Sudan. Her hard work and motivation is one of the many reasons why South Sudan had an unexpectedly high voter turnout.
As Ronald Reagan once said, “If the rest of this century is to witness the gradual growth of freedom and democratic ideals, we must take actions to assist the campaign for democracy.” Though originally meant for democratic governments, this statement has evolved to include individuals in countries where freedom and democracy do not exist. Dr. Anne is one of these heroes of democracy, as shown through her work in increasing democracy and freedom in Southern Sudan.