A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders
The U.S. must lead in developing a coalition of countries that can help the people of Sudan find a just and sustainable peace, and the administration will be rightly evaluated by whether it meets the goals and terms it has set for its own diplomatic efforts.
- Immediately, the United States should focus on building a coalition of countries that supports this balanced policy and is willing to utilize the multilateral incentives and pressures when needed. This requires the issuing of demarches, the deployment of senior diplomats to capitals and to the UN, and telephone calls and meetings by the president and other senior administration officials in the construction of such a multilateral coalition. The president and other cabinet officials need to be seen to be doing this right away, or other countries will dismiss this strong policy statement as largely rhetorical.
- U.S. officials must recognize that the status quo in Darfur, the South, and the transitional areas (Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile) is unacceptable and progress must be seen soon to avoid the triggering of the use of additional pressures. It is disturbing that some administration officials speak of the situation is Darfur as greatly improved. Yes, the number of clashes has been reduced, in no small part because the Government of Sudan is increasingly focused on the situation in the South and U.S. diplomacy has helped ease some Chad-Sudan cross border adventurism. But the underlying status quo in Darfur is appalling. Close to three million people remain displaced from their homes and living in camps suffering difficult conditions. No efforts have been made to disarm the janjaweed militias, and no single Sudanese official has been held accountable for orchestrating what the administration itself terms genocide. The UN force on the ground remains largely ineffectual. The current government offensive in Darfur and the increasingly deadly attacks by militias in the South, including some by militias that were previously supported by the ruling National Congress Party, are unacceptable obstacles to peace and the achievement of U.S. policy objectives.
- More high-level administration support must be given to supporting the implementation of key benchmarks related to the referendum. If they remain unimplemented, the return to North-South war is inevitable. An interesting element of the new policy is the following: "The United States will work with international partners to support the parties in developing a post-2011 wealth-sharing agreement and resolve other post-2011 political and economic issues." Unless arrangements are made on this, the National Congress Party will not allow the referendum to occur. So while pressure must be placed on the ruling party to implement provisions of the peace agreement leading to the referendum, the United States can help broker understandings about how the oil sector will be handled post-referendum. The paper itself also dedicates the United States to offering material support for the 2010 national election in Sudan, although it is already clear that the NCP has obstructed many of the key reforms in the CPA that would have created a conducive election environment. Without freedom of assembly or greater media rights for the media and individuals, it is difficult to see how the national elections in 2010 could be free and fair. It was also disconcerting that no mention was made of the fact that it is almost impossible to imagine a free and fair contest in Darfur given the huge percentage of the population that remains forcibly displaced. In fact, a rushed election could undermine peacemaking efforts and stoke further conflict. The 2010 national election, and the degree to which the United States supports it, may offer the most immediate test of whether the administration is actually taking the concept of benchmarks seriously.