Sudan: United States promise more attention


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The White House has released a policy document containing a new strategy reflecting a collective agreement about how best to address the complex challenges that have prevented resolution of the crisis in Darfur, and the conflicts between northern and southern Sudan. Human rights and Sudan advocacy groups had complained of insufficient forcefulness to address the protracted civil war and humanitarian crisis there.

“It will not be easy, and there are no simple answers to the extraordinary challenges that confront this part of the world [Sudan]. But now is the time for all of us to come together and to make a strong and sustained effort on behalf of a better future for the people of Sudan,” President Obama said in a statement.

According to U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, past policies too often has focused narrowly on emerging crises. “The policy document sets forth a comprehensive U.S. policy toward Sudan, which means that the key issues of Darfur and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will be engaged simultaneously and in tandem. Let me be clear, it is too late for talk, or idle promises, or delays over misperceptions and misunderstandings,” Clinton said.

The new policy was applauded by advocacy groups who had grown concerned that the dual conflicts in Sudan; continuing suffering in Darfur and the squalid refugee camps across the border in Chad; and the unraveling of a peace deal between the largely Arab north and the black African south, had gotten little attention under the Obama’s administration.

“Bringing about lasting peace and improving the lives of millions of people are daunting tasks. We understand the importance of effective and faithful implementation of our strategy, and we will use all elements of U.S. influence to transform our objectives into reality,” United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was quoted.

Rice added that the Obama administration is intent on employing calibrated incentives to exert pressure on any party that fails to act to improve the lives of the people of Sudan. “There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress. There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”

President Obama’s foreign affairs team headed by special Envoy to Sudan, General J. Scott Gration briefed members of Congress to seek their support for a coordinated approach, insisting that Success will require a unified approach, and a renewed sense of urgency. Among the members of Congress who have welcomed the renewed administration push to get results in Sudan was Rep. Donald Payne, chair, House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.

“While a policy of engagement is an important tool to achieve these objectives, I strongly believe that engagement without credible pressure will not work. The new Sudan policy links engagement with verifiable progress and not promises,” Payne said.

Amongst those in the White House briefing included John Prendergast of the Enough Project, Jerry Fowler from Save Darfur, representatives from Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Now and former Special State Department Representative for Sudan Roger Winter, and other prominent proponents of a tougher Sudan stance.

Sudan continues to cope with the effects of conflict, displacement, and insecurity. In Darfur, conflict continues among armed opposition factions, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), militias, and ethnic groups. According to the U.N., between January and mid-May 2009, violence newly displaced approximately 137,000 individuals in Darfur. More that 4.7 million people, have been affected by the crisis, including nearly 2.7 million internally displaced persons. Also, humanitarian agencies have experienced reduced access to affected populations since 2006 due to increased insecurity, targeted attacks against aid workers, and bureaucratic impediments to program implementation.

The National Congress Party and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement continue to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement through the joint Government of National Unity (GNU). The formation of the GNU officially ended more than twenty years of north–south conflict. During the conflict, famine, fighting, and disease killed more than 2 million people, forced an estimated 500,000 Sudanese to seek refuge in neighboring countries, and displaced an additional 4 million individuals within Sudan. The U.N. estimates that since 2005, more than 2.2 million people have returned to Southern Sudan.

The U.S. Government is the largest bilateral donor to Sudan and has contributed approximately $4.5 billion for humanitarian programs in Sudan and eastern Chad since 2004. The U.S. continues to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and joins the international community in seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur. On September 12 and 13 the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, Major General J. Scott Gration (Ret.), visited camps, as well as villages and towns in North Darfur to meet with leaders, women, humanitarian agencies, and the African Union–U.N. Hybrid Operations in Darfur (UNAMID) Force Commander.

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