Time is running out to salvage a peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running war, a key U.S. official said Wednesday, but he rejected suggestions that the Obama administration is not paying enough attention to the political turmoil in Sudan.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, the special envoy to Sudan, acknowledged to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that preparations for a critical element of the peace accord -- a referendum on independence for southern Sudan -- are behind schedule. Many analysts fear that southern Sudan's secession could result in renewed fighting.
Darfur activists shine spotlight on not-so-big names
By Al Kamen
Friday, January 22, 2010; 10:45 AM
Most "open letter" paid ads to government officials are directed to Congress or the president, sometimes to a regulatory agency or, on occasion, a Cabinet official, urging the passage or veto of legislation, a new regulation, or perhaps the saving of the blue-billed wombat.
But an ad on this page Wednesday was addressed to Erica, Tom, Jim, Stuart and Michèle. Who? There were pictures, but they didn't really help. Then the "letter" revealed last names: Erica Barks-Ruggles, Tom Donilon, Jim Steinberg, Stuart Levey and Michèle Flournoy.
Still . . . who? A new Swedish pop group? Even Loop Fans might have had trouble identifying them. Their titles, in order, are deputy to the U.N. ambassador, deputy national security adviser, deputy secretary of state, Treasury undersecretary and Pentagon undersecretary for policy.
They are key members of the National Security Council "deputies committee," little known outside the foreign policy world but critical to developing administration positions. They meet regularly to hash out the consensus policy and then serve it up to the bosses. Thursday's meeting was scheduled to take up Sudan policy.
During Sudan's half-century of independence, few spots on Earth have witnessed as much death and destruction, with 2 1/2 million war-related fatalities during the past two decades alone. Although the Darfur genocide that began in 2003 is only one of the conflicts raging in the country, they all stem from the same cause: the abuse of power. The ruling party represses independent voices and supports militias that have used genocide, child soldiers and rape as weapons of war.
Sudan faces a critical new year, with an unfree election coming in April and a referendum on the independence of the south the following January -- tripwires that could provoke a return to full-scale war. In Washington, meanwhile, few challenges have produced a greater chasm between words and deeds. A first step toward closing that gap is debunking the myths about Sudan that persist among policymakers, diplomats and the public.
The Obama administration's new policy toward Sudan, formally announced Monday, turns the spotlight back on where the troubled nation's problems first began: the split between the Islamic north and the largely animist and Christian south.
Although the world's attention has been focused on the tragedy in the Darfur region of western Sudan, administration officials argued Monday that a faltering peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running conflict is under increasing strain and needs to be repaired. If that deal -- brokered by the Bush administration in 2005 -- collapses, officials and analysts say, then hope will be lost for a solution to Darfur. The two-decade conflict between north and south led to the deaths of 2 million people.
After lengthy debate, the Obama administration has settled on a policy toward Sudan that offers a dramatically softer approach than the president had advocated on the campaign trail -- but steers clear of the conciliatory tone advocated by his special envoy to the country.
The new U.S. policy, which will be formally unveiled Monday, calls for a campaign of "pressure and incentives" to cajole the government in Khartoum into pursuing peace in the troubled Darfur region, settling disputes with the autonomous government in southern Sudan and providing the United States greater cooperation in stemming international terrorism, according to administration officials briefed on the plan. It also provides Khartoum with a path to improved relations with the United States if it begins to address long-standing U.S. concerns.
EL FASHER, Sudan -- The volatility of this East African nation -- from the Darfur conflict to the threat of renewed civil war in the south -- is becoming a test of how President Obama will reconcile a policy of engagement with earlier statements blasting a government he said had "offended the standards of our common humanity."
Top administration officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss a major review of the United States' Sudan policy. But even as that document is being finalized, U.S. diplomacy has remained mostly in the hands of one man, Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, who is pushing for normalizing relations with the only country in the world led by a president indicted for war crimes.
The Obama administration stepped up its efforts yesterday to salvage a four-year-old peace accord for Sudan, convening officials from 32 countries and international organizations amid fears that Africa's longest-running civil war could resume.
The conference came after years in which the world's attention was focused on a separate Sudanese conflict, in the western region of Darfur. In the meantime, implementation of the agreement ending the country's north-south fight has lagged.
UNITED NATIONS, June 17 -- President Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, said Wednesday that the Sudanese government is no longer engaging in a "coordinated" campaign of mass murder in Darfur, marking a shift in the U.S. characterization of the violence there as an "ongoing genocide."
"What we see is the remnants of genocide," Gration told reporters at a briefing in Washington. "The level of violence that we're seeing right now is primarily between rebel groups, the Sudanese government and . . . some violence between Chad and Sudan."
BOR, Sudan -- The nascent government of southern Sudan, a key U.S. ally in the volatile nation, is threatened by severe problems including severe cash shortages and growing ethnic tensions spawned by a national ruling party determined to see the south fail, southern officials say.
The future of Sudan as a whole is closely tied to what happens in this oil-rich region, where the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement, or SPLM, fought a brutal, 21-year civil war against the government rooted in claims of discrimination by a northern, Arab elite. More than 2 million southerners died in the conflict, and millions more were displaced.
FOR DECADES, summit meetings of the Arab League have resounded with rhetoric about the alleged "double standards" of the West in enforcing U.N. resolutions or respecting international law. No communique of the group -- including the one issued from its summit this week in Doha, Qatar -- has been complete without a demand that conflicts be resolved "within the framework of international legitimacy."
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